Real-time data has become one of the biggest buzzwords in 2021 for geospatial technology. AeroLab has taken real-time data and revolutionized what that means in the high-performance cycling world, which is projected to be a 780 million dollar industry by 2026. Using aerospace technology and sensors, founders Kelly Zwarych and Chris Morton have commercialized a product that has brought real-time data validation to the pro-cycling world where a .10 second delay in speed can cost an athlete a spot on the podium. AeroLab's technology was created to redefine and understand the field of application in what athletes needed to tweak on an individual, granular level. With head offices in Calgary, AB, and a new office opened in Belgium, AeroLab's technology is being showcased and used throughout Europe and North America. Currently, Olympic and Tour de France teams are using the technology to validate their athlete's aerodynamic performance and equipment in real-time on an iOS app. Additionally, AeroLab's aerospace technology and sensors have found a niche within high-performance cyclist manufacturers, with ZIPP wheels on their clients' roster, to validate products and take a more holistic view into what is occurring when a pro athlete uses their products.
Aerospace technology is not new to the professional cycling world. The wind tunnel, CFD body scans, and velodrome technologies have been used for many years to determine a rider's aerodynamics. However, all technologies test a rider on their aerodynamics in a controlled environment, presenting limitations with the data collected. Zwarych and Morton saw an opportunity to discover and develop new information previously not captured by traditional technology iterations. The founders' goal of using aerospace technology and sensors fitted onto bikes has allowed real-time data to revolutionize and add depth to the pro cycle industry data. Their technology collects data on an athletes' ride to improve and analyze performance as soon as they dismount the bike. "Each technology currently being used to test aerodynamics in the cycling industry has its benefits and challenges," says Zwarych. "The CFD test, which is a body scan of the athlete, is a good technology but cannot get detailed or granular; it is good on the surface but can't identify if helmet A or B is better. Yet, that can be a huge benefit or determent to a cyclist. Technologies like the scanning system are useful on a rudimentary level, but they cannot identify all nuances, like sunglasses' impact on a rider's aerodynamics. Wind tunnels can pick up these variables; however, the athletes are not performing in a wind tunnel, so they cannot spin or perform where they are outputting energy. With our technology, it is a holistic approach where the rider is performing. The rider has a good idea of where their aerodynamics are. We can look into how the athlete performs in the riding world biomechanically and how each rider is using their equipment." From wind gusts in a valley to temperature changes, AeroLab has taken the power of real-time data and translated it into heightening an athlete's performance by reading aerodynamics in an optimal dynamic environment while gauging the limitations of the rider. Taking the benefits one step further (aside from the sensors looking like they are from Starwars), the cost-saving in dollars and time spent are reduced dramatically for athletes and cyclist teams. AeroLab provides critical data without disrupting the athlete's training schedules to fly to locations to test in wind tunnels and velodromes. Now, trainers and coaches can test an athlete at any location, within an athlete's training schedule, at any time, and be able to read the data being collected immediately.
Watts are the top priority for the athletes when training for a race. The goal is to decrease watts' used and maintain speed or maintain the number of watts used and increase speed. Riders have biases to equipment and positions used while racing. For a rider to make changes to those variables, they need hard definitive data to convince them that the impact of their sunglasses or a specific position will create a difference in their time or decrease in their energy being used. Being able to dive deeper into the information gathered from historical aerodynamic testing methods, like wind tunnels, has provided new data and validation on how aerodynamics affect the rider in a dynamic environment. This innovation has created an immediate feedback loop of testing, instantly reading the data, tweaking variables on the rider, testing again, and gaining further data to increase the rider's performance in ways that have not been done before. Previously, riders and coaches could not see how turbulent air flows, hills, valleys, the wind coming from the rider's side (YAW), as well as other variables affected a cyclist not only on training days but for those athletes with injuries. With the high-grade sensors paired with automotive level GPS, AeroLab's technology tests athlete's injury development. AeroLab's sensors gather information on how much the bike is swaying to the rider's body dynamics. The sensors evaluate lost energy and the way the athlete is riding the bike. When an injury is recurring, the data will show how the rider uses the bike based on their riding dynamics and if the injury is due to their riding patterns.
Four Tour de France 2021 teams are using AeroLab's technology leading up to the race. "What the teams can do in the early season leading up to the Tour de France is allowing manufacturers to get athletes the best equipment for the 21 days of the race," Zwarych explains. "It's also about going into the race with a possible new injury or a past injury and what coaches can do to ensure the riders are optimal on injury prevention and management." Zwarych and Morton have been able to see the results of their technology in real-time. The excitement of seeing every test and having a perception of what is working and isn't – all while seeing the validation of data in seconds of the rider getting off their bike is what keeps the spark alive while pushing the limits of what's possible with AeroLab's technology. The Tour de France has led further data validation developments; Zwarych and Morton have implemented rolling resistance optimization. They take their holistic approach for each rider and evaluate how transitioning from smooth road to cobblestone affects tire pressure data. This innovation aligns with AeroLab's continuous focus on increasing data points and the depth of data of how individual professional cyclists can restore and sustain energy. Taking the data one step further, Zwarych and Morton are looking next to implement a predictive technology into the AeroLab sensors and real-time data analysis. The future of AeroLab's technology will collect data from how a rider has performed and tested in an environment and predict how the rider will perform in a different environment. Changes in elevation and/or humidity will alter how a rider consumes and uses energy; this is a current limitation with testing the aerodynamics of a rider in a wind tunnel in San Diego and followed by having that rider race in Spain. The goal is to allow the rider to have insight into changing variables that will improve their performance, as these variables will vary depending on different locations.
So, what's next for AeroLab? Zwarych and Morton have their work cut out for them by putting their sensors on Formula1 cars and testing 3D airflow. 3D airflow is challenging to capture, and AeroLab is looking to gather new data in a way that the engineers working on some of the highest-performance cars in the world haven't been able to do before. Additionally, a new generation of green vehicles are coming to high-speed racetracks. AeroLab is implementing the same principles to Formula1 as they do to cyclists – improving air resistance, using less energy, and using less speed to decrease energy being consumed by the car's batteries by providing real-time data to the top engineers in car racing. But, Zwarych and Morton aren't stopping there. They are looking to collect data and insight on green race cars to predict the trickle-down effect on common usages of green vehicles, such as transport trucks or everyday cars. From taking athletes through the Tour de France to testing downward force with 3D sensors on Formula1 vehicles, AeroLab exceeds the buzz around what implementing a real-time data revolution into an industry looks like. Learn more about AeroLab and its technology here.