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Research and education networks and sports science: Anglia Ruskin University and GÉANT are supporting athletes, coaches and physical therapists across the globe

Technology is rapidly changing the way athletes and sport coaches are working together. Accurate feedback, appropriate training, objective and reliable assessment techniques are the main ingredients to maintain and improve performances or to effectively recover from sport injuries.

A lightning talk presented at this year’s networking conference, TNC16, in Prague discussed how remote sensing and data sonification can improve standard data analysis techniques currently employed in some aspects of biomedical science with special reference to sport science and rehabilitation.

The presentation was an account of the latest results of research activities at Anglia Ruskin University. The novelty starts with our infrastructure: we linked together a cutting edge sport science lab (the Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Science) with the state-of-the-art Sound and Game Engineering lab, and we connected them to the GÉANT network, through the UK research and education network Janet, run by Jisc. In this way we connected our facilities to the world, being the first biomechanics/audio lab able to send or receive measurement across the globe.

We also worked on communicating our scientific data in unique, accessible and understandable ways such as through sonification – where data is presented as sound. In the sport and rehabilitation context, several novel investigations have been performed using data sonification and advanced networking as support tools for accurate classification and diagnosis.

We do that for several reasons, for example to give live audio feedback, or to study and analyse particularly complex signals, since our ears can deal with complex patterns and anomalies much more efficiently than our eyes.

When coupled with remote sensing and networks, sonification can provide physicians, physiotherapists and sport patients with uniquely effective ways to analyse data and provide accurate and personalised feedback without having to travel to a particular hospital. Consultants can analyse sonograms generated by the sonification of sensors in real time from anywhere in the world and give immediate and accurate feedback. Low latency, extremely high availability and a global footprint are crucial to make this possible; research and education networks (RENs) can then play a unique enabler role thanks to the high quality of the connection, the extended reach to university hospitals and research centres and the availability of roaming services like eduroam and eduGAIN.

Remote access to data and measurements are especially relevant when dealing with rehabilitation. While working with injured patients, having the possibility of thoroughly assessing the progress of a certain therapy, measuring in a quantitative way the success of a surgery can have a huge impact on the patient’s prognosis. Data sonification can display extremely accurately the progress of recovery in terms of subtle changes in spectral lines of kinematic/kinetic sensor audification.

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