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New gadget to reduce head injury at Rugby World Cup

Microchip technology integrated with the SAP Cloud Platform provides real-time collision and contact data, with applications that extend beyond sport

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All South African eyes are on Japan as the Springboks compete for a place in the knock-out stages of this year’s Rugby World Cup, beginning this weekend. One of the major talking points of this year’s contest – other than host nation Japan’s remarkable run of performances – is how strict match referees have been in enforcing the new laws governing player contact with other players’ heads. The new laws were introduced in an effort to limit the risk of potentially disastrous head injuries, which remain a concern for players around the world.

This may explain why, according to the latest research, many younger people are avoiding participating in sports such as rugby: to limit the risk of head injuries. To help keep athletes healthier and reduce brain injuries, Sports & Wellbeing Analytics (SWA), in partnership with Keytree and Swansea University, created a new mouthguard solution designed to monitor the impact inflicted on a player’s head during training and matches.

The new system uses microchip technology within the mouthguard to share real-time collision and contact data with sideline personnel via SAP Cloud Platform. Backroom staff can monitor the size and frequency of head impact and use the information to make better judgments on whether athletes need to be removed or given a break from the action. They can then use this data to modify training technique to help ensure similar repeatable injuries are minimised in the future.

“In most contact sports, there are protocols around taking a player out,” said SWA CEO Chris Turner. “We’re not trying to predict or make medical diagnoses, but we can provide more information that allows the team’s medical and coaching staff to assess the impact of collisions on the pitch and encourage safer play.”

Because PROTECHT can highlight sequences or moments where a player’s head is at most risk of injury, coaches are better able to make technical alterations that could minimize brain injury. The system is being battle-tested with rugby teams, but its implications spread to many sports, including American football, boxing, hockey, martial arts, and more. Attention has increased in these sports in recent years due to the severe damage head injuries can inflict on athletes’ careers and lives, primarily through the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is often found in people with a history of repeated head trauma.

However, it is still challenging to identify the true impact of head injuries in sports.

“When someone has a twisted ankle or pulled hamstring, it’s obvious that something is wrong,” Turner said. “It’s not so obvious when someone has a concussion. Our solution starts by measuring how much of a load you’re placing on the brain. We can provide that data.”

The mouthguard specifically measures linear and rotational acceleration to determine how much gravitational force (Gs) an athlete receives during contact. An average impact is between 20 and 30 Gs, with particularly hard impacts measuring out at around 40 Gs.

The solution has been live tested this past year in the UK with Welsh rugby team the Ospreys in order to gain real-time feedback from players, medics, and coaching staff. Players said they did not find much difference using the solution compared to their normal mouthguard, which could be a big step toward convincing leagues, teams, and athletes that they should embrace the technology.

“Our players tell us it is good to know someone is keeping an eye on them,” said Richard Lancaster, head of Business Development and Marketing for SWA. “The more information we have, the better equipped we are to address issues. And it didn’t change the way they played the game. Those are resoundingly positive messages.”

SWA believes a purpose-driven, next-gen approach to technology and innovation will enable more young athletes to participate in sports like rugby that many in the U.K. are drifting away from because of health concerns.

“Rugby is the holy sport in Wales and a dominant sport across the UK and other countries worldwide, including Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa,” Lancaster said. “Kids want to play these sports, so if we can work toward reducing these injuries, that’s a win-win. We believe we can help.”

Turner said the goal of their solution is to increase awareness and safety to breed confidence for the future: “What we’re hoping to do is give confidence to parents that this is something that can be monitored. This way more kids can partake in the sport and know what happens. We hope this solution can help carry rugby into the future.”

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3D printing set for $20bn boom

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3D printing is starting to be realized in a wide variety of industries, but its potential in the aerospace and defense industry is significant. The 3D printing industry was worth $3bn in 2013 and grew to $7bn in 2017. By 2025, the market is forecast to account for more than $20bn in spend, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s report, ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’, reveals that most major militaries and companies are exploring options with the technology. Some are still in the testing phase, while others are deploying the technology in final production. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where engines, aircraft and satellites are currently using 3D-printed components.

Listed below are the militaries that have taken an early lead in implementing 3D printing technology, as identified by GlobalData.

US Marine Corps

The US Marine Corps currently has the highest uptake of 3D printing of any military service worldwide. In particular, the additive manufacturing team at Marine Corps Systems Command has created the world’s largest 3D concrete printer with the ability to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.

