It’s not very often that I get to write a post that combines elements of my day job with my passion for running. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of my readers don’t even know what I do when I’m not training for races. So here’s a quick primer: I’m part of the Strategy and Architecture team at a fairly large consumer goods company. I spend my days analyzing emerging technology trends to see what might be a good fit for my employer. And now I’m going to geek out a little bit and say that two of the biggest tech trends that I’ve been keeping an eye on over the last few years are Big Data and the Internet of Things.
For anyone not familiar with these terms:
- Big Data is extremely large data sets that can be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations.
- IOT is a development that gives everyday objects network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.
The combination of these two things can help create things like:
- Smart cars that drive and park themselves and find the best routes to avoid traffic, reducing pollution and overall fuel usage.
- Smart Homes where the lighting and temperature are automatically adjusted based on the preferences of the people in each room, saving energy.
- Smart warehouses where supplies are automatically restocked, saving workers time and decreasing the likelihood of product shortages.
- Smart Shoes that monitor the way you run and tell you what adjustments you should make to decrease your chances of getting injured…..
That last one is what I want to tell you a little more about. I recently had the opportunity to test a device that I think has the potential to revolutionize the running world. It’s called TUNE and it was created by a company called Kinematix.
- A pair of insoles with sensors that you put in your shoes
- An app that runs on your phone
- Bluetooth devices that connect the sensors to the app
TUNE turns your shoes into “Smart” shoes.
When you go for a run, you can open the mobile app and TUNE will monitor your foot movements. Then it will give you feedback about your running form, including things like:
- How long each foot strike lasts
- How well your left and right feet are balanced
- What parts of your feet are hitting the ground
Here’s the deal with all IOT/Big Data applications though…. Collecting data is one thing. Knowing what to do with the data after you have it is another. This is where TUNE truly excels. The application provides insights into your running form that you can use to make adjustments to help prevent injuries or improve your running in general. TUNE will also suggest exercises for you to help improve certain muscle groups based on the data it collects.
If you work out with a trainer, TUNE will allow you to share your results with them. This is pretty groundbreaking when you consider the implications. Right now, most trainers and coaches work with runners by simply watching them run and giving suggestions based on their observations. The problem is that their observations are limited to what they can see, which is a fairly small percentage of your total number of movements. On the other hand, TUNE can give more accurate results based on things the sensors pick up that may not always be visible to the naked eye. It’s like the difference between trying to straighten a photo that’s hanging on your wall by leaning back and saying “yeah I guess that looks about right” vs. using a laser level to guarantee the accuracy.
As far as comfort goes, the insoles and devices aren’t noticeable at all. This is important to me. I don’t like to run with a bunch of distracting gadgets and I’m happy to say that with TUNE, I never feel like I am. After I set my devices and insoles up initially, I didn’t even think about them. I charge my devices in the evening and put them before my runs each morning (a process that’s as simple as screwing the cap onto a water bottle). The insoles fit perfectly and don’t move around or feel awkward while I’m running at all.
The TUNE mobile app is free and available in the app store for Android or iOS devices. For the most part, the app functions like a regular GPS running app. It shows where you are on a map, tracks your distance and speed, calculates your pace, etc… You can also create a profile, log runs and track your results over time like you can with many other running apps. But the TUNE app provides the added benefit of also being able to track your foot movements. As a side note, the latest version of the app works on both my phone and my Moto 360 Sport Watch.
I can also say from personal experience that in addition to being lightweight and comfortable, the TUNE devices and insoles are practically indestructible. Even though I wasn’t planning to, I had a chance to verify this at the Buffalo Marathon a few weeks ago. The temperature on race day was unseasonably warm for Buffalo (over 90 degrees) and one of the ways that the race organizers tried to combat the heat was by opening a bunch of fire hydrants along the course, spraying most runners with water from the waist down. By the time I crossed the finish line, my shoes were soaked. I was worried that my TUNE devices would be ruined, but they kept humming along just fine.
It’s been a pleasure to help beta test TUNE over the last few months. Kinematix is constantly making updates to the devices and the app, so I’m looking forward to watching TUNE continue to evolve. With runners constantly looking for new ways to gain an edge and bring their running to the next level, I’d be willing to predict that TUNE and other similar devices are going to become more and more prevalent in the running world over the next few years.
Want to get an early jump on the revolution? Check out TUNE for yourself and follow Kinematix on your favorite social media channels today: