Local researchers develop swimming tracker

Local researchers develop swimming tracker

There is no shortage of tracking devices for runners, walkers and cyclists out there but won’t someone think of the swimmers?

Thor Besier and Mark Finch, researchers from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), are on it. The duo is working on a miniaturised data logger that can record speed and movement in the water and the gadget will soon be available to help swimmers analyse their performance.

The research and development of these waterproof inertial sensors is being done at ABI, with funding from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

Besier and Finch have created their own startup company, called IMeasureU, with the goal of commercialising the tiny units.

“It is still early days but we are seeing quite a bit of interest in it,” says Besier, adding that the unit was initially thought just for coaches at AIS but the high level of interest has led the researchers to consider making it available to a more general audience. “Also, the next generation will include Bluetooth 4.0 which will open the market for smartphone users,” he adds.

Using the units, swimmers can get data on the acceleration, orientation and power in the water. The data is stored on a micro SD card and later downloaded to be analysed and show the swimmer how to improve their performance. 

“This is research project. If we can do what we think we can do, we will have a pretty nifty tool that, as far as I know, no one else has,” says Besier.

The pool environment and the need for extremely waterproof materials were some of the challenges that meant not a whole lot of attention has been giving to this area of physical performance trackers. “Up until now the pool environment with the swimmer moving through both air and water, and splashing and bubbles, has made it difficult to see what is going on to optimise a swimmer’s performance,” he explains. “Encapsulating the printed circuit board in waterproof materials opens it up to all sorts of new applications.”

The researchers will also develop a software programme that integrates both video and the IMU data.