Wimbledon biometrically more exciting than a rollercoaster

Wareable strapped up with a heart rate monitor and headed down to Centre Court
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Few sports tug at the emotions quite as violently as tennis, where every rally drags spectators to the edge of their seats – and the crowds involuntarily gasps with every narrow return and passing forehand.

Likewise, few sporting venues are as tense as the cauldron-like Centre Court at Wimbledon – especially when a British hopefully plays in front of his home crowd. And that's where Wareable senior editor James found himself, strapped up with a biometric wristband, being monitored by a team of data scientists as Andy Murray played Vasek Pospisil in the men's quarter finals.

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The wristband is part of an innovative connected self wearable experiment from British car giant Jaguar, called Feel Wimbledon. The company has been handing out biometric wristband to the crowd to monitor their heart rates. The idea is to visualise the highs and lows of the atmosphere at the home of tennis.

Wimbledon biometrically more exciting than a rollercoaster

"When looking at percentage of change during exciting matches, we've seen heart rates increase by 35-50bpm, which is more exciting than being on a rollercoaster ride, from a biometric perspective," said Rana June, CEO of Lightwave, the company who designed the system and is charged with interpreting the data.

Her team has been at the tournament every day, locked away in a control room sifting through an almost impossible amount of data.

Data deluge

The human element of the experiment comes from the Jaguar wristband – which wearable spotters will recognise as a rebranded Mio Alpha heart rate monitor. Mio's optical sensors are some of the best in the business, and have been used by Garmin on the new Forerunner 225 running watch, and excelled in our extensive heart rate monitor test last month.

We were also handed an iPhone, which continuously collated the data from the band, as well as data from a range of other sensors: GPS – presumably stolen from the iPhone, noise sensors around the stadium, and accelerometer data too.

Wimbledon biometrically more exciting than a rollercoaster

Yet biometrics is just a small part of the data being leveraged, as heart rate isn't reliable enough on its own.

"The averaged heart rate reading is only a small part of the data the campaign is analysing," said June. "We are measuring accelerometer and gyroscope data, audio levels, and more. Additionally, we are using a streaming raw heart rate signal to do advanced calculations related to heart rate variability and other biometric indicators."

The technology partner, Lightwave, has built a platform for the campaign which will process over 50 million data points per day in order to power our bio-analytics system," June continued.

With each of the bands collecting data about individuals, the system then uses the other sensors to add context. The GPS sensor knows if you're moving, so heart rate can be disregarded if it becomes elevated by running to get a Pimms refill during the rain break. The accelerometer can also tell if you're clapping, a sure fire sign of excitement. And of course, the noise sensors – once triangulated with your GPS position – can estimate the emotion of the crowd around you. The results of our biometrics can be seen below.

Wimbledon biometrically more exciting than a rollercoaster

This isn't the first time that Lightwave has attempted to capture biometrics at a large event. The company made its name at SXSW 2014 when it held a Pepsi-sponsored rave, where every attendee wore a special band that monitored the emotions of the crowd.

And June believes that this kind of live event tracking has a big part to play in the future of entertainment.

"The data from this type of technology moves our understanding of humanity beyond simply how many steps and into a new realm where we can create incredible insights related to emotion and experience," she said.

Check out our investigation into stress sensing wearables, and whether they can really change our lives for the better.

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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