Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of the unique physical and behavioural characteristics of individuals. The growth of biometrics has led to fantastic changes in sport by allowing athletes to control more aspects of their jobs and careers and continually enhance performance.
Data analysts are increasingly using biometric data in sport to work closely with athletes. By investing considerable time in understanding what questions to ask of the data and then identifying the most important data points to remove guesswork, assumptions or hypothesis, biometric data monitors athletic performance and prevents potential injuries with the goal of continuously improving teamwork and overall sporting success.
Because professional sailing teams use the same boats, technology and equipment each year, yacht racing teams rely on the performance of their individual sailors and racing teams to win at competition stage.
Biometric data helps yacht racing teams to collect data even when sailors are the middle of nowhere. Sailors must navigate all kinds of weather and ocean conditions. If mental fatigue reduces performance, physical decline is a major risk factor in losing a yacht race. Seasickness, skin infections, poor sleep patterns, wasting muscles and a lack of proper food can be identified by biometric data, which can then guide treatment options to prevent illness.
Yacht racing teams such as AzkoNobel in the Volvo Ocean Race are using software to track sailors’ individual performance through biometric data from wearable devices. The performance manager can verify athletes’ vitals 24 hours a day, analyze their physical conditions and correlate with sailing results.
Biometric data is also helping teams to use sleep to increase racing performance. Yacht racing crew members usually get a maximum of 4-6 hours of sleep a night. With biometric data, the performance manager can verify that each sailor meets their sleep goals and assess the impact of time-zone changes or sleep during daylight hours, so the team can adjust according to the trend.
The next step for biometric data in the Marine industry will be to include weather data so that teams can see how weather affects crew performance.
Whether sharing medical information, on- and off-season testing for performance enhancers or obtaining permission for off-season activities, athletes are used to surrendering some privacy rights. However, new biometric tracking technologies are going even further: they can continuously collect data for long periods of time, and this data is typically uploaded to an external or cloud server where it can be accessed by multiple people. Some argue that biometric data’s precise and objective outputs reduce the power and ability of sailors to speak for themselves when it comes to personal capabilities.
In the EU and Canada, a person maintains ownership of his or her biodata. In the UK, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the Data Protection Bill protect all athletes. However, in the US biometric data is owned by the company or team that acquires it, and even outside of America some racing clubs are finding loopholes that breach confidentiality to enable further research.
Whilst legality around biometric data is still being resolved, many yacht racing teams are already adopting the use of data in an ethical way and finding real performance success.