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Australian invention defines new era of Precision Training

  1. AUSTRALIAN INVENTION DEFINES NEW ERA OF PRECISION TRAINING
  2. BIOCONNECTED HR+: PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND DETAILS
  3. SPORTS PHYSIOLOGIST FINDS NEW SOLUTION
  4. TUNING FOR GOAL ACHIEVEMENT
  5. HR+ AMBASSADORS WILL TAKE THE LEAD

AUSTRALIAN INVENTION DEFINES NEW ERA OF PRECISION TRAINING


An Australian sports physiologist has created a world's first bio-sensing sports earphone that measures heart-rate variability for athletes, social runners and people with specific health challenges.

The breakthrough device, BioConnected HR+ can detect minute heart-rate variance which can spur athlete performance or act as a warning to people exercising for health improvement reasons.

It provides a new dimension to precision training.

A purpose built high performance IOS app has been developed as part of the package to store, analyse and report data on the run.

The HR+ earphones can also be used with current running apps including Strava and Map My Run.

The main market is expected to be "weekend warriors" and corporate athletes who take their exercise seriously and value the broad range of information available to them - including speed, pace, distance, energy expenditure, cadence and heart rate biometrics along with top quality audio delivery.

BioConnected HR+ suits users who want a wearable that seamlessly fits in with their current training without the bulk of numerous accessories.

Dr. Sven Rees and a small team of scientists, engineers and designers have taken three years to devise the HR+ wearable and to bring it to market through a start-up company, BioConnected.

BioConnected is based at Sydney Olympic Park and is supported by the government backed Sydney Sports Incubator.

BioConnected will launch HR+ this month, aimed at creating new standards for the collection of vital health and fitness data during exercise.

"Seventy-five percent of people exercise listening to music and audio streaming or are connected to their telephone through headphones," Dr. Rees said.

"Music in particular provides great motivation.

"HR+ has refined all audio features expected by exercisers and inserted real-time monitoring which can give the athlete instantaneous voice feedback.

"It's like having a running coach in your ear."

The huge advantage of the new device is its sensitivity to an athlete's physiology.

Heart-rate variability monitoring through the ears via wireless exercise earphones is a world first and is expected to bring increased accuracy to training and performance assessment.

It will be invaluable in sports-medicine to inform health professionals of the exact reaction of clients to prescribed exercise programs.

Recreational athletes will benefit from data which will guide their individual programs.

The HR+ protocol can help keep athletes in the zone they need to achieve specific goals, whether it is improving the user's training threshold, improving efficiency or fat burning.

Dr. Rees has extensive experience in sport science and exercise physiology.

He has worked at the Sydney Academy of Sport and the NSW Institute of Sport as well as with elite athletes and sports teams.

"An all-in-one training solution incorporating bio-sensing earpieces is a ground-breaking innovation," Dr. Rees said.

"The earphones are intended to provide better response and greater comfort than those which are attached as a strap to the chest or worn as a wrist band."

On-exercise feedback through the ear pieces can be customised to provide information ranging from virtually running commentary through to specific distance or time way points, with indication of plus or minus pace targets.

Instant voice feedback is available by pressing the centre button, so users are always aware of their progress.

Every aspect of the in-ear solution has been refined to provide users with a best-in-class experience.

The BioConnected HR+ weighs just 17 grams - lighter than any other comparable unit on the market and it provides nine different combinations of custom ear gel and shark-fin stabilisers, to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.

Battery life is greater than seven hours.

Acoustic engineers have achieved a sound quality claimed to be class leading, with a unique BioConnected acoustic profile, through use of large 8.6mm audio driver, to deliver a superior bass response.

"If you were using HR+ simply as a set of audio headphones without any of the sports-related data collection and feedback, it would still be at the top end of those that are available," Dr. Rees said.

BioConnected HR+ will come to market on October 2 on-line at www.bioconnected.com and through selected sports stores.

Its recommended retail price at launch will be $299

According to BioConnected the price represents significant value for money compared with existing products and premium headsets.

