Will IoT help us break the 2-hour Marathon barrier?

Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Athletic Association

As I write this, my mind is focused on running.  Well, to be honest, I do think about running a lot, so that is not new.  However, today is a bit different…today, the Boston Marathon takes place.  Before the horrific incident a few years back, paying attention to the Marathon was often restricted to true running aficionados like me and people in the Boston area.

One of the biggest talking points today in running is whether (or when, to think positively) a human will run a marathon in under 2 hours.  To the layman, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.  The current record is a scant 3 minutes above that barrier.  However, for the running world, we are aware that taking 3 minutes off an elite runner’s time is no small feat…

It makes me wonder…how much of a role will IoT play in breaking the 2-hour barrier? 

Now, to be clear, there are many components that affect the overall performance of an elite athlete at this level.  Among them...their training regimes, the overall terrain of the course (flatter courses are generally quicker runs than ones with hills) and the temperature of the course (there is a small window for optimal performance) – these factors all play into it.

However, how much can IoT help?  Here are some ways:

I have written in the past about how IoT was being used in some shoes by Under Armour to monitor running performance.  While I doubt that many elite runners would use such shoes (they are way too conscious about the extra weight it would add), I know that running companies use Advanced Sensor Monitoring in their shoes to determine the most optimal combination of materials and weight to enhance performance.

Heart Rate Monitoring is used by athletes of all levels as a way of helping their performance.  From a simplistic look, it helps to know if athletes are performing in the optimum range, but for performance athletes, it also helps to know how their training is progressing and whether fatigue is an issue.

Sleep Monitoring does help the masses – lack of sleep has been linked to countless issues for millions of people.  However, athletes also have a different motivation….recovery.  Their goal is to push their bodies to the limits and as such, they have different levels of sleep requirements than most of us have.  Monitoring helps to know how their body is recovering, when to train and when to rest.

And, as weird as it sounds, Environmental Monitoring will play a big role in the overall gain in speed.  Coaches can use real-time monitoring of conditions, such as wind and temperature changes to help guide the pacing of the runners.  As an example, a runner may choose to not press for a record if they know that the headwind up ahead will make such effort futile.

The Bottom Line

First, congrats to all those runners who have qualified today, even if you are not running, at Boston – you truly are the elite in our sport.  As an obsessed runner, it motivates me that I am in a field of technology that has the chance to help push the efforts to break the 2-hour barrier even further.  And maybe, today of all days, my obsessive thinking about running is justified…

Food delivery just got a whole lot ‘cooler’

While I never actually did it, most of my friends delivered food as a job at some point in their high school / college life.  I mean, it wasn’t exactly the hardest job to do and if you had the right route, it could actually be reasonably lucrative thanks to some generous gratuities.

One of the main criteria for jobs that can be automated are jobs that are somewhat predictable and repetitive in nature.  To a certain extent, it kind of makes sense that some delivery jobs may fall into this category.  This is the thinking, I would imagine, behind the Robot Courier from Starship Technologies.

Think I am kidding?  Here it is…

The logic behind this product is that it is aimed at replacing a particular kind of delivery job.  As you can imagine, it has some limitations:

1. It won’t drive on the road, so it is limited to paths and sidewalks.

2. It has space for a meal or two’s worth of food, so it is really aimed at food / small package delivery.

3. It is battery powered, so it has a certain range.

4. It doesn’t do stairs, so it is likely aimed at a primarily urban environment. 

I do have to hand it to the designers in some ways because it does have that “BB-8 cuteness factor” to it.  It doesn’t look threatening and it would be a really cool cooler that you would take to a tailgate party! That perspective is one way to get over what it really is…that being a threat to many jobs.

For now, the device has to be controlled remotely by a human which limits its cost saving capability.  However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this won’t be the case for long.  I truly can see this device replacing many short-haul courier jobs….such as some messenger services, food delivery and others.

The Bottom Line

Like my blog post about H&R Block’s use of Jon Hamm in its advertisements, don’t be fooled by appearances.  This device is like any other form of automation – it is intended to reduce costs through the elimination of jobs.  While many people may not have an issue with that, it is something to keep track of.  In the meantime, can it deliver beer?