Outdoors + Tech newsletter – March 3, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for March 3, 2020



The Timex Ironman R300 is an affordable GPS sports watch with awesome battery life

Gadgets & Wearables, Marko Maslakovic from

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard of Timex. The outfit has been around for over 150 years making a name for itself in the world of traditional watches. The company first made clocks, before turning to pocket watches, then wristwatches. More recently it has turned its sights to fitness trackers with smart features and now smartwatches.

Timex might call the Ironman R300 GPS its first real smartwatch, but there are additional such offerings from the outfit. The most notable is the Timex IQ+ Move. Lauched back in 2016, it was the second generation of the Timex Connected Collection, the first being the Timex Metropolitan+ which launched in the previous year. However, these were hybrids combining a mechanical dial with fitness tracking smarts.


Suunto 7 Wear OS GPS Watch In-Depth Review

Ray Maker, DC Rainmaker blog from

Let’s get this out of the way right from the first line: The Suunto 7 is both the best smartwatch they’ve ever made, while concurrently being the worst sport watch they’ve ever made. Fear not though, you don’t have to take my word for it – by the end of this review you’ll understand exactly why this is a pretty factual statement, not an opinion.


Casio’s new G-Shock watch is a Garmin Forerunner rival – powered by the sun

TechRadar, Michael Sawh from

The new G-Shock watch is set as a true rival to the most popular Garmin running watches around – but with the iconic bulky stylings from Casio.


Timex challenges Garmin and Fitbit with GPS watch that lasts 25 days on a charge

Tom's Guide, Kate Kozuch from

Timex is coming for Garmin and Fitbit’s GPS fitness trackers. The company best known for its plastic kid’s watches has stepped up its offerings with the Timex Ironman R300, which touts an impressive 25-day battery life and a low $120 price.

The Timex Ironman R300 GPS, available for purchase now on Timex’s website, is the brand’s most advanced wearable yet. While Timex sells number of GPS and fitness watches, the Ironman introduces workouts guided by athletes and coaches available from its always-on display. While this is not a new feature for GPS watches in general, it is rare to see on a fitness tracker this inexpensive.


Navigating the potential pitfalls of tracking college athletes

University of Washington, UW News from

Fitness trackers like Fitbit and Garmin watches make it easy for anyone to collect data about health and performance.

Now college athletic programs are moving toward implementing more data-driven trackers — devices or apps that can monitor students’ heart rates, sleep or even class attendance — into their own programs to help keep their athletes as competitive and healthy as possible.

Researchers at the University of Washington were concerned that this shift toward more data collection might encroach on college athletes’ autonomy. The team interviewed 22 athletes and staff members from three college athletics programs to see what data they collect and how they use it. The researchers highlighted potential tensions that might arise and made suggestions for increasing transparency to help implement tracking systems in a way that supports both athletes and staff. The team presented these findings Jan. 6 at the ACM Conference on Supporting Group Work in Florida.


non-wrist wearable

Fur-friendly ‘wearable for pets’ developed at Imperial

Imperial College London, Engineering from

Imperial College London researchers have invented a new health tracking sensor for pets and people that monitors vital signs through fur or clothing

The new type of sensor, which can detect vital signs like heart and breathing rates through fur and up to four layers of clothing, could help make everyday wearables for pets and livestock a reality.

They could help owners keep track of their pets’ health, and help vets monitor animals during surgery without the need for shaving.


“What I learnt from swimming with live heart rate.”

Medium, FORM from

… Before FORM partnered with Polar® to bring live heart rate to the pool last year, precisely measuring your effort during a swim was a big challenge.

Scott, Director of Strategic Partnerships at FORM, describes the first time swimming with live HR as a real ‘ah ha’ moment.

“It blew my mind. To get that instant feedback, in the moment, was crazy to me. Getting your heart rate at the wall versus while you swim is night and day.”


Best Heart Rate Monitor for Running | Optical Vs Straps, Earbuds, Hats and More

RunToTheFinish blog, Amanda Brooks from

… Relatively new to the heart rate monitoring scene, LifeBEAM “smart” hats use Bluetooth and ANT+ signals to record bpm and transmit the data to your phone or watch. I actually learned about this during my trip to Israel, as it was developed there! They have some seriously amazing technology happening and I can vouch for it being a pretty normal fit hat, you won’t look at it an know anything is different.

Electro-optical sensors measure your heart rate, calorie burn, and cadence.

The hat looks like a regular running hat, so if you wear one during runs anyway, it could be a cool addition that does a little bit more than just keep the sweat and sun off your face.



