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What You Gonna Do in a High-Tech Canoe? Sensors and Big Data Could Make Brazil National Team’s Boats Faster

By Michael Keller

What comes to mind when you think about a canoe? William Clark and Meriwether Lewis paddling down the Columbia River? Summer evenings spent on a lake at camp?

How about elite athletes and big data? The Brazilian Canoe Federation just teamed up with GE to analyze the huge amounts of data produced by the national team during training sessions, and help boost its chances. “We will make use of our knowledge in software and analytics to collect performance data of the athletes in a single system and to analyze all this information together, seeking better results for the teams,” says Marcelo Blois, the head of software and productivity at GE’s new Global Research Center in Rio de Janeiro.

GE scientists will travel to three April training sessions to collect data. There they will outfit the team’s canoes with a suite of sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and GPS.

The sensors will collect and evaluate in real time information about the boats’ location, speed and direction of travel, and the frequency and intensity of rowing. Heart rate monitors worn by athletes will also transmit data to a digital collection station mounted on every vessel.


Top GIF: An animation of a paddle stroke: GIF credit: Andrey1981 20 Above: Rio de Janeiro. GIF credit: GE Reports Brasil

The system will beam data from each canoe to a cloud-based Industrial Internet platform for more analysis and cross-referencing with the rest of the team.

Athletes, trainers and coaches will have access to the results from tablets. The dashboard will allow them to see the total team outcome and also drill down for details. “The purpose of the project is that the athletes can optimize their own performance by reacting to this information collected during training sessions,” said Heros Ferreira, director of the Brazilian Canoe Federation’s Department of Sports Sciences.

The data analyzed during this month’s training sessions will give the canoeists the most comprehensive look they’ve ever had at how they are performing.

But the partners say this is just the beginning. They hope to build a mobile app for Android smartphones and allow even youth teams to use the system and get better.

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