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Connect your sneakers to the Internet

Place these insoles in your sneakers: you’ll get tons of data on your running and posture. Image credit: Nurvv

I remember some 15 years ago, at the Future Centre of Telecom Italia, a pool of young researchers, many from Brasil, discussing what the future might look like and one of the idea was to have everything, but really everything, connected to the internet, creating data and those data being used as a connectivity fabric for meaning. Then someone would wonder why would you want to have a sneaker connected to the Internet?  The consensus (an easy one to reach) was that we should not bother into the “whys”, once a pair of sneakers was generating data somebody will find a way to leverage on them.

In this 15 years we have seen a number of companies coming up with ways to include sensors in sneakers, one of the first or at least more known is Nike, as a way to track your training exercises. Actually, the uptake of sensors in apparels, sneakers mostly, has been made possible by the smartphone. It is the availability of smartphone local communications network and the processing and storage provided by the smartphone that made affordable, and practical the harvesting of sensors’ data.

In these last few years the number of apps that can make use of physiological, movement and exercise data has grown and most importantly these apps are becoming more and more sophisticated. I would expect to see machine learning and AI sneaking in a few of these apps in the next two years to provide ever more interesting information.

Of course the more data and the better “quality” of these data would create a nice springboard for these apps.  Here comes Nurvv, a start up founded in 2015 in London UK, that hit the market with their first product in 2019. They offer insoles that can easily fit in any sneakers, equipped with 16 sensors each able to detect pressure and movements. These data are sent wirelessly to an app on the smartphone to derive information on distance, time, pace, splits, elevation, calories, cadence, step length, footstrike, and pronation. They are powered with rechargeable batteries providing a 5+ hours autonomy.

These data can be shared with other apps (like Strava) and with services in the cloud.

The goal is to transform your sneakers into a personal coach that can interact with you during your exercise. You can get haptic feedback and be guided by a voice that will mix with your music as you run. In perspective I guess this might become a component of your personal digital twin detecting much more than your physical prowess. It can provide data for healthcare monitoring and therefore address a much broader market. I have seen at MIT and MGH trials and use of special slippers to monitor patients’ gait in rehab from a stroke.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.