1. What differentiates your product?
Right now the reports you get from fitness wearables are ‘one-dimensional’ — how many steps you took, what your heart rate is and so on. Users are starting to experience data overload from all this reporting, and don’t know what to actually do with all these numbers.
Our ARDA Coaching Engine combines these sensor measurements, figures out what’s actually going on, and gives you meaningful advice that’s relevant to your goal. So, for example, the software might say: “you’re putting too much effort into climbing this hill. If you ease up it will be better for your endurance training.”
2. Where is the company at in terms of commercialising its technology? Who are your customers and what markets are you in?
Performance Lab is not trying to sell direct to end-users; we’re licensing our ARDA Coaching Engine to companies that already have large fitness-oriented customer bases. They all want to offer ‘actual coaching’ to their users, and with our technology they can do that.
This year ARDA will appear on smartphones, smart eyewear, wrist-based devices, and indoor fitness equipment. We’ve sold our first licences, including to household brand names, but they want to keep it quiet until they are closer to launch.
3. When did Performance Lab start operation?
Performance Lab was founded in 1993 to apply sports science principles to help endurance athletes achieve peak performance. For the last decade, the company’s focus has been on automating the prescription of exercise using real-time environmental and physiological data, as well as historical data and insight, into training goals. Today, Performance Lab creates adaptive training tools for individual performance, team performance, and military performance, as well as applications for the health and well-being market.
4. How long did it take to develop this platform?
To generate the algorithms that power the ARDA Coaching Engine™, Performance Lab collected 20 years’ worth of data involving tens of thousands of athletes and users at all levels. For 15 years data was collected largely in the lab, but for the last five years, it has been collected exclusively in the field using wearable technology, providing Performance Lab with a vast amount of unparalleled domain expertise.
5. Where does the company have offices?
Performance Lab’s research and development headquarters are in Auckland, New Zealand, and the management headquarters are in San Francisco.
6. Have any famous athletes trained with the ARDA Coaching Engine?
Performance Lab’s clients include world champions and world record holders across a number of disciplines, including: Terrenzo Bozzone, triathlon; All Blacks, rugby; Team New Zealand, America’s Cup; and the New Zealand national triathlon, rowing, and cycling squads.
7. Do you have to be a serious athlete to appreciate and use the ARDA Coaching Engine?
The ARDA Coaching Engine can be used across all fitness levels, from the novice walker looking to lose weight to the elite cyclist seeking to optimize training efforts. Anyone seeking to improve their health and/or attain their fitness goals through exercise can get value from the ARDA Coaching Engine.
8. What does ARDA stand for?
“Arda” means “earth” in a number of languages, and reflects that company’s mission to provide grounded and real coaching. It is also the name of the world in which Tolkien’s “Middle Earth” (of The Lord of the Rings) exists — and that series of films were all shot in New Zealand, Performance Lab’s home.
9. How does the ARDA Coaching Engine work?
The ARDA Coaching Engine is coming to market by being incorporated into current and new platforms and devices sold by Performance Lab’s partners. The Engine is comprised of a set of algorithms and commentary designed to enhance the user experience and value of existing platforms. It can operate as a cloud-based service, or be housed on a partner’s device or chipset. The ARDA Coaching Engine’s architecture can accept and collate a range of inputs including those delivered by heart rate monitor, accelerometer, cadence sensor, GIS, GPS, camera, sleep cycle apps, blood pressure meter, power meter, footpod and barometer. These sensors can be onboard a partner’s device or external, or a combination of the two. Only a user’s weight and exercise goals need to be inputted. The ARDA Coaching Engine’s algorithms automatically generate the rest of the information required—including detection of activity type.
10. Can the ARDA Coaching Engine be used across all fitness activities – running, cycling, swimming, etc.?
Yes. This ability depends on the availability of sensors that can provide the necessary information. Today, it is able to accurately monitor running, cycling and rowing. This is challenging in an aquatic environment, so the ARDA Coaching Engine does not currently coach swimmers. The product roadmap includes applications for weight loss and general well-being, as well as optimized training for particular sports, including soccer, hockey, basketball and football.
11. How accurate of a reading can the ARDA Coaching Engine provide?
The ARDA Coaching Engine is able to fuse the inputs from multiple data sources and combine them to a very high degree of accuracy. The accuracy is based on the quality and amount of the sensors which are feeding data to the Engine.
Some of the new wrist-based heart rate monitors are less accurate than their chest-based counterparts. However, the ARDA Coaching Engine cross-checks input against other data sources (accelerometer, barometer, GPS, etc.), and, therefore, is resilient to measurement inaccuracies in any given sensor.
12. Does the platform work on all operating systems?
Performance Lab’s go-to-market model is to work directly with manufacturers and product owners, rather than selling a stand-alone app. Therefore, the ARDA Coaching Engine is optimized for existing and potential partners’ platforms.
13. Is it compatible with mobile devices?
Yes, the ARDA Coaching Engine is optimized for existing and potential partners’ platforms, including both mobile device software and hardware partners.
14. Battery life has been an issue for wearables currently on the market. What is the general battery life of a product using the ARDA Coaching Engine?
This depends on the product. The ARDA Coaching Engine is not an app, but an engine that is optimized with partners for the hosting device. CPU, RAM and ROM use is very low, and multi-hour workouts using multiple sensors are not a problem. Because the ARDA Coaching Engine is based on extensive exercise and physiology domain knowledge, it has been designed so the right sensors are engaged at the right times, rather than constantly being drawn upon (and hence draining battery power).
15. Given Intel Capital has invested in your company, what is your relationship with Intel?
Performance Lab works closely with Intel to identify partnership and customer opportunities, as well as broader sales and marketing support to help the company scale and grow.