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Vodafone Mobile & Smartwatch App Assists Sub-Two Hour Marathon Attempt

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Can Vodafone’s real time data tracking application help an athlete run a marathon in under 2 hours?

At the weekend, Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru fended off a challenge from the favourite, Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, to win the Men’s London Marathon in 2:05:56. 

But Bekele, the 5,000 metre and 10,000 metre world record holder, has another target in his sights: to become the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours. 

He will be assisted in this huge challenge by Vodafone, which has joined the SUB2 project, to provide network assistance and a mobile application. 

Vodafone Marathon SUB2 Credit Kurat Pictures

Vodafone SUB2 

“SUB2 is the first dedicated international research initiative made up of specialist multidisciplinary scientists from academia, elite athletes and strategic industry partners with the aim to promote clean sports,” said Yannis Pitsaladis, a professor of sport and exercise science at the University of Brighton and a member of the IOC’s Medical and Scientific Commission, who founded the project. 

“This innovative running project is envisaged to create a lasting positive legacy for sport. We want to work with Vodafone to harness their extensive knowledge to quickly, reliably and accurately deliver essential data to help our athletes train better and race faster.” 

Vodafone engineers will work alongside other experts at SUB2, which aims to bring together the worlds of technology and science to see how athletes can “fairly” improve performance. 

Bekele has been testing the application, which runs on Android Wear 2.0, which provides real time distance and speed using a Vodafone algorithm and can make GPS data up to 10 times more accurate. 

The operator says the application will soon add heart rate data, running economy, skin and core temperatures, alongside other health data, as well as land and air temperature based on satellite information. 

The decision to use Android Wear was based on the fact that such devices have independent connectivity capabilities, unlike the Apple Watch, and therefore the runner doesn’t need a smartphone to use the application. 

All data collected is then sent back to a cloud platform where athletes and other project members can review the insights gained. 

“As the SUB2 project’s technology partner, Vodafone is empowering elite athletes to make some of the marginal gains needed to break the two hour marathon barrier,” added Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Group’s Head of Network Strategy & Architecture. “This project showcases Vodafone’s ability to provide connectivity and innovative services for standalone wearable devices.” 

SUB2 is not alone in its use of mobile apps and wearables to enhance performance in the sporting world. As Silicon discovered this week, Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) is using similar tools in its bid to become the first British team to lift sailing’s America’s Cup. 

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