Athletic and medical tracking is slowly sliding off our wrists and chests and into our clothing. This year's Wearable Technologies Conference Europe showed a strong shift toward clothing items powered by textile sensors, including Mbody smart shorts. Feet are getting in on the act too, with the "world's first fully integrated sensor insole" from Moticon, which turns your shoes into a wireless performance-tracking system.
The shoes seem like a logical place for wireless sensor hardware, as the electronics can be integrated into the hard, sandwiched construction a little more naturally than they can be added to a shirt or boxer shorts. The insole is an even better place because one smart device can be used in a variety of sneakers and shoes. For instance, an athlete can switch the insoles between his running shoes, cross trainers, ski boots, etc.
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The Moticon insole's sensor package consists of 13 pressure sensors spread throughout the footprint, a 3D acceleration sensor, and a temperature sensor. The insole also includes ANT+ wireless connectivity hardware and can include an integrated data recorder. All the hardware is built into a multi-layer sandwich with a sensor layer, a dielectric layer and a circular electronics module. The module's battery can be changed via a removable cover on the bottom of the sole.
Moticon got its start in university-level biomechanics research, and in 2009 it showed the sensor-insole technology as part of the SkiGo system. The SkiGo collected data from the insoles, filtering it through a wireless processor around the skier's neck. The software transformed the raw data into real-time audio coaching, giving the skier tips for improvement during his or her run.
Moticon still thinks of skiers as a target audience, but it's realized that the sensor insoles have a broad appeal that extends far beyond the slopes. By offering the insoles on their own, Moticon hopes that athletes from other sports will utilize the technology. It also imagines them being used for physical therapy and medical/sports research.
The general idea is that the OpenGo insole can track foot pressure, movement, acceleration patterns and gait, beaming that information directly to a compatible USB stick for computer analysis. That process can happen in real time, when working out in a gym or lab, or post-workout using the available data recorder.
The accompanying Beaker software makes sense of the data in the form of graphs and other analytical formats. A software extension allows the data analysis to be displayed simultaneously with video of the wearer's activity, showing exactly what was going on with the feet during the training routine. It can provide valuable insight for everyone from performance-maximizing professional athletes to everyday folks rehabilitating from injury.
The OpenGo insole with recording offers up to four straight days of data recording. It is designed to only record data when the person is moving, so it stops recording when he or she sits, lies down or stops at a crosswalk.
In addition to offering OpenGo insoles for use with a personal computer, Moticon advertises a wearable audio-coaching processor similar to the one used in the SkiGo system but programmable for other activities. This device gives athletes the option for real-time, in-field digital coaching.
The OpenGo insoles were the big winner at the WT Conference's Innovation World Cup last month, taking home both the Overall Winner award and the award for the Healthcare & Wellness category. Moticon offers them for direct sale, but told us that because it "creates individual offers for product inquiries," it doesn't provide general pricing information.
The short clip below shows the Moticon system illustrating what's going on with the feet during a cross country ski run.