At the CES 2014 event in Las Vegas, there have been many wearable connected health and fitness devices on display. In addition, a large number of tools for measuring, analyzing and improving personal sports performance have been unveiled.

(CES) Connected accessories designed to improve sports performance


Connected accessories and clothes, especially in the sports and health fields, appear to be taking an ever-increasing share of digital innovation. According to US information technology research and advisory firm Gartner, the exhibition area at CES 2014 was 40% larger this year in order to accommodate exhibitors showcasing this type of product. While most of the devices on show at CES this week intended for self-measurement and/or fitness purposes, enabling easier access to certain types of information or simply offering extra convenience to the consumer, we have also seen technology tools designed to actually help people improve their sports performance.

Self-measurement of sports performance

As health and fitness self-measurement becomes increasingly popular, the development of tools designed for somewhat higher level sportspeople is now signaling a new trend for measuring one’s performance with a view to improving it. Thereby, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based technology company MC10 has created in conjunction with Reebok a skullcap, called the Reebok Checklight, which is designed to be worn under a helmet and measures impacts to the head suffered during various sports, especially boxing. As for Qardio Core, a tool in the form of a band you wear around your chest which provides a continuous electrocardiogram, information on your heart rate, physical activity and skin temperature. Sony as for example, unveiled its SmartWear range of fitness accessories, including Smartband SWR10, a connected wristband that tracks the user’s physical activity, and the SBH80wireless Bluetooth/NFC headset, which includes headphones able to reduce ambient noise and provides various remote controls linked to the user’s smartphone. Washington state-based company Heapsylon has developed smart socks that monitor the way the wearer’s foot meets the ground and his/her running/walking pace, and calculates stride length. Over time, the sensors ‘learn’ how their wearers run and can warn of potential injury.

Accessories to enhance sports performance

And if in some sports where high-level competition means big business, instruments of this kind have been in use for some time, the main novelty this time around is that these tools are now being designed for the mass market. Today’s technology is enabling the development of increasingly discreet, light and yet robust sensors. This means that connected tools can be both more specifically targeted and at the same time cover a greater number of technical objects. Now more shock-resistant, they can also be used for a wider range of sports. For instance, Zepp, a sensor that can be fixed to a tennis racquet, baseball bat or golf club so as to record, measure and analyze the player’s swing. It records 1,000 data points per second in three dimensions. In the same theme, Tennis racquet manufacturer Babolat has launched a connected version, Play Pure Drive, which can assess a player’s shot execution. Meanwhile Ohio-based InfoMotion carried off a number of prizes during CES 2014 with its connected 94Fifty Smart Basketball. With its nine sensors, this training tool measures and analyzes a player’s mastery of several basic basketball skills in real time and transmits the data via Bluetooth. The system, now on the market at a price of $299.95, links to an iOS 7 app that enables players to share their achievements on social media with friends and coaches.

By Manon Garnier