PORTLAND, Ore.—Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) in sports, health and fitness have already modernized the pedometer with wearable accelerometers which wirelessly link with smartphones apps for sports training, rehabilitation, calorie-counting, and other health and fitness programs.
Now, second-generation pedometers are being introduced, including models that add gyroscopes to detect rotation, MEMS pressure sensors to track elevation, heart-rate, and to enable more accurate analytics that reflect how hard an athlete is exercising and whether they are working against gravity (going up hills) or with it (down hills).
Pedometers, however, is just the beginning of MEMS in sports, health and fitness—with every major sport and fitness regime currently being automated with MEMS-based development efforts that wirelessly communicate through smartphones to cloud-based computers for analytics and with social-media sites for sharing with friends and fellow athletes.
For instance, Motorola Mobility Inc. (Libertyville, Ill.) recently showed its latest version of a wrist-wearable device using a Freescale MEMS accelerometer to track your steps, distance traveled and speed. A pressure sensor also measures your heart rate, all of which is logged via Bluetooth to a smartphone, which in turn connect to cloud computers that store and analyze the data, then post healthy reminders to your electronic calendar.
Besides pedometers for joggers, MEMS sensors are also being built-into smart devices for nearly every other sport, including skiing, surfing, archery, rowing, golf, tennis, and swimming.
Analog Devices Inc., for instance, is sponsoring research efforts to bring MEMS technology to rowing at Dutch research center Roessingh Research and Development and to football helmets at Symbex LLC (Lebanon, N.H.). X2Impact (Seattle) is building MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope sensors into sports mouthguards for use not only in football, but in non-helmeted sports to detect sports brain injuries such as concussions. ADI's high-precision accelerometers and gyroscopes are also being used in inertial measurement systems that are used in devices made for major motion picture studios by Xsens Technologies BV (Enschede, The Netherlands) to track actor's motions and map them onto animated charaters, like Iron Man.
Likewise, Hillcrest Labs (Rockville, Md.) and Movea (Grenoble, France) both are helping OEMs design motion processing algotithms for sports, health and fitness applications. For instance, Movea's MotionPods accelerometer- and gyroscope-based IMUs are being strapped to the wrists of tennis players and golfers to enable software analytics for training and performance enhancement. Swimmers also using waterproof versions of Movea's Nabaji to measure the lengths and times per lap.
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The following slideshow illustrates examples of MEMS being used in sports, health and fitness.
Nike FuelBand is a high-end pedometer using an accelerometer to count steps and color to provide instant feedback and software to track progress on a smartphone.