US Air Force

The US Air Force is integrating 3D printing into its supply chain. Overseen by ‘America Makes’, the US national additive manufacturing/3D printing innovation institute, it is investigating how current systems can be used to reproduce aircraft components for decades-old planes that may no longer have reliable sources of replacement parts, without minimum order quantities.

US Navy

The Navy has created new logistical units such as Navy frontline attachments, which can rapidly create spare parts for incredibly complex military equipment such as the F-35B – and are currently operational for this purpose. The navy has also worked with Oak Ridge National laboratory to produce the first 3D-printed submarine hull.

US Army

The US Army is working on 3D-printed, modular drone systems. The army wants 3D printers that can be deployed to a forward base camp and used to produce aviation backup when necessary for troops on the ground. This plan aims to create bespoke unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems and is said to be at an advanced stage of development.

Chinese Air Force

A 3D Systems ProJet 4500 printer has been acquired by the Chinese army and has been working on replacement military truck parts for the army’s fuel tanker fleet. A number of Chinese fighter jets are believed to be carrying 3D-printed parts and are currently in operation.

Russian Army

Russia has been testing multiple applications for 3D-printed parts in its newest main battle tank, the T-14 Armata. During the development process, 3D printing was used for prototyping, but it is expected that parts will be used in the final product, of which 2,300 have been ordered.

South Korean Air Force

Collaboration between South Korea’s InssTEK and France’s Z3DLAB is producing parts for South Korean warplanes that see heavy use along the border with North Korea. The aim is to upgrade existing components, rather than replace worn parts, with a new titanium composite material.

Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’.

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SA productivity could nosedive on Black Friday

Employee productivity on Black Friday could nose dive, says local online retailer, OneDayOnly.co.za

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni hasn’t had it easy lately. Amidst a more-than-tricky economy and having to walk the tight rope in his recent mid-term budget speech, Tito is squeezed between a rock and a very hard place that’s about to get tighter with Black Friday inspired employee procrastination.

“While the minister probably has bigger fish to fry than South Africans avoiding spreadsheets in favour of scooping a deal on Samsung’s latest flat screen – Black Friday undoubtedly affects employees’ focus at work,” says Matthew Leighton, spokesperson at leading South African e-tailer OneDayOnly.co.za .

While it started as a post-Thanksgiving blowout sale by US retailers, Black Friday has become one of the most significant calendar days for consumers and the retail industry globally. “The proof is in the OneDayOnly.co.za stats. Last year, we recorded over 150 000 website users on Black Friday alone – the average on a regular day is around 60 000 and on a high traffic day such as pay day its approximately 80 000,” says Leighton.

So the demand is clearly there but are people actually doing the bulk of their Black Friday buying while they should be working? Leighton says they are. “Although the sale starts at midnight people are online throughout the day and data from last year shows traffic on OneDayOnly.co.za spiking primarily during core working hours – 06:00, 8:00, 11:00 and 15:00.

He adds that the average user session – or time people spend on the site at any one point – is three times longer on Black Friday than any other day. “In addition to spending longer on the site on Black Friday, customers also return many times during the day so these longer sessions happen numerous times during the work day.”

To add to Tito’s woes, Leighton explains that people are also multi-screening their buying efforts by watching social platforms for tips and prompts. “Most online retailers worth their salt share prompts on social feeds to drive traffic to their websites. Last year, each time we announced via social that a 100% off deal was available shoppers flocked to OneDayOnly.co.za. Almost instantly, the web traffic would spike. The pattern shows how closely people keep an eye on the 100% off deal drops via social media, as well as how effectively the platforms cater to a very wide audience in real time.”

But while Black Friday may result in the odd deadline being missed, Leighton believes the overall impact on the economy is an extremely positive one. “Last year we saw people spending in the region of R1300 on Black Friday, compared to an average of R970 on other days. According to BankServ, South Africans’ card transactions came up to R3bn on the day last year, up 16% from 2017. That’s a nice injection into an otherwise depressed retail sector.”

Leighton says people love Black Friday because there is something in it for everyone, but there’s also nothing to lose – except for maybe a bit of work time. “With so many more products available at low prices, it makes sense to peruse. If you find nothing you like, you are no worse off. And your boss doesn’t have to be either if you’re proactive and shop before work when our doors open at midnight.”

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