10 Frequently Asked Questions on LE Isochronous Channels

Bluetooth Technology Website, Kai Ren from

LE Audio is the next generation of Bluetooth® audio and operates on the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) radio, compared with Classic Audio, which operates on the Bluetooth Classic radio, also known as the Bluetooth BR/EDR radio. LE Isochronous Channels are one of the key features introduced in Bluetooth Core Specification 5.2. LE Isochronous Channels, along with Bluetooth profiles that are currently in development, will help enable Multi-Stream Audio and Broadcast Audio for Audio Sharing. The aim of this article is to give developers a fundamental introduction to this use case and to answer some common questions.


Why Sensor Fusion Is the Answer to Audio Contextual Awareness

CEVA, The Experts Blog, Elia Shenberger from

In order to improve functionality in next-generation devices, smart audio devices need to do more than just listen. Users are coming to expect an experience where smart hubs and voice assistants understand far more than just simple voice commands. Devices are expected to pair these commands with other environmental and user data for context, whether it’s background noises or the user’s favorite album on Spotify, and in a split second accurately interpret and execute the command with respect to the user’s context.

This data can only be gathered if smart devices have contextual awareness.


Tracking VO2 Max with wearables. Why is it important?

Gadgets & Wearables, Marko Maslakovic from

… Anyone who’s ever had their VO2 max tested in a traditional lab setting can tell you that it’s not the most pleasurable experience. Thankfully, this can now be done with less effort and discomfort. The results aren’t going to be as accurate as those you’d get from a laboratory test, but they represent pretty decent estimates.

Activity trackers start off by combining resting heart rate, age, gender, weight, and other personal information to arrive at an initial value. For a more precise score, wearables use the relationship between pace and heart rate during your runs. This is because individuals with higher VO2 Max have a lower heart rate while running at the same pace compared to individuals with lower VO2 Max.

This requires you to run for at least 10 minutes, ideally with a device that also tracks GPS. You may need to go on several runs that are at least 10 minutes for a more precise score. It is believed that this method can achieve 95% accuracy compared to lab tests.



Sweat Sensor Detects Stress Levels; May Find Use in Space Exploration

Caltech, News from

… Wei Gao, assistant professor of medical engineering at Caltech, has produced a wireless sweat sensor that can accurately detect levels of cortisol, a natural compound that is commonly thought of as the body’s stress hormone. In a new paper appearing in the journal Matter, Gao and his fellow researchers show how they designed and made the mass-producible device and how it works, and demonstrate that it is effective at detecting cortisol levels in near real time.

The development of an inexpensive and accurate device for measuring cortisol could allow for more widespread and easier monitoring of stress but also of other conditions including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression—all of which are correlated with changes in cortisol levels.


OpenChronograph Lets You Roll Your Own Smart Watch

Hackaday, Al Williams from

At first, smartwatches were like little tiny tablets or phones that you wore on your wrist. More recently though we have noticed more “hybrid” smartwatches, that look like a regular watch, but that use their hands to communicate data. For example you might hear a text message come in and then see the hand swing to 1, indicating it is your significant other. Want to roll your own? The OpenChronograph project should be your first stop.

The watches are drop in replacements for several Fossil and Skagen watch boards (keep in mind Fossil and Skagen are really the same company). There’s an Arduino-compatible Atmega328p, an ultra low power real time clock, a magnetometer, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, and support for a total of three hands. You can even create PCB artwork that will act as the watch face using Python.


Unique Sensor Methods for Improved Health and Safety

Machine Design, Steve Taranovich from

MEMS and sensors have entered the mainstream with health and safety apps, enhanced by improved calibration as well as alignment, integration, deep learning, and more functionality, leading to some incredible acccuracy and performance.



Olympic Climbing 101: Everything You Need to Know About Climbing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Climbing Magazine, John Burgman from

Climbing will be included in the Olympics for the first time in history this summer, in Tokyo, Japan. This is a huge deal for the sport, and anticipation has been building ever since the monumental announcement was made back in 2016. This landing page is your guide for all-things Olympics climbing, and will be updated continually until the event.


Differences in running biomechanics between a maximal, traditional, and minimal running shoe.

Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport from


Previous studies comparing shoes based on the amount of midsole cushioning have generally used shoes from multiple manufacturers, where factors outside of stack height may contribute to observed biomechanical differences in running mechanics between shoes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare ground reaction forces and ankle kinematics during running between three shoes (maximal, traditional, and minimal) from the same manufacturer that only varied in stack height.

Within-participant repeated measures METHODS: Twenty recreational runners ran overground in the laboratory in three shoe conditions (maximal, traditional, minimal) while three-dimensional kinematic and kinetic data were collected using a 3D motion capture system and two embedded force plates. Repeated measures ANOVAs (α=.05) compared biomechanical data between shoes.

While the loading rate was significantly greater in the minimal shoe compared to the maximal shoe, no other differences were seen for the ground reaction force variables. Peak eversion was greater in the maximal and minimal shoe compared to the traditional shoe, while eversion duration and eversion at toe-off were greater in the maximal shoe.

