The Future of Rowing in Motion: A comprehensive measurement system for Coaches and Athletes

Rowing in Motion’s mission is to help athletes and coaches improve their performance by providing them with friction-free measurement tools. In combination with a smartphone or tablet, our current Apps combine the ease of use of  a SpeedCoach with detailed, accurate realtime feedback on boat performance data and a powerful online data analysis that let’s you track your improvements. The simplicity of this is approach is appealing, especially considering that almost every coach or athlete already has the right hardware in their pockets to use Rowing in Motion. Making boat acceleration readily accessible to coaches and athletes provides very valuable insights into the propulsion of the boat and how a crew can improve their performance.

Comparing motion sequences to understand the effects on boat acceleration.

Comparing motion sequences to understand the effects on boat acceleration.

However, using smartphones puts certain limitations on what we can measure and how well we can measure it. An obvious shortcomming of using these devices for measuring rowing performance is that we can only acquire boat-level performance data. As we’ve outlined in an article about effectively using measurements in rowing, athlete-level data such as gate force, angle and stretcher force is highly valuable for individual performance improvement and selecting the fastest crew. It allows coaches to see beyond the outer appearance of a motion into the actual forces that propel the boat and where the crew needs to improve to go faster. Dedicated sensors that cannot be found in todays smartphones are required to measure all this data. It’s not like building such a sensor system hasn’t been done before, but existing solutions today are expensive, complicated to install and difficult to operate correctly. Even more so, they lack realtime feedback that allows athletes to improve more effectively by going through the observe-learn-adapt-repeat cycle faster. In fact, because these systems are so complicated they are mostly used in senior national teams that can afford to have a dedicated biomechanist working with the measurement data. And even then, they are not used in daily training or racing.

Building a comprehensive measurement system for rowing coaches and athletes that provides these deep insights and yet remains easy to use is certainly challenging and that’s why no such system is available on the market today. We have set out to change this!

Building an accurate and reliable measurement system that withstands the harsh conditions in rowing requires an extensive amount of rigorous engineering and experience. Though we know quite a bit about it, none of us working at Rowing in Motion is experienced enough in electronics and mechanical engineering to build such a system from scratch so it’s been clear to us from the start that we need an external partner that provides this expertise. We have recently changed directions in that regard and made a big step forward recently: We’re very happy to report that we have started working with the EvoSense Research & Development GmbH in Darmstadt, Germany to engineer and build a purpose-built sensor system for rowing. EvoSense has extensive experience in building specialized sensor applications for a range of technologically challenging applications and is in close proximity to our office, ensuring an effective collaboration. The team behind EvoSense has a strong scientific background and is also working closely in research projects with the Technical University of Darmstadt as well as other universities and high-tech companies.

The idea to build a comprehensive measurement system for rowing immediately sparked interest with EvoSense and we quickly began working together on the system. We even got to set both teams together in an 8+ for a leisurely paced 5km row at Johannes’ rowing club recently, to deepen our shared understanding of the challenges in rowing. (We even watched some inspirational videos beforehand).

EvoSense and Rowing in Motion sitting in the same boat

EvoSense and Rowing in Motion are now “sitting in the same boat”

Leveraging Rowing in Motion’s seasoned experience in building software for coaches and athletes and EvoSense’s strong background in sensor engineering and hardware design, we hope to bring our innovative measurement system to the market this year.

The Rowing in Motion Sensor System

Cornerstone of the new Rowing in Motion Sensor System will be a boat-sensor box that features an impeller pickup, a high precision GPS and inertial sensors to capture boat acceleration and other relevant parameters. The sensor box will be completely wireless and has an in-built WiFi to connect multiple in-boat displays (tablets or smartphones running the Rowing in Motion App) as well as the coach. Wireless gates that measure gate force and angle data will attach to the sensor box and make their data available to every display. The underlying design principle behind all the components of our sensor system is that they must be intelligent, self-calibrating and robust enough for every-day use.

We are currently evaluating prototypes of the individual components in internal testing and plan to share more details over the coming months. Committing to a public delivery date is difficult given the complexities of such a technical development, but we currently plan present a working prototype at this years 2014 World Championships in Amsterdam from 25th to 31th of August and deliver the first systems to customers by the end of this year. We’ll keep dropping new bits of information about the system as its development continues here and on our newsletter, so if you’d like to stay on top of the latest news around the Rowing in Motion Sensor please subscribe to our blog or sign up to our email newsletter to have the news delivered straight to your inbox.

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