IndyCar’s Tony Kanaan Validates Next-Generation Wearable Technology

Blog /IndyCars-Tony-Kanaan-Validates-Next-Generation-Wearable-Technology

By Mayank Gandhi, Director, Information Management & Analytics, Healthcare & Life Sciences
Adam Nelson, VP, Healthcare & Life Sciences

Your heart begins to pound harder in your chest, a bead of perspiration forms on your forehead, you clench your fingers around a vibrating steering wheel, and then you press your foot hard to the floor and hold your breath for a few seconds as the g-forces shove your lungs back. You shoot forward with more than 700 horsepower behind you, pushing you like a bullet from zero to 200+ miles per hour. 

This is only a fraction of what IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan goes through for three  hours each time he drives a race. And he’s not alone. An elevated heart rate, heightened stress levels, and flashes of activity in specific muscles are experienced every day by tarmac and railyard workers, pilots, athletes, and even patients preparing to go into surgery.

So when NTT DATA sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan on the IndyCar circuit, it was about much more than putting a sticker on a high performing vehicle. It was a way to use a trusted relationship to explore bleeding-edge technology in the form of NTT DATA-Toray Hitoe technology.

Hitoe (Japanese for “one layer”) is made by applying an electro-conductive polymer to nanofibers, turning the resulting fabric into a collector of physiological electrical data. It can precisely measure heart, muscle, and brain activity in the form of electrocardiogram (ECG), electromyogram (EMG), and electroencephalogram waveforms.

Being an elite athlete and a fitness buff, Kanaan was enthusiastic when approached with the idea of wearing Hitoe during races. He knew that while his car is full of sensors that provide hundreds of data points, his own heart rate was never captured during a race. He was extremely interested in being able to see his average heart rate during specific turns and during pit stops, how his breathing and stress levels are affected on oval tracks vs. road tracks, and how his training regimen could be adjusted between races to improve performance

NTT DATA faced numerous challenges in bringing that data flow to reality:

  • Fire-resistant Nomex material is required on all clothing worn by IndyCar drivers
  • The bandwidth for sending data from the car and on the track is limited
  • The test could not affect Kanaan’s performance or comfort in any way

The NTT DATA team approached the partnership from a product management and design perspective, drawing from all areas of the company, including NTT Basic Research Labs, NTT DATA R&D, the Innovation Institute, and NTT DATA-Americas Healthcare & Life Sciences Business Consulting group. 

The result was a stunning success for the technologists and sophisticated data reports for Kanaan and his race team:

  • A race-ready Nomex shirt with Hitoe sensor technology
  • Reliable data collection of Kanaan’s heart rate, ECG, and EMG
  • Sophisticated mapping of physiological data with telemetry information, such as g-force, angular acceleration, speed, and location
  • In-depth analysis of average heart rate, ECG, and EMG during pit stops and turns for six races

Having successfully completed the technology pilot, NTT DATA is actively researching all the ways data provided by Hitoe can be harnessed to aid those working to improve patient monitoring, workforce management, physical therapy, and much more. We’ll outline several potential uses and look at lessons learned from the test run with Kanaan and his team in upcoming posts.

Post Date: 5/9/2016

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