IMeasureU, based in Parnell, has built an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and mathematical models that detail data-driven performance insights for researchers, coaches and athletes. The insights go beyond GPS and heart rate.
IMeasureU has commercially launched two products – IMU-Research for the life sciences, entertainment and engineering sectors; and IMU-Step for the elite sports market. Its motion measurement system is based on fusing IMUs with physics-based computation models to provide high-fidelity movement and workload data.
The IMU-Step data is used for optimal recovery, training and performance by an athlete and also for preventing injury or managing the rehabilitation of an injured player. The wearable IMU sensor is small and lightweight and allows the data to be transmitted to a computer or phone.
Speeding up players’ rehabilitation
By attaching IMU sensors to the injured player, sports scientists and coaches can precisely track the workload an athlete is under throughout rehabilitation. It means the player's training regime is managed better and minimises the time taken to return from injury.
"We have been working with professional basketballers – they are very big athletes worth a lot of money, and they have to go through a strict return to play protocol when they get injured," says IMeasureU co-founder, Mark Finch.
"We provided a solution. Our system measures the impact on the ankles and the bone load every time the feet hit the ground. And we are able to micro-manage the workload and bone load at each training session and bring them back from injury."
For us, it’s focussing on managing and trying to prevent injury – which is only one facet of the athlete’s wellbeing. We are giving coaches more information for them to make better informed decisions.”
IMeasureU was spun out of the Auckland University Bioengineering Institute in 2013, and four years later it was bought by Vicon, a global leader in motion capture cameras and technology in the entertainment, engineering, virtual reality and life science sectors.
It was a partnership made in heaven.
Finch says "this is a dream for us to work with a company that carries the gold standard in biomechanics research – let alone be bought by them. We get the opportunity to pursue our vision of global growth and innovation. The two companies complement each other perfectly."
IMeasureU's sensors – 1500 of them are now used by researchers in universities and sporting institutions around the world - will be integrated into Vicon's existing camera systems. It solves an age old problem for researchers – they don't have to synchronise the IMU sensor with the camera. "We are combining the two tools which will capture a lot of information in a very short time, making the synchronised data all available to the users," says Finch.
IMU has wide application on sports fields
The newly-launched IMU-Step is being used by American NBA teams, as well as locally by the Auckland-based New Zealand Breakers basketball players.
IMeasureU is confident its inertial measurement system will be taken up by more NBA teams, and also by United States colleges to monitor the training and performance of their students on football, basketball and athletics scholarships. The system can also be applied to rugby and netball teams in New Zealand.
Finch says IMU-Step can be applied to any sport where people are running around. "We will work with our customers and make sure the features we have in our software are actually what they want."
IMeasureU was founded by Finch, an innovator with a Masters Degree in Biomedical Engineering, and Professor Thor Besier, who founded Stanford University's Human Performance Lab. The company will be doubling its staff to 12 by the end of 2017, including filling a new position in the United States.
"Our biggest market is the US and basketball is our initial target," says Finch. "Ultimately, we want athletes to perform better. For us, it's focussing on managing and trying to prevent injury – which is only one facet of the athlete's wellbeing. We are giving coaches more information for them to make better informed decisions."
Finch is a strong supporter of the proposed New Zealand Human Performance Innovation Centre at AUT Millennium's sports training facility on Auckland's North Shore.
"The centre has huge potential," he says. "There are a lot of innovative companies doing great things with athletes. It makes sense to pull these companies and athletes into the same place and have access to each other."
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is working with Auckland University of Technology, AUT Millennium, High Performance Sport New Zealand and Callaghan Innovation to build a business case and establish a world-class human performance centre.