Runners are among those lucky groups of people who are in the spotlight of the tech industry. Be it apps, wearables, services or dedicated devices, the sheer number of solutions targeting them show how popular running is.
But, are all those apps worth it? Except a few, these do not really leverage technology to help people run better, but just build the habit of going for a run, through crowd-sourcing support for each other. Of course, these all have that familiar pedometer functionality to give the runner a sense of achievement that he or she can unlock and tweet every time he or she runs.
What most people do not realise is that distance is not the only thing that matters while running—running form and style are also essential to enjoy and improve our runs. That is where Stridalyzer comes in.
Innovatively fusing sensors and data analytics into your sole
Focusing on the running form of the runner, instead of the number of steps, calories or distance, Stridalyzer is a wearable device that comes in the form of sensor-fitted insoles. It looks at running in a more holistic way, and aims to help users (runners) understand their running style and improve on it, so that they can run better and prevent injuries.
Sensors send data to your smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which is the standard method for almost all wearable products. Stridalyzer app uses this data, in combination with the phone’s GPS data and intelligent analysis algorithms built into the device, to constantly monitor your run to provide guidance in real-time.
The great thing about this device’s design is that the device and its local processing units are designed to ensure minimal processing on the device. The device shifts out most of the processing to the Cloud.
“At this Cloud, we have maintained a very sophisticated biomechanical model of the human leg. The model operates on a real-time basis, providing users with real-time feedback. The device maintains a constant link between the wearable device, app and the Cloud server for functionality,” explains Anshuman, co-founder, Stridalyzer.
Once your run is complete, you can see the summary of your run, as well as deep-dive into your run-data by yourself or with your trainer, and understand what you did well and how you can do better.
It uses a BLE module, a microcontroller integrated in it and an antenna. The signal-conditioning circuitry from sensors is connected to the sensors through analogue-to-digital conversion. Piezoelectric sensors that do not require power are embedded into the insole, so that users do not feel anything. These sensors are placed in strategic locations near the heels, toes and sides.
Sensors and the electronics function with very high accuracy, capturing high degree of details, including your foot landing, roll and push-off. The electronics are designed such that these last about a week on their charge. It takes about 15-20 minutes to charge each insole to its full level.
The software and analytics are built on the fundamental philosophy of providing real-time, actionable guidance. This requires enormous effort in ensuring that the models based on which the analytics are done, can calculate with just enough accuracy and return the data to the app real-time, while being able to handle network latency and connectivity gaps.
Being placed in a person’s shoe and expecting the device to function while the person is running causes the device to experience high amounts of stress on its components. The team explained that they had to do the industrial design in such a way that, while critical components are designed to be kept out of the way of stress from the device, sensors are still able to collect data from points where there is maximum pressure, while simultaneously ensuring that it does not affect other components and are shielded from pressure.
An important design challenge of this device was the existence of two wearable devices working in tandem—one sole on each foot. On the Cloud side, they needed to ensure a regular sync mechanism with the app, and at the same time ensure that all calculations on the app side get done within one or two seconds, so that information and guidance can be communicated to the user in real-time.
“Our end-goal was to design a product for runners, which is extremely non-intrusive and has a long battery life, but still provides the software component of the product with all the data that is needed to understand a runner’s form. For this purpose, we iterated over various existing solutions and finally had to invent our own solution. We have applied for a patent for it.”
On the software side, the team explained that defining the user-experience, so that the user could run without too many interruptions during a run, but get important information at the same time, was challenging. The design team worked with coaches, UI design experts and others to come up with an optimal solution.
How unique is it
There is currently no product in the market that does the same thing; closest products are Sensoria’s socksand runScribe. However, these devices only work on one foot and are comparatively limited in their guidance and injury-prevention advice.
The team has filed for a patent for the hardware design, architecture and the way data is collected. The innovation also includes the methodology to objectively decide optimal sensor placement for running as well as various other sports. “Our unique hardware architecture enables us to provide users with a battery life that is multiple times that of competitive products,” they claim.
The product was first launched on Kickstarter in December 2014. It was priced at US$ 90, without ExpertConnect add-on service or shipping costs.
Covered by over half-a-dozen in the first few weeks of its listing, this device could be a boon to every runner who understands the importance of correct training. In the words of Lynn Jennings, the first American woman to win a long-distance track medal in the Olympics, “If I am not out there training, someone else is.”