How IBM helped USA Cycling crunch data in real time

USA Cycling_John Huet for IBM_Option 1John Huet for IBM

The Internet of Things (IoT) concept seemed like science fiction in its infancy, more than 35 years ago, but because of technology advances such as the advent of cloud computing, today’s consumer is poised to embrace physical data immersion. The US Women’s Team Pursuit Cycling and one of its most recognizable sponsors, IBM, began a symbiotic relationship back in 2015 to help the team leverage Watson IoT and the cloud to crunch data and gain a competitive edge.

IBM provides the cloud and analytics technology to improve the team’s training and performance. In tandem, the cycling team serves as a careful, focused field-test subject and a high-profile display of IoT integration and effectiveness.

Team Pursuit Cycling’s strategy has had an information problem for decades. Deciding which cyclist should lead and when to change leaders is integral to competition. Improved times were limited by the speed of information availability. Data analysts averaged four hours per rider, per day, maintaining strategies designed to shave precious fractions of seconds off final race times.

Before the introduction of cloud and IoT technology, this data crunch would take days — sometimes weeks — of analysis. Coaches were forced to project strategies based on past performance. The coaches and riders needed to process that data in real time to improve times by a much needed 1-2%. In a sport where every 1/100th of a second counts, small improvements can mean the difference between a win or a loss.

Solving the analytics-lag problem

Coaches now enjoy unprecedented insight based on the ability to instantly understand each training session. They can identify optimal race tactics, discuss areas for improvement, and reinforce winning strategies. Coaches advise riders immediately after training sessions. It’s not just a coaching improvement, though; the riders are immersed in the data field, too, with wearable tech that would have seemed futuristic only a few years ago.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how the technology works:

  • Data collection. The bicycles, cycling track, and athletes are all equipped with power meters and sensors. Data is gathered in real time from multiple sources — the power meters, a heart-rate monitor, a wearable BSX muscle-oxygen sensor, and the track’s specific environmental data.
  • Information upload. The data is securely connected to IBM’s cloud, using the IBM Watson IoT Platform. The IoT platform on IBM Bluemix acts as a cloud-integration hub, directing sensor data to other components of the solution.
  • Coach’s iPad.Coaches can see crucial info presented in an intuitive graphical summary iOS dashboard. IBM Analytics for Apache Spark calculates metrics in real time. For example, coaches will be able to see how deep a rider’s effort was — whether a proverbial match was burned.
  • Wearable tech. The team has also incorporated smart glasses, which provide a personalized heads-up display of key metrics of the most use for each of the riders while they are actually on the track. This allows riders to instantly understand which team member has the most available muscle energy, and who should move into the leader position without wasting energy or losing time.

Learn more about IBM’s work with USA Cycling by watching the video below.

This post is sponsor content from IBM and was created by IBM and BI Studios.

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