IoT: What impact will it have on Road Running?

The next wave of technology is currently is the process of being born. Its impact will be profound, touching all of us in unimaginable ways.

Being so novel, even the name of this technology has not yet been agreed upon. A tentative proposal is the prosaic Internet of Things – IoT. Other suggested appellations are: machine to machine [MtM], machine to infrastructure [MtI], the Internet of Everything [IoE], the Internet of Intelligent Things or the totally trite & unimaginative Intelligent Systems.

In this opinion piece I will use the term IoT for no other reason than it struck a chord with me but equally the word Internet only encapsulates one aspect of this new technology whereas Intelligent Systems does not possess a catchy enough catchet.

What does IoT mean to us laymen?

In essence, IoT is merely the connection of billions of smart objects – a universal global neural cloud if you will – that will encompass every aspect of our daily lives. The basis or foundation of that intelligence will be embedded processes.

IoT will comprise smart objects automatically interacting & communicating with other objects. The net result will be the generation of inordinate volumes of data which will automatically be used to command & control other objects which will make our lives safer, easier & better.

The uses of IoT are limitless & given human ingenuity, its potential is boundless.

Let us for a moment consider the current world. It comprises a plethora of dumb objects unable to communicate with other objects or ourselves. By embedding processing power within these objects, they become intelligent & can provide us with real-time useful information without one needing to be present.

A few nights ago, I went to bed with the tumble drier on. At 2am I awoke but the electricity supply had tripped. The cause was the tumble drier which was red hot as the timer had jammed. Fortunately no damage was caused but if it had been one of the envisaged new smart Tumble Driers it would have possessed all of the following functions & probably unthought-of more:

  • Automatically switched off when Eskom’s power grid was constrained
  • Automatically switched on during non-peak periods
  • Alerted my security company & the family that it was overheating
  • Automatically switched the machine off when the temperature exceeded a preset limit
  • Downloaded the cost of the electricity utilised
  • Advised me that it had now been used for 2500 hours & required a new fan belt. Like an automatic Jeeves – the butler, it would have downloaded instructions on how to install a new belt. As an additional aid, it would also provide the name of the closest stockist of that part together with a map for convenience.

What has made such data freely available? The cost of microchips has fallen precipitously with one American manufacturer claiming in the Popular Mechanics that their latest GPS chips costs US $1 to manufacture!

Given the low cost & a dollop of human ingenuity, anything is possible.

Let us get back to the situation regarding Road Running.

Like the story with the Tumble Drier, there is a myriad of data but nothing is recorded & more importantly there is no automatic communication of data between the runners.

Last week’s Om Die Dam half marathon is an excellent example of what is possible. Myer & I travelled together to the race in my car. Even though there was plenty of parking, they were isolated non-contiguous patches. It became a judgement call as to which was the most advantageous route & even when to stop trying for a better parking. The security guards at each parking area were only aware of their local situation & sometimes didn’t even know the full picture in their area.

Even though the first hint of a cold/flu was apparent, I informed Myer that I would finish 20 minutes ahead of him & that we would meet at my car afterwards. After running with Myer to the two kilometre marker, I bade Sue & him farewell & surged ahead.

By the three km point, the folly of my ways was readily apparent as I was battling to breathe. I was consigned to slow walk where even the eighty year old biddies would easily outclass me. I was resigned to an amble. Instead I sauntered to the finish with Peter after solving all the problems of the world along the way.

What was forgotten in this amiable chat was the fact that the arrangement was that I would beat Myer convincingly. Instead I was 20 minutes BEHIND Myer who had already contacted the local morgue & the hospitals.

Of course if I had carried my cellphone with me, this frantic panic might not have ensued but Myer’s cellphone was safely locked in my BMW’s boot out of harm’s way.

What objects do running carry with them: All have stop watches & some have heart rate monitors, GPS’s, cell phones & iPods.

The information that each runner has of the race situation is very localised to within a few tens of metres of themselves. Even if a friend were running 50 metres ahead, it would in reality be as if both were running different races.

Imagine if one had a cellphone with a Race Specific Application [App] connected to a vital bodily functions monitor.

Not only would Myer have been aware than in fact I was ambling far behind them but he would have known that I was walking with Peter. Furthermore he would have been able to project what his finishing time would be & mine & that 250 runners had already completed the race with the winning time being 1:08. The clincher would have been that I would was projected to complete the race far behind him instead of far ahead of him.

Wouldn’t this make running interesting? Instead of a post-race report back, one can follow one’s friends in real-time.

But there would also be a serious purpose. With one’s vital signs being monitored, an ambulance & the emergency services can automatically be summoned without any human intervention.

Currently what can be monitored is very basic but in future monitors will be surgically implanted which would be able to measure a whole plethora of functions.

The possibilities are infinite.

However like all technologies there are significant drawbacks.

Personally I would be in constant trepidation as my wife would be able to track which female I was always running with.  And heaven forbid, which female I had breakfast with afterwards!


Other Articles on Running:

My Comrades Marathon: An Abiding Memory

My Comrades Debut and Swansong, all in one Race


My Running Redux

The Journey from Searing Back-Pain in late 2013 to Running Races again in Respectable Times


Poisoned Chalice or Fool’s Errand?

Report back the Dawn to Dusk 80km Running Race in August 2013


My Mid-Life Crisis: How did I attempt to regain my lost youth?

What did it take me to get over my mid-life crisis in my early forties?


Ashley Wood – In Memoriam


IoT: What impact will it have on Road Running?

The possibilities of the latest technology – the Internet of Things – are ruminated upon


A Drab and Unremarkable Race with Pretensions: Gauteng Sports Challenge

Gauteng requires a big city marathon on the scale of the London Marathon but the Gauteng Sports Challenge doesn’t fit the bill


A Running Experience: A Hill too Far

On this day, the Loskop 50km ultra marathon running race had one hill too many, Faraday’s Hill. It was to be my nemesis.


The First Time


Andre Hydenryck – In Memoriam

Andre Hydenryck – In Memoriam






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