It used to be that running was all about putting one foot in front of the other, just fast. With the advent of smartwatches and activity bands, the number of steps taken and the number of heartbeats per minute became the defining measures.
Now, there is a new metric, if you have the right shoes. And that means the shoes have to collect the data that was previously the job of the wristband.
By placing a sensor in a shoe, the runner can now add average pace, stride length and cadence to the range of metrics. The shoe is linked to a smartphone, and an app on the smartphone analyses the incoming data, combines it with GPS mapping, and then offers advice on improving running style.
Nike pioneered the concept with the Nike+ sensor, but the device was sold separately and had to be placed under the insole of a compatible Nike shoe.
It has taken a relative newcomer to the running shoe industry, innovative sportswear company Under Armour, which made its first running shoes ten years ago, to shake up the segment. It launched the first connected shoes, the Hovr range, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two years ago, and instantly revitalised its shoe sales.
When Runner’s World magazine put the Hovr Infinite on its front cover earlier this year, and recommended it as the best distance-training shoe, the brand had finally arrived among runners.
It is not only the connected property that sets the Hovr range apart. The sole is made of a proprietary foam enclosed in a mesh fabric, that limits its outward expansion when compressed. The foam, developed with Dow Chemical, not only provides a soft footfall, but also springs back. This means it has an energy return sole: As you run and put pressure on the foam platform, it displaces and puts pressure on the foot, as the foot is lifted, it returns energy to the sole puts it back in shape.
This was the first property that leaped out, so to speak, when I tested the Hovr Phantom SE. Due to an ankle collar that provides a snug fit as well as firm support, the shoes are difficult to put on without a shoehorn – but deliver astonishing comfort once they are on the foot. The running experience has been my most comfortable. Ever. I’ve used it on a treadmill as well as cross-country, and have been constantly thankful for the support it’s provided when my legs have threatened to call it a day.
That is before one gets to the most prominent selling point of the shoes, namely their connection to the world of activity monitoring. The shoes contain a pod that houses a
Bluetooth module, accelerometer and gyroscope, which constantly collect data from the feet. The shoes are synced with the MapMyRun app, part of the Under Armour ecosystem since the company bought MapMyFitness for US$150,000,000 in 2015. Under Armour also owns the MyFitnessPal calorie and nutrition counter and the Endomondo fitness app.
MapMyRun is where one discovers the magic of the connected shoe. It helps set goals, tracks and logs workouts, guides the user through routines, poses challenges, and connects with the nutrition functionality of MyFitnessPal. A Route Genius suggests options for nearby runs, depending on the distance specified.
It includes a range of community options, such as a kind of Facebook of running comments and shares, and the route maps of others that they have agreed to share with their friends.
Finally, it offers advice on improving cadence and pace. The thing is, you don’t have to listen to it. If you know what works for you, take what you need from the data and advice, and just enjoy a run that comes as close to floating as constant footfalls allow.
Click here to read about how the Hovr works.
IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines
Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it
The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.
“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”
Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.
“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”
Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.
“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”
The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.
“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”
The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.
“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”
Oracle leads in clash of
Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews.
The three vendors received the following citations:
- Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search.
- Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
- IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.
The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.
“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group.
“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”