Rowing telemetry commercial solutions – Group comparison

“How can I make the boat go faster” is a question that all competitive rowers ask themselves, from the rowers looking to win Olympic gold, to the rowers looking to win that first novice pot at their local regatta, and it good to see that there are companies that are beginning to provide options or solutions for people to try and understand how their stroke moves the boat and how the can improve to make the boat go even faster.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEZguDh977Y

At a basic level you already have devices like the Nielsen Kellerman speedcoach which allows rowers to measure how fast the boat is going through the water, but there are also other products coming onto the market which all you to also measure the forces that you put through the water to give a better picture of what you are doing in the water and how you can improve, and several of the products are moving towards a price where rowers outside of a national team could afford to invest in a system, after all we compete in a sport where a boat can cost upwards for £8k and blades around £700, so around £1k for a telemetry system, especially when it can help improve your speed so much, should defenalty be considered.

I wanted to compare the main systems on the market, so i created the table below to try and outline the systems available and what features/costs were involved in each

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AiUTzMnckZdzdC01c2xuLXVjandzb3JXcXRkdFRlWnc

EDIT: UPDATED 28th OCTOBER WITH NEW DETAILS OF NK AND WEBA POWER METERS

As you can see, there is a range of options out there, each with benefits and drawbacks which I have tried to outline so that you can consider which is best for you, my own person opinion is:

The most complete solution

Biorow – Looks to be the most complete solution, so if money is no issue and you are looking for the very best, then that would be the one I would go for, its also possible to hire the equipment, details of which are here

The best solution for a club squad testing

Difficult one this, personally I would look at the SmartOar/Weba or Intelligate. Smartoar/Weba as it is truly modular, since you only need two to begin with when testing athletes, and easy to pass the blade around between rowers mid outing, or the Intelligate as it offers not only power curves but also stroke length and blade heights which can also have a big impact on boat speed and so would be good to track.

What are your thoughts on whats on offer? Have I missed any? Please feel free to leave any comments below!

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About stelph82

I am a rower who is a lot of a technology geek as well!
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16 Responses to Rowing telemetry commercial solutions – Group comparison

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  5. Juliet says:

    Hello

    Great research and a very in-depth account. Thank you.

    I was wondering if there was any way of measuring the power ouput from the foot plate on an erg and if you knew if there were any devices for indoor rowing?

    Thanks
    Juliet

    • stelph82 says:

      Hi Juliet

      Thanks! As to a footplate I know that smartoar offer instrumented footboards and I guess they may be able to instrument an ergo, worth contacting them

      http://www.smartoar.com/footboards

      Otherwise I have seen instrumented footboards used by batrowing so you could contact them to see if it’s something they offer

      Hope this helps!

  6. andy peebles says:

    i feel that the need for force based power data, is to train at certain intensities, and like you have mentioned catching up with the cycling world in this regard. in this regard it would be necessary to have instant feedback to make sure you are training at a certain wattage. for this reason, would this not make the RowX Outdoor or the Intelligate a better model as it shows direct feedback in watts as opposed to the biorow and smartoar which only give data to the coach..at a price! the RowXOutdoor and the Intelligate would then also have the option of analysing force curves after, on a computer, which would be the main drawcard of the biorow and the smartoar..although at a fraction of the price

    • stelph82 says:

      Thanks for your comment, I completely agree that the ideal system is one that allows the athlete to see exactly what they are doing, as they are doing it, and also that rowers as a whole need to get used to the ideal of training using a power meter for the most effective training. That being said I would also add that they should be able to see all this information as long as they understand what they are doing and why! By that I mean it is possible to give the athlete too much information do they don’t know what to do with it all, like seeing wattage is all well and good bit if they spend all their time just trying to get the biggest wattage then they are missing the point! I think that ideally the best solution is one which presents information in is as user friendly way as possible and possibly even helps with your analysis of it, similar to how resources in cycling like training peaks does, so while I agree rowX and oat inspired leafs in that regard you certainly can’t take away from the fact that the explanation and support that biorow provides isn’t equally as valuable when working out what to work on and change!

