17 February 2010
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang is research director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, as well as head of the Visual Information Processing Group in the Department of Computing. He has designed a technology which can help athletes to improve their sporting technique.
Guang-Zhong has been with the College for over 20 years as a student and staff member. His research focuses on pervasive computing – the idea that computing technology is moving beyond the PC to everyday devices which are becoming progressively smaller and more powerful. In 2008, alongside Dr Benny Lo (Computing) and with the help of Imperial Innovations, he founded Sensixa, a company developing a miniaturised wireless pervasive sensing device that can be used for accurate physical activity monitoring. Guang-Zhong says that one of the biggest challenges facing sports technology is understanding precisely how elite athletes reach their achievements. The creation of miniaturised sensors offers a way to extract continuous and accurate information under normal training and competition environments for real-time analysis.
“We put a miniaturised wireless sensor on the ear to try to work out from shockwave transmission what is happening to the musculoskeletal system including lower body joints, such as the knees and ankles. The sensor learns from how the inner ear controls balance and motion by using the skeleton as a high-frequency wave transmitter,” explains Guang-Zhong. Having biomechanical data available during a training session can make the whole process of improving sporting technique much quicker and easier, as an improved understanding of performance can allow coaches to fine-tune training.
For elite sport, improving the speed of athletes by a mere millisecond could be the difference between just finishing and winning a gold medal. Guang-Zhong hopes in the future to position the UK at the forefront of pervasive sensing in elite sports and to promote its wider application in public lifelong health, well-being and healthcare.
- Anoushka Warden, Imperial Innovations