Smartphones. Previously only owned by businessmen and the techno geek, smartphone popularity has exploded since 2007 when Apple unveiled the first iPhone to the world, and since then, over the years, both the technology and the software on the smartphones have got more and more advanced. Similarly in sports both coaches and athletes have become more aware of the benefits of collecting and analysing data from rowing in order to get every benefit possible, hopefully in as cheap and easy a way as possible, so it was inevitable really that with the popularity and availability of the iPhone (and other smartphones) that the two would eventually cross and apps would appear that would use smartphones for rowing analysis.I have previously posted about the iPhone Speedcoach app but this post i am going to do a brief overview of a new app called Rowing in Motion.
Rowing in Motion is an app that basically is designed to collect and display acceleration data whilst you are rowing, although actually thats not “quite” true, as actually its two apps. One app installed on the athletes iPhone stored in the boat to record the data, and one app installed on the coaches iphone/ipad for the coach in order to view it in realtime in a following launch, with either the data showing or even a feature to record video of the athlete taken using the coaches iPhone/iPad camera, as shown in the video below
The way this works is (on paper) rather simple, both iOS devices are connected together via a wifi network, either using a portable mifi device or the iPhones Personal hotspot, the connection allows the athletes app to broadcast the dattold the boat speed and acceleration back to the to coach for instant review and feedback. The live feed can also be recorded for playback at a later date when the coach/athlete are back on the bank.
I can certainly see these combination of apps being really useful to a coach, as it not only allows a coach to view the speed/acceleration of a boat, it displays this information in context, which is something I really feel is important. in fact all the work I’ve done so far with overlaying data on top of videos is an attempt to be able to get video footage and give it context to how it is making the boat move, and how you can change to make the boat go faster!
I wanted to know more about the app so I contacted the developer and he kindly answered a few questions I had, they may even answer a few questions you have yourselves:
1) your app allows rowers to see the rate and also the boat acceleration during the strokes, how important do you think that information is for a rowers working to improve?
In combination with rate, boat acceleration is _the_ ultimative measure for the effectiveness of your stroke. Boat acceleration is the direct result of all forces acting on your boat at any given moment – that is the sum of stretcher force, handle force, frictions etc. These forces are what makes the boat move and induce a change in boat velocity. And velocity is exactly what we’re interested. In rowing we aim to achieve high average velocity over the stroke, because that’s what gets us to the finnish line faster.
If you compare Rowing in Motion to SpeedCoach mobile, that’s exactly one of the major differences. SpeedCoach aims to bring a stroke-watch to your iPhone (and it does that very well). Rowing in Motion on the other hand is a professional measurement system that give’s you insights into the effectiveness of your stroke with unparalleled ease of use. It is the middle ground between simplistic measurement tools like the SpeedCoach and extremely expensive scientific measurement like the Peach System that some national teams use (http://www.peachinnovations.com/tourintro.htm).
That’s the background where I’m coming from and the problem I set out to solve. Not only because these systems are expensive, but also because they are hard to use and provide little live feedback for athletes.
2) For someone without a technical background or knowledge of the charts produced by this app it may be difficult to know what curve/chart they should be aiming for, can you talk about what is the “ideal” chart? I see recently the app was updated to provide an “average” curve of the last 5 strokes, has it been considered to add the option of overlaying the “ideal” curve so the athlete can aim for it?
I get asked that question a lot – even from national team coaches :-). I’m strongly considering a few features in that direction. On top of that, we have also collected material from a few olympic athletes, and we hope to get permission to publish a few case studies after the olympics.
If we think about the acceleration graph for a moment, there’s a few fairly easy things you can focus on to improve your stroke. The boat is the slowest right after the catch. That’s because the crew is pushing on the stretcher and excerting force against the boat’s movement direction. The point we’re the boat is slowest is marked in the acceleration graph when the acceleration returns back to 0 after the heavy deceleration at the catch. Since the boat is slowest at this point, we need to quickly pick up acceleration to achieve a high average velocity over the stroke. Any mistake a crew makes in leg/trunk/arms coordination will show in an unsteady, slow pick up of boat acceleration.
Another important mistake is pulling to hard on the stretcher in the beginning of the recovery phase. This causes temporal acceleration (good), but you will have to push on the stretcher much earlier to recover the built-up momentum (very bad).
Both of these points can be seen in a technique studies on our youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0kzlODS8QY&feature=plcp
Regarding “ideal” boat acceleration: This is non-trivial due to individual differences in physiognomy, bio-mechanics etc. It is also highly dependent on stroke rate, the structure at SF36 is completely different than at SF20. Having said all this, it’s hard to recommend an “ideal” boat acceleration curve, but there are certain characteristics that separate the good from the bad.
3) Can you comment about the pricing? Obviously for apps like this you cannot expect 69p versions, and the pricing of the athlete app at £44.99 is high but on a par with the other iPhone speed/rate apps also available, but the price of th coaching app is over £100 so could you comment on why this app price is so much higher?
In the same way that coaches seldomly buy their own SpeedCoach (and these are priced comparingly), the Coaches we have spoken too usually buy these Apps out of their equipment budget. If you consider the price of the only comparable solution (SpeedCoach XL), it’s a real bargain – and it has much more useful features.
(pricing as of Sept 2012)
My future vision for the Coach App is to tightly integrate it with online based data analytics tools and I’m sure this will significantly change the pricing structure too. While we have national teams on our customer list, we do also have a lot of happy club-level coaches using the CoachApp. Our aim is to make professional tools available to a much broader audience than was previously the case. We’re also working to improve the experience for rowing enthusiasts that do not have the luxury of a dedicated coach and we have some pretty cool ideas in the pipeline for those too!
4) although the ideal combination is using the iPhone and iPhone/iPad for videoing, in some cases a camcorder may be better due to features like Zoom that aren’t on the iPhone, is there any potential that importing video from an external source (I.e. using the iPad camera kit or through iTunes) and overlaying the data after the outing for review would be supported?
This is unfortunately not on our current roadmap. Rowing in Motion employs some special technology to achieve perfect frame-to-data synchronization, and that can unfortunately not be implemented with external video equipment.
5) There are now several ways to capture heart rate on the iPhone including using the Wahoo key and ANT+ belt, and the 50beats adapter with the standard analogue belt, is heart rate tracking a feature you would consider adding support to in a future update?
6) Currently the app is available for iOS, is there any plans for expanding into any other platform such as Android or WP8?
We do currently have no plans to expand on other platforms. The primary reason for this is that we must rely on certain characteristics of the devices that are hard to ensure in heterogenous ecosystems such as Android and WP. The most critical component here is the accelerometer sensor, but camera performance and computing capabilities are equally important.
I wanted to express thanks to the developer for taking the time to respond to my questions, it is certainly interesting to see the reasoning behind the app and also that’ll there is a roadmap for where he is aiming to go in the future!
Following this preview I will also be reviewing the app (and investigating some of the other features that it offers including sonification (to make it possible to hear differences from stroke to stroke) and online anallytics, and writing up about my experiences with them so please check back over the next few weeks or (as its easier) register about to be sent emails whenever I post updates to so you’ll be alerted once the review comes up. As always, if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to ask below!