Huawei is certainly no stranger to wearable innovation.
After a decade of research and development in the wearable space, and with major sports and health science facilities already operating in Xi’An and Songshan Lakes (Dongguan), the company’s new Health Lab in Helsinki (Finland) is the latest hub to push forward health and fitness tracking.
Featuring state-of-the-art technology and testing equipment, many of the latest innovations being brought to trackers and smartwatches like the Huawei Watch GT 4 are developed within the Finland lab.
The road to wearable tech breakthroughs isn’t confined here, either. By partnering with leading academic institutions from across the world - those working on cardiovascular disease studies and accessibility modes for those in wheelchairs - Huawei is expanding its reach to further help the future of health and fitness technology.
Below, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the finer points of the Helsinki Health Lab, as well as detailing exactly how the work there is changing the industry.
The hub of wearable innovation
Huawei’s in-house scientific research team is at the heart of the operation in its Helsinki Health Lab, with six scientific doctors and 20 experts covering the fields of physiology, software testing and engineering, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The diversity of the team is key - and deliberate - allowing a wide range of complex issues to be more easily solved within the group.
And when conducting their study, it’s not just Olympic athletes from the Finland national team who are the focus. In order to cater to an extensive range of users, Huawei’s research also learns from beginners and novice athletes in its core testing areas - running, swimming, skiing, and cycling.
But how does the team gather data that’s accurate enough? Well, that magic is saved for Huawei’s five R&D testing stations - ones that are used to simulate over 20 different sports modes and replicate real-world conditions.
The counter-current pool, for example, has flow rate, water temperature, and water quality that’s able to be easily controlled by researchers, with swimmers’ maximum oxygen intake and cardiorespiratory endurance measured through a K5 wearable metabolic mask.
This precision allows Huawei’s researchers to glean the most accurate insights from test subjects, with the ‘endless’ nature of the pool also eliminating the issue of interrupted data caused by a swimmer’s need to turn in a traditional pool.
Measuring the performance of runners is also a major focus at the Helsinki lab. With its plantar pressure assessment system, a 3D model of the user’s foot pressure can be visualised and analysed during both running and walking, allowing for insights into posture, injury prevention, and furthering research into rehabilitation.
With its Multi-functional treadmill, Huawei is also able to replicate conditions in the mountains, hills, or plains - even able to pull in GPX data from GPS devices - all while the participant’s caloric expenditure and physical performance are all measured and contrasted. Using this bit of equipment, the company has even employed bicycles, skateboards and wheelchairs in certain experiments.
Skiing is also a big element of the research in Helsinki. Huawei has developed a simulator with adjustable speed, incline and interactive routes and poles, with the skier’s speed, position, forces, carving angles and other data all pulled in through the built-in sensors and cameras.
From the testing lab to your wrist
Naturally, one of Huawei’s core goals with its continued investment in the kind of wearable research and development being carried out in Helsinki is to help bolster the tracking performance of its smartwatches and trackers - and the fruits of this labor are already evident in products like the HUAWEI WATCH GT 4.
One example is the company’s TruSports™ scientific fitness system, which uses seven major indicators from running - maximum oxygen uptake, calorie burn, aerobic and anaerobic training pressure, training load, recovery time, performance prediction and real-time performance tracking - to deliver an accurate and comprehensive insight into fitness levels.
Now a core part of the Huawei tracking experience, TruSport not only helps quantify the ability of a particular runner, but is also able to analyse performance training data to provide suggestions and plans. All this, of course, while the rest of Huawei’s sports modes - recently expanding to include football, basketball, and e-sports - continue to broaden thanks to the research in Helsinki.
Huawei’s researchers are also furthering the accuracy of VO2 Max estimates from the wrist, with the company investing in partnerships with European universities and institutions to help match the quality of professional equipment. In Helsinki, the HUAWEI WATCH GT 4 is used to evaluate human cardiopulmonary capacity (maximum oxygen volume), allowing all sports to be analysed more scientifically.
While sports tracking is a major focus for Huawei’s Helsinki lab, more general insights such as calorie burn are being worked on extensively, too. With its AI algorithms, the proprietary Stay Fit calorie tracker is able to help users manage daily and weekly goals and understand them.
This technology is all based on the Huawei TruSeen™ 5.5+ heart rate monitoring system, which, thanks to over 20,000 minutes of cross-validation in various regions, is able to boast a greater accuracy in determining expenditure and intake requirements than the industry’s mainstream algorithms.
This calorie estimate is also another element integrated into Huawei’s arsenal of trackers in the form of the Activity Rings, allowing for easily digestible glances into the user’s overall movement.
Partnering to help build the future
While the work of the in-house team and participants is vital in developing the future of smart wearables, Huawei also understands the value of expanding to partner with other established experts.
In many cases, these partnerships and the work at the Helsinki Health Lab are offering first-of-their-kind insight into health issues, as seen through Huawei’s participation in one of the most ambitious cardiovascular health research initiatives in Europe.
Operating on multiple fronts, Huawei is currently partnered with the Polytechnic University of Milan to help further develop ECG technology in cardiovascular disease detection, as well as researching the application of Huawei wearable devices in managing stroke patients and even contributing to research into the early detection of hyperglycaemia.
One of the newest partnerships is with iCARE4CVD - one of the most ambitious research initiatives in the field of AI and cardiovascular health, and part of the EU Innovative Health Program. Specifically, this focuses on assisting patients with cardiovascular disease by using AI algorithms and Huawei wearable devices to help deliver better screening and management.
Huawei also believes that accessibility is equally important to the future of smart wearables, which is why the company is also using the Health Lab to drive research into sports and health indicators in those with disabilities.
This involves not only improving inclusivity and addressing the lack of sports modes in the smart wearable market, but also conducting research into the exercise needs of those in wheelchairs. Customized research into new solutions for the likes of sedentary reminders and activity rings is also paramount to this goal.
In the future, Huawei plans to seek out research cooperation, too, both with disabled user subjects and European universities to help achieve this.
With this continued level of commitment to research and development, as well as the goal to tackle the industry’s pressing health questions through partnerships, it’s clear that Huawei is at the forefront of wearable innovation - and that the Helsinki Health Lab is at the core of this ambition.
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