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Wearable Sensors Offer Real-Time Snowboarding Performance Stats [Future Of Gaming]

Wearable Sensors Offer Real-Time Snowboarding Performance Stats [Future Of Gaming]
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PSFK spoke with Nokia, a company incorporating wearable sensors into snowboarding which communicate with a smartphone via Bluetooth for real-time performance capture and readout.

Timothy Ryan, PSFK Labs
  • 5 january 2012

The PSFK consulting team has noticed that in an effort to capture and analyze data from a wider variety of activities, developers are embedding an array of intelligent sensors into their products. When this information is uploaded to mobile and online platforms, individuals can track their progress and view their improvements over time.

One company operating in this space is Nokia; Its “Push Snowboarding” mobile application is being tested in collaboration with snowboarding manufacturer Burton and incorporates wearable sensors which communicate with Nokia’s N8 smartphone via Bluetooth for a real-time performance capture and readout. Utilizing tele-communication corporation Nokia’s N8 smartphone’s as a platform for capturing and analyzing data, the mobile application uses the phone’s GPS capabilities along with the data collected from four sensors embedded in the snowboard to provide snowboarders with live tracking of their ride; including speed, heart rate, airtime, rotation and ‘rush’–a measure of how anxious or excited a rider was while snowboarding. Push Snowboarding is still in its trial phase, but is expected to be available for general consumption soon. PSFK spoke with Stuart Wells of Global Marketing Partnerships at Nokia.

Please provide a brief introduction about yourself and your company.

My name is Stuart Wells, Global Marketing Partnerships, Nokia.

I joined Nokia’s Global Marketing team after spending several years in advertising at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and McCann-Erickson London working on brands such as Snickers, Sainsbury’s, Royal Mail and Bacardi.

Currently based at Nokia’s headquarters in Helsinki, I work with like-minded brands such as Burton Snowboards in delivering innovative partnerships.

Nokia is a global leader in mobile communications whose products have become an integral part of the lives of people around the world. Every day, more than 1.3 billion people use their Nokia to capture and share experiences, access information, find their way or simply to speak to one another. Nokia’s technological and design innovations have made its brand one of the most recognized in the world.

Please tell us about the Push Snowboarding collaboration between Nokia and Burton. What is the idea and goal behind the platform?

September 2010: Rather than just tell people about Nokia’s latest powerful product, the Nokia N8, we developed a piece of new technology which placed the smartphone at the heart of a sensor ecosystem to provide insights into snowboarding that hadn’t been seen before.

We designed, tested and produced wearable sensors, simultaneously connected via Bluetooth to the N8, that gave snowboarders live tracking of their ride: speed, heart rate, airtime, rotation and even ‘rush’ – a measure of how anxious or “stoked” a rider was when on the mountain.

We then tested this technology with Burton professional snowboarders around the world at top snowboarding competitions. We documented every stage on film and shared it online, at experiential events and through mainstream media coverage.

The project culminated with a sponsorship presence at Burton’s US Open competition where the public was invited to test the kit themselves in the resort.

The development of the innovation was shared with the world as it happened. In this case, the product development was the marketing.

nokia-push-snowboarding

What has been the audience reaction? Can you share any stats around user engagement?

The project was an enormous success, reaching over 300m people and having over 1.2m engagements across all channels.

We also had an unprecedented response from the public who showed their love and admiration for the project. Amongst the public feedback we’ve had comments such as ‘makes me love Nokia again,’ ‘This is the future – Nokia Push Burton project’ and ‘Seriously genuinely excited about the Nokia Push project. N8 as creative + active sports tool.’

Push Snowboarding had coverage in over 26 languages and was talked about on every continent. As well as coverage in traditional technology titles such as Wired, a 10 minute TV segment was produced by Transworld Sport about the project and syndicated to approximately 250m people worldwide. In addition, we were invited to run a panel discussion on Push Snowboarding at SxSW and at Cannes Lions 2011.

Research showed that this campaign increased consumer favorability of the Nokia N8 by an impressive 14%. It also made people see the Nokia brand as more innovative and, in many cases, put Nokia’s device back into people’s consideration list. This effect was not limited to fans of snowboarding or technology – the combination proved a powerful mix for mainstream audiences around the world.

nokia-push-snowboarding

We have been noticing that integrated/enhanced sensor technology is enabling users to seamlessly track and quantify a wider array of activities, effectively transforming individuals and previously ‘non-intelligent’ objects into real world game-pieces. Do you see this trend manifesting on a larger scale?

Yes, through the proliferation of sensors that are becoming cheaper, more sophisticated, better suited to the everyday and creatively used.  As we progress, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC technology will have a big impact on this and we’ll truly see the emergence of sensors as part of the mass smartphone ecosystem.

Gamification has quickly become a tired phrase but what I see is gaming elements being added to more and more diverse areas in conjunction with sensors. For example, wearable sensors being used by physiotherapists to help adjust patients gait or posture in order to recover normal biomechanics. The ‘gamification’ comes in the way that people interact with the ecosystem – so it has a more tangible purpose.

A study by academics in the USA in 2006 proposed the use of a wearable sensor system to assess the motor abilities of stroke victims. With technological advances since then, it is logical to suggest that a smartphone can be at the centre of the ecosystem, the sensors can be connected by Bluetooth and the experience can be a human and playful one for the recovering victim. That’s not to ignore the seriousness of the patient’s condition, but to make the recovery a more stimulating one that uses sensor technology positively. This thinking can be applied to a multitude of situations – using sophisticated technology to solve a real human need in an accessible way.

At a mass consumer level, the current articulation is towards ‘reporting’ data (Facebook update: John just ran 6.08 miles in 44 minutes and burned 521 calories) but this will soon evolve into something more meaningful. I strongly believe that ‘measurement isn’t enough’ – people are driven by emotion, and raw data just doesn’t ‘do it’ when presented at a base level. However, we should not underestimate the importance of accurate and continual data collection in this experience. As you get more data, patterns emerge that can be analyzed, new insights gained and interaction can be added in very new, human and relevant ways.

Thanks Stuart!

Push Snowboarding

To learn more about what’s going on in the gaming space today, order a copy of PSFK’s Future of Gaming report.

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