      • andy peebles says:

        thanks for the feedback. i agree in that people need to know what they are doing, and like cyclists, I feel the best way to use your watts would be to train at certain thresholds-and not just max watts. this would be the draxcard to a power measure over heart measure due to the delay in heart or the unavailabitlty of heart rate in vo2MAX sessions and that it shows how your body responds and not necessarily the work you are doing in the water- something you mentioned i think in a previous article where your body could be tired and have high heart rates for little work. i suppose for the elite with elite systems and the money would find biorow useful as they could understand the system to make their rowers better-although i see this more of an analytical tool for coaches on technique. if you are just looking for a training tool, like the cycling world, then i feel the power tools with feedback in the boat is the only way to go. this as well would appeal to the majority of rowers as they can have this tool constantly in the boat as an extra and vital component to go with their gps, stroke coach etc and then something like the biorow could be perhaps rented for a day to give extra feedback on technique. although reading up on something like the rowX they do give quite a bit of that with their power curves, acceleration curves, handle forces etc.anyway thanks for feedback and would be good to hear back from you again, cheers

      • stelph82 says:

        Yes, training with power really does make sense, especially in rowing as boat speed is so affected by the stream of the river on which we train, meaning training using boat speed is often misleading, plus looking at boat technology at the moment NK has the majority of the market currently with their speedcoach devices, but considering their newest model (the GPS) comes in at around £400-£500, and cycling shows that power meters can be commercially viable at around £1000 (and measuring force in cycling is more difficult than measuring the bend in an oar) means I can easily see a market for power meters once one hits the market with all the required features, which are

        1) reasonably priced (between 500-1000)

        2) easy to use/understand

        I read that cyclists refer to training and raving with power almost as “cheating”, because it’s so easy to train at the right level, know how hard you can go in. Race, that’s why I really think it’ll make a big impact once it comes along

      • andy peebles says:

        i fully agree and hope someone with a keen business sense is reading this-not only to make a good business but to benefit the rowing community in something which we are obviously behind in. i can see why cyclists see it as ‘cheating’, having recently come across interval training at different intensities, and the way cyclists are using this minimalistically to achieve great results. i have also seen that cyclists use power measures for time trials to ensure proper pacing- thats as close to rowing as you are gonna get..for them its just a stage in the tour de france but for us rowers thats your 2000m race-period..emphasizing the point even more. anyway thanks for the blog and keep up the good work

      • stelph82 says:

        Thanks for the kind words, I think we will find 2014 will be an exciting year for rowing power meters since oarinspired is due out this year and will defiantly tick all the right boxes for a top end system (accurate measurements, live feedback, detailed analysis with rowinginmotion)

        Also I’m in contact with another company who have a product that should be released imminently, not got many details but again live feedback is one of the features they offer so looking to pick up a demo unit for a review in the near future

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  9. msd1107 says:

    The spreadsheet indicates that SmartOars have only a coaches tablet. We recently got a couple of SmartOars. We are going to make a bracket so that a pair of rowers can view the “coaches tablet” while rowing. While the downloaded data is interesting and the coach can suggest changes, it is most useful to see the data in real time. The system the Germans used at the last Olympics had a display for each rower, but it is my belief that a pair of rowers needs to see their joint force profiles and work using that data to be a more cohesive pair. This is easiest in a pair, but the coach can swap a pair of SmartOars around the boat so that all rowers get to train for togetherness. In addition to pairs (1/2, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, or also cross pairs 2/3, 4/5, 6/7) you could display two seats on the same side to train for precise catch/release timings.

    • stelph82 says:

      I agree, the smartoar is generally a great solution (as you can easily switch the blades around in a crew), but where it currently falls down is that there is no way to easily show that information to a rower as they are rowing

      I had shared this comment with SmartOar and pointed out that a relatively easy fix would be to add bluetooth to the device and then work with an app developer to produce a smartphone app that the rowers could use, but so far I haven’t seen this actioned on which is a shame

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