Challenges Overcome During IndyCar Test of Next-Generation Wearables

Blog /Challenges-Overcome-During-IndyCar-Test-of-Next-Generation-Wearables

By Mayank Gandhi, Director, Information Management & Analytics, Healthcare & Life Sciences
Adam Nelson, VP, Healthcare & Life Sciences

Hitoe technology applies an electro-conductive polymer to nanofibers, turning fabric into a collector of physiological electrical data, producing ECG and EMG waveforms. It’s currently being used by IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan to determine how he can improve his performance and training regime based on the data collected during races, but its potential uses extend far beyond racing.

The most important lesson the NTT DATA team learned from the IndyCar experiment was how to develop an analytics blueprint providing incremental value to a high performance individual such as Tony Kannan. What data would be useful for Kanaan? How would we deal with the challenges of collecting data in extreme conditions, such as during a 200 mph race? How could we spot patterns and trends to help Kanaan and the CG Racing team improve from race to race? The 2016 IndyCar study answered those questions and more, as we strove to capture and visualize information in an effort to provide valuable insights to Kanaan and his team with a data-driven approach.

Here is the summary of the key project objectives, associated lessons learned, and challenges overcome:

Providing value without being invasive

“We are constantly trying to get an edge on the competition and make ourselves and our car better. Having a partner like NTT DATA step up and give me such a useful tool gives us just a little bit extra over the other drivers,” says Kanaan about his experience with the Hitoe technology this season.

Of course, even if the user is highly motivated, the technology cannot interfere with the tasks it is aiming to monitor. Just as we could not in any way impede Kanaan’s performance or physical comfort, someone at home undergoing rehab after surgery should not have to experience discomfort or worry about sending critical information to a doctor or physical therapist. In Kannan’s case, this meant making sure the sensors were comfortably placed, almost to the degree that he didn’t know they were there.

Consistency of performance

When every millisecond counts during pit stops, there isn’t any time to fix connectivity issues, so the technology had to work without fail. This ability will translate well into situations like monitoring the health conditions of railroad personnel working in extreme conditions. The ability to store data within the transmitter and to connect with everyday devices, such as basic Bluetooth pairing with a smartphone, will ensure collected data is not lost and is available for analysis. In Kanaan’s case, the flexible connectivity of the technology allowed the team to use CG Racing’s existing communication systems to view the results.

Focus on incremental gains

Given that Kannan is already a top-ranked racing professional, making massive gains was not the goal. Instead, it was to provide him precise insights so he could achieve incremental performance gains.

For example, we added EMG sensors to the Hitoe shirt Kanaan wore to better understand how his grip consistency and strength affect the tendency toward muscle cramps and overall fatigue. This type of data closely relates to the needs of physical therapists: perhaps the inner muscles of a patient’s knee are not responding as quickly as hoped, and a modest adjustment to the patient’s rehab routine is needed to improve the therapy’s outcome.

In our next post, we’ll dive deeper into the analytics our team provided to Kanaan and his race team.

Post Date: 6/14/2016

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