Scientists are developing a range of miniaturised wearable and track-side
sensors, computer modelling tools and smart training devices to help British
athletes improve their performance on the world stage, as part of a new £8.5
million project that will be officially launched tomorrow (28 October 2009).
The Elite Sport Performance Research in Training with Pervasive Sensing (ESPRIT)
project is funded by the EPSRC and is led by Imperial
College London in partnership with UK Sport and supported by Queen Mary
University of London and Loughborough University. It involves researchers from
the three universities working alongside British athletes via UK Sport's Research
and Innovation programme.
The researchers are devising miniature wearable sensors that will monitor different
aspects of athletes' physiological performance, in order to monitor and optimise
training for competitive performance. The sensors will include wireless wearable
nodes to measure biochemical information, heart rate, EEG, ECG, muscle activity,
joint speed and contact forces. Athletes will be able to use this information
to understand how they are progressing and developing with their training.
The team is also developing small track-side sensors, for detailed monitoring
of an athlete's body movements and location, and of interactions between a team
Sports scientists can currently monitor athletes' performance through controlled
experiments in a laboratory setting or, increasingly, via commercially available
technologies that can be used in the 'field'. However, the devices used for
this are often large and either not suitable for use in the field, or able to
measure only one aspect of an athlete's or team's performance. Consequently,
the data collected is not realistic enough for sports scientists and coaches
to understand how athletes are performing in a training or competition environment.
The new wireless 'pervasive' sensing technologies that the ESPRIT team is developing
will extract continuous information under normal training and competition environments,
giving coaches far more accurate and regular feedback about their athlete's
performance than is currently possible. The researchers will be working with
the high performance sports community, with the ultimate aim of creating a competitive
advantage for elite athletes.
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang from Imperial College London, who is the principal
investigator and programme director of ESPRIT, says: "We expect that the
ESPRIT project will make innovative leaps in biosensor design and allow us to
look in really fine detail at the physiological changes that happen to an athlete
during training and competition. This means that athletes and their coaches
will be able to gain an unprecedented understanding of their performance and
use this to develop a crucial competitive edge. The project will also give scientists
new insights into how people's bodies work, in order to help them to design
devices that improve the health and wellbeing of the general population."
For their first project, the ESPRIT team has created prototype networks of
miniature video camera sensors, called Vision Sensor Networks (VSNs), which
coaches can use to monitor an athlete's movements and assess their strategies
while training. The scientists are already trialling the VSNs with athletes
training for Britain's summer and winter Olympic sports.
The vision of ESPRIT is to position the UK at the forefront of pervasive sensing
in elite sports and to promote its wider application in public life-long health,
wellbeing and healthcare. The programme represents a unique synergy of leading
UK research efforts in body sensor networks (BSN), biosensor design, and sport
performance monitoring and equipment design.
Dr Scott Drawer, co-chair of ESPRIT and Head of Research and Innovation at
UK Sport, adds:
"At the highest level of elite sport, we know that medals are won and
lost within the tiniest margins. Our job at UK Sport is to ensure our athletes
reach the start line knowing they are the best prepared and best equipped in
"We are delighted to be working with leading experts on this exciting
project, which we hope will not only benefit British athletes in the build up
to our home Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, but also revolutionise our
approach to, and application of, science, medicine and engineering in sport
for years to come."