Baseball, as sports pioneer Branch Rickey famously said, is a game of inches.


Now, more than a half-century later, we still know that to be true – and not just for baseball, but for every sport. Increasingly, though, we’re also coming to understand that how those inches are won or lost comes down to metrics that are far more delicate, intricate, personal and precise than that singular imperial measure.


Despite the explosion of sensor-to-cloud systems, the ultimate system for the quantified athlete remains elusive. There are still myriad challenges, like understanding which metrics to record, when to record them and how to leverage them to elevate athletes to the pinnacle of their abilities at precisely the right time. Oh yes, and how to convince athletes to trust the system.


What better place to tackle the complex problem of the quantified athlete than the Boston area, which boasts the best of healthcare, technology, and research? And, oh yes, fabled sports teams – like the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics – that have claimed more than their share of inches in competition over the years, including the 2017 Super Bowl.


Joyce Wu, a member of the Analog Garage’s Emerging Business team, is laser-focused on solving the problem of the quantified athlete. She just attended two Boston-area forums on the topic, the Rise of the Quantified Athlete at Harvard Innovation Labs, and MIT Sloan’s Sports Analytics Conference. So the Master Mechanic thought it was the perfect time to tap into her insights.


Q: The quantified athlete is potentially a very lucrative market, and it has attracted a lot of entrants. How do elite athletes, team and sports organizations view what they have to offer?

A: They certainly are excited by the prospects of getting an edge by monitoring their progress in new and exciting ways. And they see the data as a potential tool they could use to improve their performance and market themselves.


Q: What is Analog Devices doing for the market?

A: Our customers are designing a variety of highly accurate wearable health monitoring devices using ADI’s optical, bio-impedance, ECG and motion sensor technologies and signal conditioning expertise.


Q: What are some of the challenges in this market that companies are working on solving?

A: There are plenty of challenges that come along with the opportunities. Privacy and security are critical for most all sensor-to-cloud systems, and the quantified athlete is no different. They want to be sure that any platform they buy into will have the security to protect their data, and let them control who gets to see what.


Athletes, coaches, and trainers can be overloaded with data. In order to be successful, you have to streamline the data flow and analysis so that their job is no harder – and hopefully easier.


The flip side is that startup companies are pitching their one metric, and coaches don’t know if they can trust that. These companies really have to understand their metric inside and out, how it affects performance by themselves and in combination with other metrics. And most importantly, they have to be accurate and reliable.


Q: What’s hot in this space right now?

A: No question, it’s sleep and recovery. Because peak performance is not just about training. Rest, stress and recovery are also critical. I’d say that heart rate variability, or HRV, is becoming a critical metric because it can tell you so much about stress and fitness.

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    •  Analog Employees 
    over 2 years ago


    Thanks for the post. HRV is very interesting. This is old news, but resting heart rate that is elevated over the norm can indicate the onset of illness as well as possible rest deprivation. A lowered maximum heart rate can indicate a similar thing.

    Having the ability accurately monitor heart rate is a valuable capability.