Previously cited differences in ground reaction force parameters between maximal and traditional footwear may be due to factors outside of midsole stack height. The eversion mechanics in the maximal shoes from this study may place runners at a greater risk of injury. Disagreement between previous studies indicates that more research on maximal running shoes is needed.


At U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Nike shoes also take center stage

NBC Sports, Nick Zaccardi from

… Most of the Olympic team contenders are not sponsored by Nike. Many intend to race in recent versions of their own sponsors’ shoes, believed to have similar technology to Nike’s.

“Three or four years ago, the shoe industry was turned on its side with the shoe that was released that was 15 years ahead of its time,” said Saucony-sponsored Rio Olympian Jared Ward, one of the favorites in the men’s race, along with Nike-sponsored Galen Rupp. “For decades, I feel like the emphasis was on making shoes lighter and lighter and lighter, and that was all we were focused on. Then, all of a sudden, there was this idea that maybe adding weight the right away is going to actually help performance.”

Ward, a BYU adjunct statistics professor, did his own research on the Nike effects, though he said he has never worn them.


Innovations in Outdoor Gear

Popular Mechanics; Adrienne Donica, Will Egensteiner and Lou Mazzante from

The outdoor industry has come along way since wool coats and wooden skis reigned supreme. Decades ago, today’s vacuum-insulated coolers or ultra-premium waterproof technology were nothing more than figments of the imagination.

So what’s on the horizon to become the next big thing? During January’s Outdoor Retailer trade show, we saw, heard about, and even tested some pretty sweet new gear. We also spotted six innovative technologies likely to spark new trends in the outdoor world that we couldn’t help but geek out on. The future of gear looks more eco-friendly and full of adventure—just as it should be.


The Best Hiking Boots for 2020

Wirecutter, Wirecutter from

We had 28 hikers log 900 miles in 13 pairs of men’s hiking boots and 13 pairs of women’s boots, and we concluded that the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX boots (men’s and women’s) are the best hiking boots for most people who plan to go day hiking and backpacking. They’re lightweight, breathable, and waterproof, and they have a wide toe box, which means they’re likely to fit almost any type of foot.



Sorry, hard core athletes, those electrolytes don’t help as much as you may think – CNN

CNN Health, Katie Hunt from

Ultramarathoners and other endurance runners take note: You can’t rely on electrolyte sports drinks and supplements to keep essential salt levels in balance and prevent illness during and after these grueling races, according to a new study.

Researchers from Stanford University evaluated 266 athletes who took part in RacingThePlanet — an extreme sporting event that involved running 155 miles over seven days across rough terrain in different deserts around the world. Dr. Grant Lipman, the lead author of the study, said the findings were applicable to other sports.

The study, which published Tuesday in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, focused on hypernatremia, which occurs when sodium levels are too high and is associated with dehydration, and exercise-associated hyponatremia, or EAH, which is caused by a drop in sodium levels.


How much glucose from sports drinks can be used as fuel?

Nutrition Tactics blog, Jorn Trommelen from

… It appears there is a limitation in the absorption speed of glucose in the GI tract. When glucose is consumed at a rate of >1 g/min, it just seems to accumulate in the gut and make you feel sick.

In conclusion, a high glucose intake does not further increase the use of glucose as fuel during exercise as compared to a moderate intake (1 g/min). Therefore, it is better to avoid high glucose intakes during prolonged exercise, as these are not used as fuel and will probably result in gastro-intestinal complaints.



Why you should try running without a GPS watch

Canadian Running Magazine, Madeleine Kelly from

Runners love their GPS watches. The wearable technology can help them ensure that they’re on pace, running their workouts properly and can help them monitor their training load. But there times when running without a GPS watch is a good idea, and ways in which relying on a watch can hinder performance instead of helping it. Here are some reasons why runners should consider occasionally ditching the GPS.


When Everything Clicks: The Power Of Judgment-Free Learning

NPR, Hidden Brain; Jennifer Schmidt, Thomas Lu, Tara Boyle, Shankar Vedantam from

… At the Bronx Montefiore Medical Center in New York, Dr. Martin Levy uses clicker training — a technique drawn from the world of animal training, modified for humans–to help new surgeons quickly learn their craft. It’s one of the many tricks he uses to teach his inexperienced medical residents how to tie knots, drill holes and twist screws into broken bones and ligaments, among other techniques. Dr. Levy breaks the skills down into tiny, incremental steps. Each step, performed correctly, is marked with his clicker.


The only feedback is the sound of the click.


On average, it takes 66 days of repeating a simple health behavior until they experienced it as automatic.