...ends/

For more information, please contact:

Ian Bell
Director, BIOConnected
Mob: +610448 556 744
ian@bioconnected.com

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BIOCONNECTED HR+: PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND DETAILS


The two keys features in developing the BioConnected HR+ have been the unique bio sensing earphones and fitness app.

Both are Australian innovations - designed, prototyped, tested and readied for manufacture in less than three years.

Breakthrough lightweight earphones collect data and provide vital information aurally to the user on heart rate, heart-rate variability, speed, pace, distance, energy and cadence, without having to look at a wristband or watch.

It is all available on audio and the app.

The earphones play music, allow for phone conversations and provide superior acoustics in addition to the advanced functionality of the biosensing earphone.

Physiologically, the ear is the best spot for heart-rate data collection during exercise, BioConnected's Chief Information Officer Dr. Sven Rees said.

Creating a Better BioConnection

The streamlined BioConnected HR+ ear-piece uses infrared optics and an accelerometer, with a raft of innovations that maximise comfort and user-friendliness, while minimising size and weight.

The complete head unit weighs just 17 grams - compared to a well-known premium sports earbud unit already on the market that weighs 56 grams.

BioConnected HR+ biosensing earphones are embedded with an optical mechanical sensor that sits in the ear, and measures blood flow and movement.

Dr. Rees said the biosensing earphone design balanced the fine line between stability and comfort for the user, while including the hardware required to deliver a world-first feature list.

"The left-side ear piece contains the sensor, processing chip for the optical mechanical sensor and battery," he said.

"The right-side ear piece has the micro USB charger and secondary battery.

"There is a dual Bluetooth CCSR chipset within the in-line control - providing superior Bluetooth transmission function and range."

Beating sweat and rain

The circuit boards of the HR+ earphones are treated and coated with Nanofics, a plasma Nano coating to make them impervious to sweat.

The coating prevents sweat interacting with the electrical contacts that can cause corrosion which ultimately results in short circuit and failure.

The HR+ is protected from rain, sweat and harsh environments, without compromise.

Secure fit

The BioConnected HR+ has a unique patented design and three axis locking mechanism that keeps the earphones locked in place while exercising.

"Each BioConnected pack comes with three custom-fitting gels and three shark-fin stabilisers.

"It has nine combinations to get the perfect, secure fit." Dr. Rees said.

"Every aspect of the HR+ has been engineered for functional use and designed to the micro-millimetre, so users have the best possible experience.

"The earpieces were designed so the centre of gravity minimises lateral torque to ensure they stay in place."

"There is just 65mm distance from the controller to the stem of the ear piece to maximise the ability to be intuitive, and a distance of exactly 13mm from the sensor to the outside to ensure the connecting cord is always in the correct position on either side of the sensor."

Operating BioConnected HR+:

Uniquely, the BioConnected HR+ controller is flat and hence easier for the user's thumb to control while exercising.

"The controller is rubber on one side and glossy on the other, to disrupt the surface structure and ensure it does not stick to sweaty skin," Dr. Rees said.

"It is comparatively an expensive manufacturing solution to achieve the two different surfaces, but it creates far better control and highlights BioConnected's commitment to providing the very best bio-sending ear pieces on the market.

"The stem has been designed in rubber to allow for movement of the cord.

"The precise elasticity ratio of the rubber was selected to optimise the stabilisers in keeping the ear pieces securely fastened in the ears.

"The HR+ has a unique three-axis locking mechanism that places the ear stem and fin securely in the ear."

"Even if this was not a unique sports device, it does a better job of the basics, including sound quality for music or phone calls.

"Eight wires run through the cord to the controller, more than a normal headphone, so the cord has been custom-made for optimum flexibility.

"There were many problems that had to be solved, all of which have helped create a unit that is technically superior."

GPS smoothing and better accuracy:

The accelerometer built into the HR+ biosensing earphones results in greater accuracy from GPS connections.

"The accelerometer smooths out the' noise' that can interrupt a GPS signal and provides best in class accuracy for distance, speed and pace," Dr. Rees said.

"Phone based GPS Information gathered without an accelerometer is inaccurate and untrustworthy during low velocity activities such as running and walking.

"HR+ has been validated for heart rate accuracy compared to chest strap and ECG collection.

