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In praise of sports technology.

Discussion in 'Exercise/Sport' started by Chris Hobson, Jul 28, 2018.

  1. Chris Hobson

    Chris Hobson Well-Known Member

    Relationship to Diabetes:
    Type 2
    In praise of sports technology.

    As a kid growing up in the nineteen seventies I can remember the speculation that went on about all the wonderful technology would be part of everyday life in the year 2,000. We never did get our flying cars or our domed cities on the Moon and on Mars. I do however think that seventies Chris would have been totally captivated by some of the technology that we do have now in 2018.

    One thing that we spectacularly failed to predict about future technology was that much of it would be exactly the same stuff that we already have. It was just that it would have been subjected to decades of gradual improvement. Bicycles, motorbikes, cars, televisions, radios, watches, music players, household appliances. The same stuff, just miles, miles better and a whole lot cheaper.

    I can still remember the very first digital watches. These had an LED display that was blank until you pressed a button to light it up to show the time. Checking the time just a little too often would flatten the battery. This was less of a problem than you would think due to the fact that the things didn't last very long before they stopped working altogether. The one thing that made digital watches practical was the development of the LCD, the liquid crystal display. This was developed at the University of Hull. LCD technology could provide a permanent display while using a miniscule amount of energy, this is what made practical digital watches possible. Eventually you could buy, for a tenner, a totally accurate calendar watch with no moving parts. It automatically dealt with the different lengths of the months and even leap years. It had a built in stop watch and alarm. In the eighties I thought that these things were wonderful and laughed out loud when I read The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams describes the Alien's view of Earth's inhabitants as being so primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. As it turned out, the cheapness of digital watches tended to make them uncool. Technology then went on to make analogue watches cheap and accurate too.

    The 2018 sports watch might not impress super advanced aliens but it certainly impresses me. Its face is in reality a tiny flat screen television and touch screen that can mimic an analogue watch but can also be switched to a digital calendar watch. It uses Satnav technology to time and track my running and cycling events and sends a little map of the route to my phone. My phone, of course, would need a whole chapter to describe all the things that it can do. Back to my watch. It counts and times my lengths at the swimming pool. At the end of the day it gives me a chart that sums up my activities for that day, the previous day, the previous week and so on. It monitors my heart rate too. It automatically records 1K splits while I am running, 5K splits while I am cycling, and also reports on them during the event.

    Around five years ago I started taking part in organised running, duathlon and triathlon events. This has brought me into contact with the fascinating technology of chip timing. This allows accurate timing of several thousand runners or triathletes by the use of timing chips and timing mats. Competitors are each issued with a timing chip. On running events these are either embedded in a piece of tape with a self adhesive tip that is attached to the laces of your running shoe, or alternatively, embedded in your race number bib. The chip resembles a small rectangle of aluminium foil and these are disposable. On multisport events the timing chip is contained in a small plastic box that is attached to your ankle with a tape with velcro on it. I always refer to it as my Asbo tag as it resembles the tags that are routinely attached to the ankles of petty criminals. These chips are not disposable and are handed back to the organisers at the end of the race. These timing chips work in conjunction with timing mats and other sensors that detect the chip as it goes past. Your chip has its own unique code number and so the system knows that it is you every time that you cross over a timing mat and it therefore times you accordingly. In order to time the race, it would theoretically only require two timing mats, one at the start and one at the finish. Unfortunately there are people who like to cheat. As a result of this, the course often has timing mats at various points around the course. This means that the honest runners can get a slightly more interesting breakdown of their event. It also means that those who have skipped part of the course, and are too stupid to realise that they have to cross all of the timing mats to get a result, can be easily identified and disqualified. Triathlon events are a bit more complicated and so use numerous timing mats to give contestants a detailed breakdown of their event. Participants are timed on their swim, transition one, bike ride, transition two, and their run. At triathlon events you can cross the finish line, get your breath back and then wander over to a gazebo type tent that contains a touch screen and a printer. Type in your race number on the touch screen and the printer will spit out a piece of paper that resembles a till receipt. This has your finishing time and a breakdown of your swim, T1, bike T2 and run.

    Both running and tri events post race results within an hour or two on a results website. There you can check your finish time and your position in the pecking order. These results are also archived for the foreseeable future, meaning that you can refer back to them for years to come.

    So, no teleporters, no androids doing your housework, no holidays on the moon, not even a cure for the common cold. I still think that the tech that we do have is pretty damn good.
     
    Radders and Northerner like this.
  2. Northerner

    Northerner Admin (Retired)

    Relationship to Diabetes:
    Type 1
    My first Garmin made me realise just how much I had been overestimating the distances/speeds I ran in training when I had been measuring with a mechanical pedometer :eek: Truly remarkable now - I particularly love to see the maps of where I have been on a run. Need to be careful not to become too obsessed with the numbers though, and sometimes just enjoy the run :)

    I remember when our school got its first electronic calculator - it was assigned to the physics lab and only sixth-formers and teachers were allowed to use it! :eek: Also remember when one of the rich kids in the class came to school with a digital watch - it cost £70! :eek:

    I'm also impressed by the technology applied to clothing and footwear for sport. Running shoes have come a very long way, although the (marketing) need to improve on designs every season means that a style of shoe that works really well for you disappears from sale :( I miss my Nike Internationalist IIs!). More recently I have been wearing tshirts by Ron Hill that are very light and comfortable and really do keep you cool in summer and warm in winter - no more soggy cotton tshirts! :)

    Regarding flying cars - it actually worries me how many of these appear to be currently in development, alongside personal jetpacks and delivery drones - has no-one considered just how crowded and horrible the skies will become once these become commonplace? It'll be just like the roads are now :eek: :(
     
    Radders likes this.
  3. Chris Hobson

    Chris Hobson Well-Known Member

    Relationship to Diabetes:
    Type 2
    The earlier Tomtom watches were a little inaccurate at counting swim laps and used to give out the odd freebie now and then. The later ones were much more accurate which means that I couldn't get anywhere near the records that I set with the old ones. Now that I have switched to a Garmin I have started again from scratch so it is no longer a problem. I really love the little maps of my run and bike routes too.
     
    Northerner likes this.
  4. Northerner

    Northerner Admin (Retired)

    Relationship to Diabetes:
    Type 1
    I've only ever had Garmins - they have improved considerably also since I bought my first in 2006, a Garmin 305. It was like wearing a small fridge on your wrist, whereas my current Forerunner 35 is like a normal wristwatch. I had a Forerunner 110 in between that was a bit chunky. Biggest gripe about them is that the batteries are not replaceable so the watch becomes redundant once the battery won't recharge any more (unless you're skilled with a soldering iron and a razor blade :eek:).
     
  5. travellor

    travellor Well-Known Member

    Relationship to Diabetes:
    Type 2
    I've the Garmin Fenix.

    Now, if it could talk to Alexa, I could ask where I've been, how fast, how many steps....

    Sadly, I suspect Alexa would then start nagging me to get off the sofa........
     
  6. Chris Hobson

    Chris Hobson Well-Known Member

    Relationship to Diabetes:
    Type 2
    The Fenix is a bit too expensive for me. The Vivoactive 3 is also close to the limits of my ability to get my head around tech wise. I find sports watches to be great fun and they are cleverly designed to keep you motivated to do stuff. Keeping count of my lengths at the swimming pool was always tricky and my mind would often wander and then I would lose count. This is all now taken care of and I have all kinds of stats about my stroke count as well. My watch can't track my open water swims but I think that there are now watches that can do this.
     

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