Twitter, Wendy Wood from

Adopt a new behavior, do it repeatedly for two months and a week, and you’ve significantly increased that automated feeling. #GoodHabitsBadHabits



Cycling but not walking to work or study is associated with physical fitness, body composition and clustered cardiometabolic risk in young men

British Journal of Sports Medicine from

Introduction Active commuting is an inexpensive and accessible form of physical activity and may be beneficial to health. The aim of this study was to investigate the association of active commuting and its subcomponents, cycling and walking, with cardiometabolic risk factors, physical fitness and body composition in young men.

Methods Participants were 776 Finnish young (26±7 years), healthy adult men. Active commuting was measured with self-report. Waist circumference was measured and body mass index (BMI) calculated. Aerobic fitness was measured with bicycle ergometer and muscular fitness with maximal leg and bench press, sit-ups, push-ups and standing long jump. Cardiometabolic risk factors were analysed from blood samples and selected variables (glucose, insulin, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressure) were further converted to z-score to form clustered cardiometabolic risk.

Results A total of 24% used active commuting consisting of 10% of walkers and 14% of cyclists. After adjustments for age, smoking, time of year, leisure-time and occupational physical activities, cycling was inversely associated with the clustered cardiometabolic risk (β=−0.11, 95% CI −0.22 to −0.01), while walking was not (β=−0.04, 95% CI −0.16 to 0.08). However, further adjustment for waist circumference attenuated the associations to non-significant. Moreover, cycling but not walking was inversely associated with BMI, waist circumference and maximal strength, while a positive association was observed with aerobic fitness (p<0.05). Conclusion This study shows that cycling to work or study has beneficial associations to clustered cardiometabolic risk, body composition and aerobic fitness in young, healthy adult men. [full text]


Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?

Roots of Progress, Jason Crawford from

The bicycle, as we know it today, was not invented until the late 1800s. Yet it was a simple mechanical invention. It would seem to require no brilliant inventive insight, and certainly no scientific background.

Why, then, wasn’t it invented much earlier?


The Plus-Tire Trend Died Quickly, and 29ers are Continuing to Push 27.5 Out of the Picture

Singletracks Mountain Bike News, Matt Miller from

Every couple of years a new trend pops up in the bike industry and presents new benefits to the masses. A few years ago, this trend was plus-tires. 29ers were sort of new again, but still stigmatized as the wheel size for people who cared more about climbing than descending. 27.5-inch wheels had basically convinced everyone that they would be here for good. Oh yeah, and fat bikes were also emerging around the same time.

Looking through the Singletracks’ archives, most of the publish dates around plus-tire related topics were in 2015-2016, ranging from tire reviews, to press releases for new tires and plus-tired bikes. Five years later in 2020, it seems that plus-tires were quickly forgotten by most mountain bikers.


public lands

Viewpoint: State Facilitating Unlimited Access to High Peaks

Adirondack Almanack, Peter Bauer from

It seems pretty clear at this point that the state agencies that manage the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and adjacent Wilderness areas, are not interested in limiting public use.

The state is investing in new parking areas, new hiking trails, and a new hiker transportation system that are all designed to facilitate ever-higher levels of public use in the High Peaks, not limit it.


Back To Basics: Children Are Happier When Connected To Nature

Study Finds, John Anderer from

Childhood is different for each generation, and one can imagine that modern children have more excuses than ever before to avoid going outside. A few decades ago, most parents blamed the television if their child spent too much time indoors, but today the TV seems tame in comparison to smartphones, tablets, and video games. Now, a new study is making an argument for kids to get back to basics in their play tactics by concluding that children are happier when connected to nature.

According to the team at the Sonora Institute of Technology, spending more time outside promotes more sustainable and environmentally-friendly behavior in children.



Europe may force makers of smartphones, tablets and wireless earphones to install easily replaceable batteries

Business Insider, Charlie Wood and Sophia Ankel from

  • The EU may force makers of smartphones, tablets and wireless earphones to use easily replaceable batteries with their devices.
  • According to the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad, which obtained a draft of the EU’s plans, the EU’s executive arm – the European Commission – is drafting a proposal to force vendors to do this.

    Fast-charging, long-running, bendy energy storage breakthrough

    University College London, UCL News from

    A new bendable supercapacitor made from graphene, which charges quickly and safely stores a record-high level of energy for use over a long period, has been developed and demonstrated by UCL and Chinese Academy of Sciences researchers.


    Solar technology breakthrough at UQ

    University of Queensland (AU), UQ News from

    The development of next generation solar power technology that has potential to be used as a flexible ‘skin’ over hard surfaces has moved a step closer, thanks to a significant breakthrough at The University of Queensland.

    UQ researchers set a world record for the conversion of solar energy to electricity via the use of tiny nanoparticles called ‘quantum dots’, which pass electrons between one another and generate electrical current when exposed to solar energy in a solar cell device.

    The development represents a significant step towards making the technology commercially-viable and supporting global renewable energy targets.


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