"It is reliable for measurement of total energy expenditure, cadence and distance, speed and pace."

Battery life and running time:

The BioConnected HR+ uses two premium lithium ion 60mAh batteries to power its audio, sensors and wireless operations.

"The premium batteries have significantly better discharge rates, meaning they hold onto their power really well over time," Dr. Rees said.

"Cycle life is also at the top end of availability which means they have better longevity even with repeat charging."

Dr. Rees is adamant that users should rely only on real world use and not on theoretical calculations and claims made about power consumption.

"BioConnected HR+'s running time in real world use is seven hours for music and five and a half hours for a combination of music and sensor fitness biometric measurements," he said.

"This is battery consumption you can trust."

Collecting HRV:

Dr. Rees set out in 2013 to solve the challenges inherent in accessing and measuring heart rate and exercise biometrics.

With BioConnected, there is now an all-in-one training solution for the problems of modern wearables.

The HR+ uses miniaturised infrared Photo plethysmography (PPG) to accurately measure heart rate and heart-rate variability.

Measurement of heart rate variability via blood flow analysis from a smart ear piece is a world first.

The device includes an accelerometer, which picks up motion artefact and signal noise.

It deconstructs the noise and provides a 'clean' look at the heart.

The accelerometer also cleans the GPS signal of the App, providing precise accuracy of recording of distance and movement.

Dr. Rees said most wrist-based devices currently available are inherently inaccurate, as they suffer from motion artefact and poor signal quality.

"To improve heart rate accuracy, you need to poll at a high frequency," he said.

"To be able to accurately assess heart rate variability, the HR+ measures the variance in heart rate in the magnitude of a 1000th of a second.

"Testing with various non-chest strap monitors revealed insufficient accuracy when the user is moving.

"When measuring on the wrist, there is more movement than the body, so there is greater scope for inaccuracy."

"If you don't measure heart rate, you cannot tell if the exercise you are doing is working to improve your fitness.

"For the overall health of the population, we need to measure health and fitness improvement and therefore measure heart rate."

App Development:

BioConnected has a purposed-developed IOS premium app that is included in the purchase price of the HR+.

It gives users an unsurpassed range of health and fitness-monitoring features, including information on speed, distance, pace, energy and cadence, as well as history and comparison data.

"We are now developing communication protocols so more devices can work with BioConnected," said app designer Chris Huggett.

"The HR+ is compatible with all third-party devices and applications that accept heart-rate data over Bluetooth," he said.

"It is already compatible with 70 per cent of the market.

"We are developing Android (Google) compatibility and expect to have that ready by Christmas".

Manufacturing:

The BioConnected hardware is made at one of the leading quality manufacturers in China, using a combination of high technology processes coupled with intricate hand soldering.

The circuit board is machine made, but much of the remainder of the device is hand assembled, Dr. Rees said.

"We were determined that it would be better made and hence more reliable and durable, without adding to the purchase price," he said.

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SPORTS PHYSIOLOGIST FINDS NEW SOLUTION


Sydney sports physiologist Dr. Sven Rees invented the ear mounted BioConnected HR+ as a matter of necessity in dealing with his clients.

Dr. Rees had been a consultant to both the NSW Institute of Sport and the Sydney Academy of Sport as well as elite sporting teams such as the Sydney Swans.

He is a Bachelor of Human Movement with a Masters in Muscular-skeletal stiffness and a PHD in exercise physiology, most achieved while he was playing national level tennis and operating his own coaching clinic.

"At any level, obtaining meaningful data was made more difficult by people's reluctance to wear the collection device or through its inaccuracy," he said.

"It is important to position the monitor at a point of the body which is least susceptible to movement and where it feels the most naturally comfortable for the wearer."

While devices worn at the wrist were comfortable they provided questionable data because of the rigorous movement that continually occurs at the point of contact.

Chest straps provided accuracy but casual users found them impractical, uncomfortable and even oppressive.

"As a sports professional a number of ethical issues were increasingly presenting in relation to my helping users to fit their devices, or to make them comfortable," Dr. Rees said.

"It is a problem which will become more difficult in the sports-medicine field with the introduction of even more stringent controls on human interaction."

