How Are Individualized Products And IoT Propelling Today's Athletes?

"Champions aren't born. They're made."

An athlete traditionally becomes a champion through hard work and sheer determination.

Today, athletes are realizing their championship ambitions with help from the latest technology, including 3D-printed products and the Internet of Things (IoT). In a previous article Glory Days: Athletes Aim High with 3D-Printed Products I gave some examples of how 3D printing is helping athletes reimagine how they can improve performance. In this article, we will focus on how the Internet of Things is changing the game.

Individualized products inspire singular performance

Sprinter Allyson Felix is currently training for her upcoming track and field events with a pair of cutting-edge running shoes that were specifically tailored to fit her feet using 3D printing.

Felix collaborated with her coaches and a team of engineers at Nike to design the sneakers. Nike harnessed its innovative Flyknit technology to develop the footwear, which helped to eliminate any non-essential features and lowered the weight of the sneakers down to under half their average size.

Using 3D printing, Nike ensured the shoes comply with the unique contours of Felix's feet, as well as her body type and running stride. 3D printing also helped to accelerate the overall development schedule -- enabling the team to rapidly manufacture prototypes, solicit feedback from Felix, and incorporate her recommendations into new designs.

Felix says that the final product "feels like an extension of [her] foot."

While Allyson Felix will be relying on cutting-edge sneakers the next time she takes on her rivals, other athletes will be depending on something a little less tangible.

IoT: A smarter way to train today's athletes

IoT is a network of devices -- embedded with sensors -- that enable certain objects to collect and exchange data.

Today, many athletes are using the information generated from IoT-enabled devices and wearable technology to learn more about their bodies, improve their current workout regimens, and reach peak physical performance.

Here are a few examples:

The U.S. men's cycling team is using Solos, a smart eyewear technology that allows athletes and their coaches to measure speed, heart rate, distance, and other metrics. Cyclists can even view this information while they ride via a micro-sized pupil display. The eyewear also features innovative voice technology, which enables riders to access any data of their choosing or communicate with their coaches mid-race.

• Track and field star Willem Coertzen is training with the help of a Hexoskin smart shirt. Like the Solos eyewear, the shirt can measure heart rate, breathing patterns, speed, and other biometrics. This data is then transmitted in real time to a smart device, such as a phone or a tablet, where it can be evaluated by the athlete or coaches and help to track past performance, measure against future progress, or highlight areas for improvement.

• The U.S. women's volleyball team is using a wearable device called VERT in its run-up to its next competition. VERT is worn around players' waists to calculate how high, as well as how many times they jump. The data, which is sent to an accompanying app in real time, is used to monitor members' workloads and to minimize potential injury risks.

Individualized products: The modern way to win

It remains to be seen how Willem Coertzen and the U.S. men's cycling and women's volleyball teams will fare at their next competitions. But one thing's for sure: They've each made a substantial investment in gaining a competitive edge with individualized products.

And so should your business.

Customers today have incredibly high expectations. They demand individualized products - and they want them as quickly as possible.

Is your company prepared to deliver products that are personalized to consumers? Does your enterprise have the foundational and differentiating capabilities necessary to satisfy your increasingly demanding customers?