I recently ran the TCS London Marathon. As a part-time runner and full-time futurist, I am fascinated by the intersection between sport and technology.

Having invested over £1k in various technologies to monitor my progress in the past year, I’ve found that the future of running is being entirely re-imagined thanks to AI, digital twins, sensors and more.

With the UK government investing over £100 million to advance R&D on AI in healthcare, it’s clear that technology is making its way into the everyday physical parts of our lives; this includes sports, sleeping and eating. Even Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee President, believes AI will revolutionise sports with some initial innovations set to be unveiled at the 2024 Games in Paris.

Currently, consumer-grade wearables allow us to better understand what’s happening in our bodies – whether that be our heart rate or our nutrition. The information wearables reveal allows us to scenario plan and test different situations to then optimise future performance. 

For example, if I ran 26.2 miles with an extra hour of sleep, would I be able to record a new personal record? Data generated from wearables that are plugged into ‘digital twin’ models can simulate this scenario and provide me with data-driven insights. 

To better understand how health and fitness data can be harnessed to shape our lives, we must first break down what a digital twin is.

The technologies reshaping health and fitness

The ultimate goal of creating a digital twin – an exact virtual replica of yourself – is to maximise performance. Through digital twins, you can get granular information about yourself in the virtual world (i.e. your average heart rate or glucose levels or injury points) to know exactly how to perform your best in the physical world. 

Digital twins of people already exist in a limited form and are primarily digital models of oneself that can be obtained through data from wearables (i.e., FitBit or Garmin, rest and recovery monitors, glucose monitors, etc).

To help the two-time Olympian and Boston Marathon champion Des Linden evaluate her training, performance, and recovery, TCS created a digital twin of her heart.

Runners using a digital twin heart can receive recommendations before the start of a run about potential challenges. In practice, this means that the simulated heart will be able to predict that at a certain given heart rate, a runner’s  performance will decline and they’ll slow down. As such, your wearable devices can be programmed to signal that energy levels are dropping and help you adjust your pace. 

Given the vast amount of data that can be gathered through everyday wearables, the next step to supercharging sports is to power recommendations using this data. 

Personal AI coaches

The challenge today is that these devices are poorly integrated, requiring users to manually cobble together and make sense of the data. What runners will eventually need is a personal AI coach. 

A runner’s Personal AI will soon make sense of all the wearable tech data for them and will run simulations on their digital twin to uncover their personalised, optimal training programme.  

Personal AI models will become coaches and motivators. Given that what motivates one person won’t be the same as what motivates another, it will build a completely personalised, state-of-the-art training plan that taps into their personal motivators.

As technologies like AI, sensors, and wearables converge, they will break down barriers of knowledge. One won’t be required to have a medical degree to interpret the massive amount of data coming from multiple sources; their personal AI will tell them. 

This level of accessibility has the potential to stretch beyond running, revolutionising the entire healthcare sector too.

Data shaping sustainable future for TCS London Marathon

Transforming health and wellness

Though much of the healthcare technology industry is segmented today, the benefits of ecosystems and data points converging is clear. 

There’s a huge opportunity in the medical field for fitness data to be leveraged to solve everyday issues that hinder an athlete’s performance like stitches. For example, improvements in data will lead to advances like 3D printed food where a runner’s nutrition can be perfectly dialled-in, at the molecular level, to their activity, streamlining every part of the runner’s life to maximise results. 

Similarly, instead of relying on sporadic annual check-ups with doctors, health metrics could be continuously monitored and automatically shared between patients and doctors. Plugging in AI to connect the dots and turn this information into intelligence means that optimal training plans can improve accessibility to personalised healthcare.

By tapping into this data-driven approach, your personal AI-powered digital twin will be able to detect conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer early on and alert you and your physician to take action, significantly reducing healthcare costs and enhancing overall wellness.

The mainstream adoption of wearables started this trend, as vast amounts of actionable data have been collected and utilised by athletes over the years. Now that AI investment, adoption and integration is on the rise, digital twin technology is something that’s very likely to not only influence sports, but also raise everyone’s awareness around their health, wellness, and fitness. 

With that said, running a marathon will always be 26.2 miles run by a human – but how prepared one might be will come down to training mechanisms organised by technology and data.

London Marathon mission complete: An experience like no other