Dr. Rees began a search for another means of data collection.

His early experiments were with sports socks which could be custom-made to monitor and collect heart rate information.

"Like wrist devices, they created far too much 'noise' through movement for their data to become useful," he said.

The ear presented the best and most logical data collection point because in most exercise the head remains comparatively still.

"Initially I was seeking scientific data largely related to heart performance, but it soon became clear the collection point provided many more opportunities, especially for the recreational user," he said.

"It was possible to combine all those attributes that a casual or corporate athlete wants, including music and telephone with a raft of useable data that can enhance their exercise."

Dr. Rees' search for the 'perfect' device led him to a clean sheet solution.

"I was able to design HR+ with consideration only of the needs of the user, not the cost of manufacture," he said.

"I was able to remain true to the initial goal of quality in all aspects - fitment, wearability, response and customised data dissemination without compromise."

BioConnected has an agreement with a precision scientific manufacturer to purpose build HR+.

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TUNING FOR GOAL ACHIEVEMENT


BioConnected has identified a market of more than four million Australians for its HR+ wearable "sports-coach" - but, wants it to be far more.

The four million are already active casual athletes but that leaves twenty million who are not.

Australia is facing a lack-of-fitness epidemic, according to the company, which can be overcome in part by motivation provided by new technology.

World Health Organisation figures indicate Australia has the third highest prevalence of overweight people in the "Anglosphere" behind the USA and New Zealand and more than the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland.

Incredibly 67 percent of Australians are regarded as overweight according to the WHO.

It is a problem well recognised by state and federal governments all of which are seeking solutions.

BioConnected was created in part by a genuine desire to address the challenge and motivate positive change.

To a degree technology has brought about a sedentary lifestyle.

"We do think we have a solution to make things easier," said Ian Bell, director of BioConnected.

"BioConnected's response is to make technology part of the solution, not part of the problem."

HR+ is able to tune a user's exercise to help achieve goals.

In a professional environment it can provide strong feedback to coaches but in private use it can not only be useful but highly entertaining for recreational athletes.

"The emergence of shared data collection devices in which athletes can compare their performance against others or their own previous efforts has brought a new dimension to exercise," Mr Bell said.

"It creates targets, provides motivation and makes exercise even more enjoyable - even if it's a jog around the block."

There is a hard benefit to the data as well.

"Not many people are aware of what they are achieving when they go for a jog," Mr. Bell said.

"They get a general feeling of wellbeing but that could be greatly enhanced if they were able to program their HR+ to deliver realisable results like cardio-enhancement or fat burning."

Mr. Bell said that many people who run for weight reduction are unaware that their chosen exercise is not delivering fat-burning at all.

"HR+ makes it possible to tune into specific targets and to keep people on track through real time response in their ear phones."

Mr. Bell said HR+ was a virtual-reality game minus the virtual.

"Like most virtual reality games it is goal-driven," he said.

"It features a ghost program so you can always be in competition with yourself or at least measure your improvements against previous identical exercise."

"It can be easily programmed effectively by simply turning it on, or it can reward a technophile with the complexity of programming that it also offers.

"Our delight would be in seeing more people take off their VR Headsets and head out on the road with HR+."

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HR+ AMBASSADORS WILL TAKE THE LEAD


BioConnected has begun a concerted program to connect with influential sports professionals and trainers at a level which touches recreational athletes.

As part of its launch program BioConnected is inviting professionals within the sports and health training environment to sample HR+.

"We are a start-up company and we think that influencing the influencers is a great way to spread the word on the benefits of HR+," BioConnected director Ian Bell said.

"Our goal is to reach out to people who work in the health and exercise arena every day and who can see value in HR+ as a tool in their own work.

"If every sports professional who trials our product uses it with fifty or 100 of their clients then we've reached a very important audience."

Elite athlete Ben St Lawrence, current Australian 10,000 metre record holder, has agreed to join the ambassadorial program along with prominent Sydney Eastern Suburbs health trainer Tatum Lawler.

Nationally recognised training program, Running Divas, is also on board.

"We are delighted to have elite athletes and national recognised fitness programs with us and would welcome their peers," Ian Bell said.

...ends/

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