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The Democratization of Data

Force Plate Machine Learning™ allows everyone to be informed…now

Many of the customers in our community have had or used force plates for many years before deciding to integrate Sparta’s Movement Health Platform. And every conversation begins with the same simple, but crucial moments of education. 

As an example, when talking with a potential military partner in recent months, it was asked how often they use their current force plates. The answer was, “about every three months – if we have the time” This is far too common. Most of our partners have had force plates collecting dust for that same reason. 

The more common response is one of siloed ownership, “we only test when _____ is here because they’re the only one that knows how to use it.” It is common to see organizations test individuals only to take the next couple of months playing with data to try and find what looked “off” or maybe have that “aha” moment. Meanwhile, nothing has changed for the warfighters or athletes, leaving them feeling like lab rats. Force plates should collect dust in this instance. After all, are we here to protect the athletes and warfighters or to try and validate our own hypotheses? 

Humans are more important than hardware

First off, it is not the hardware that helps us. Force Plates are a tool to collect accurate data; a means to an end. If there was a more accurate device than force plates to collect ground reaction force data, we would use that device. The force plates help us build our database and improve machine learning models with the ultimate goal of providing information that protects individuals from injury, allowing them to perform at a higher level. We believe, similar to the United States Special Forces (SOF), that “Humans are more important than Hardware”.

Support local…except in this case

Secondarily, it is not even the emerging software interfaces that are new or incredibly valuable, but rather the ability to create a cloud infrastructure to securely house, aggregate, and analyze data. Back in 2017, The Economist published a story titled, “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”. 

Using a cloud data infrastructure to house & analyze the data, often called a data lake, allows machine learning, in this case Force Plate Machine Learning™, to provide more accurate and insightful context to make better decisions right now, not days, weeks, or months from now. When data is stored on local devices, such as a laptop or external hard drive, that data loses value since it does not live anywhere outside of that device. It is not aggregated or helpful in providing context against larger datasets now, or in the future. It also cannot be accessed by anyone except the person responsible for the device, including the athlete or service member who was tested.

Sports Science has a democracy problem.

In short, data should be democratized and available for everyone to access at different levels, in different locations, immediately; the individual can see their information, the practitioner sees their group, and perhaps an executive can see a broader picture of sentiment. This type of democratization has led to incredible engagement and progress for organizations because different inputs create compliance and contribute to a shared culture’s evolution.

The above examples and summaries should expose that the practice of sports science, especially the use of force plates, does not have a hardware problem – it has a democracy problem. Software must provide clarity to bestow the context needed to drive the process. If you can’t quickly get quantitative, reliable data with consistent feedback in a practical manner, why even collect it?

Force plate hardware doesn’t return any investment without accompanying infrastructure to collect data, store data, provide insights, and subsequent actionable guidance that improves performance and reduces injury risk.

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