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A tent serves as the station for Pulse to survey the data from its heart-rate monitors. 

Pair of Ohio University grad students push heart rate technology for youth sports

Grads testing the technology out with local hockey and soccer teams and are working on a plan for expansion.

Many youth athletes dream of playing like the pros, and two graduate students at Ohio University are helping some do just that.

Marc-André Maillet and Dave Nuzzolo are the founders of Pulse, a consultancy-like project that uses wearable technology to educate youth athletes about their bodies and improve the efficacy of athletes’ workouts and practices.

Here’s how it works:

  • A youth sports organization hires Pulse.

  • Pulse equips the team with a set of belt-like monitors that collect heart rate information.

  • The system transmits data to Pulse’s command center.

  • Maillet and Nuzzolo review the data, gleaning insights about players’ performance throughout a workout, practice or game.

  • The pair turn those insights into a presentation for the coaches and players.

“The goal is to try to make (wearable technology) accessible to more and more youth teams,” Maillet said. “I don’t want to say it’s to make better athletes, but to make healthier athletes.”

“And smarter coaches,” Nuzzolo added.

Pulse was founded about a year ago, and was born out of Maillet’s interest in heart rate as a window into an athlete’s body.

“The heart rate for me is something really interesting,” Maillet said. “It’s the actual way to understand if a person is working and how they’re working.”

That fascination, combined with Malliet’s passion for coaching pedagogy, led him to the heart rate monitoring system Pulse currently employs — Activio Sport System, the same system used by professional soccer clubs across Europe.

So far, Pulse has mostly monitored local soccer and hockey teams’ practices at no cost to them in order to work out the system’s kinks, but Maillet and Nuzzolo have been working with OU’s Innovation Center on a plan for expansion.

One of Pulse’s barriers to expansion is finding a way to create a “value-added product,” rather than trying to “reinvent the wheel,” according to Lauren McCullough, client services coordinator at the Innovation Center.

That value-added product may come in the form of an automated platform that would allow Pulse to track and process data from afar, though the details on that initiative are still fuzzy, Maillet said.

“I think the potential is there,” McCullough said of Pulse’s growth potential. “I just think we need to let the market speak for itself.”

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If the market isn’t yet speaking, it’s at least mumbling. Pulse spent last week working with Ohio Premier soccer club’s U14 teams, the first time the pair have been paid for their services.

Maillet said in the future, Pulse would likely charge a flat fee per player for its services, somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-$30.

And on a larger scale, the wearable technology market is exploding.

In 2014, wearables startups garnered $502 million in investment dollars, following the commercial success of health and fitness devices like Jawbone and Fitbit.

But unlike Jawbone and Fitbit, Maillet and Nuzzolo emphasized they’re not interested in selling the technology itself, they’re pushing the insights generated by the technology.

“One big part of it is to increase kids’ awareness of the heart,” Maillet said of the project’s broader goals. “What is the impact? What happens when you work?”


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