Health Check: innovation at the intersection of fitness apps & wearables

By and Dustin Freckleton | 3 minute read | July 21, 2016

Leadspace image Team USA cyclist practices on fixed wheels

Speed, power, and strength – these – are just a few of the characteristics that come to mind when I think about what makes the cyclists on Team USA stand out from the crowd.  But have you ever thought about their aerobic capacity?  What about their lactate threshold?  We can clearly measure speed with odometers, power with watt meters, and strength by endurance or weight lifting capacity.  But how could we measure muscle oxygen? How would that impact the performance of a pro cyclist?  How would that information impact the performance of an everyday athlete, like me – a triathlon enthusiast?

Close up image of team USA cyclist resting on barrierA break whilst training, time to gather thoughts – and data

Enter BSX Athletics & USA Cycling Women’s Team Pursuit

Oxygen breaks down the carbs, fats, and proteins in the body into usable fuel for muscles. While most adults have static lung capacity, they can improve the efficiency of that capacity.  The more oxygen your body can consume, the more speed and power you can produce.  More oxygen also reduces lactic acid, which slows you down.

Team USA cyclist practices on fixed wheelsPracticing on fixed bicycle

Until recently, only very serious athletes and professionals could test their oxygen capacity – VO2 Max. Muscle oxygen is a new metric that can correlate to many physiological conditions, but has a uniqueness to the individual as well as protocol. Now BSX Athletics offers a wearable device – a calf sleeve –  that looks inside your muscles using special LED lights to read, report, and record real-time muscle oxygen levels and data.

Recently, USA Cycling’s Women’s Team Pursuit began using BSXinsight to collect data to feed into their real-time dashboard to improve the team’s individual and collective cycling efforts. Professional athletes can improve their VO2max by 3-5%.  In the world of team pursuit cycling – where wins are often determined my fractions of seconds – an incremental improvement in performance can be the difference of taking home the Gold or Silver in Rio 2016.

The team at BSXinsight believes Team USA is putting this key information to work, “allowing them to better-understand energy production and utilization in order to optimize training load and recovery.”

Wearables, fitness apps, and data – not just for the pros

While wearable devices like BSXinsight might not be in the hands of the everyday athlete of myself, they will be soon. Did you know that total shipments of wearable devices worldwide will reach 214.6 million units by 2019 according to IDC?

bsx_techBSX wearable technology

These wearable devices will share data with your favorite fitness apps to deliver individual responses and suggestions. And, that could just be the start – smart fabrics could be the next point of integration for athletes and healthcare providers.

As Neal Henderson of USA Cycling reminds us, “it’s easy to have too much data, you’ll need to focus on what’s critical.”

At BSX, we could not be more proud of the amazing abilities and accomplishments of the US Women’s Team Pursuit and are honored that BSX technology has assisted in striving towards their goals.

At IBM, we’re excited to be able to bring together not only tools to connect the wearable devices through our Internet of Things Platform, but also the data and analytics services like IBM Analytics for Apache Spark, Cloudant (a NoSQL Database as a Service), and Graph to enable developers and data scientists to manage the data and gain insights.  You’ll be able to create personalized end-user experiences, drive progress, and cut costs with healthcare in the cloud.

Learn more about how you can build the solution you need with these services  through the IBM Bluemix cloud platform. Learn more about BSX technology at

USA Cycling has joined forces with Watson IoT, IBM MobileFirst, IBM Analytics and IBM jStart to incorporate real-time data analytics from the internet of things (IoT) into their training. The culmination of the passion, skill and conditioning of the cyclists and coaches, coupled with the most advanced technologies including wearables, give this team the competitive edge they need as they go for gold.

Join us each week as we explore the Team Pursuit #RidetoRio through the lens of photographer John Huet and the words of the athletes, coaches and technologists.