Breaking a sweat

Bringing personalized sports fueling recommendations to everyday athletes

Gatorade

  • Client
  • Industry
    Health & Fitness, Sports, Wearable Tech
  • Services
    Customer Research, UX Design, Technical Development, Industrial Design

Gatorade’s Gx Sweat Patch and companion app are designed to bring sweat testing and personalized sports fueling and recovery recommendations to all athletes without the need for a traditional lab. This digital ecosystem combines wearable technology that captures an athlete’s sweat rate and electrolyte concentration directly from the skin with a smartphone app that processes the data using machine learning. Once the Sweat Patch’s data is collected via the app, an athlete’s sweat profile can be created. This is combined with scenario-specific details such as activity type, weather, intensity, and duration to generate personalized sports fueling recommendations before, during, and after exercise.

Video and animations courtesy of Gatorade's partner Kaicon (kaicontent.com)

The vision

Building off Smart Design’s work on the Gx Ecosystem, the goal was to create a convenient and cost-effective workout feedback and educational tool to help all athletes improve their hydration performance. The cumbersome process of sweat testing is traditionally done using equipment not easily accessible to everyday athletes. Gatorade turned to Smart Design and Epicore Biosystems to help transform this resource-intensive process into a wearable device that is fast, simple, and accessible to everyone.

The process

The next stage of developing the Gx Sweat Patch was powered by insights and data gained over several years of working with more than 20 professional sports teams. The manual sweat testing process undertaken by these pro teams needed to be designed, engineered, and productized in order to scale to everyday athletes. While the in-lab validation of the patch accuracy was conducted, the overall experience and app design was explored in parallel using prototype apps and service workflows. The experience was refined via multiple pilots with elite high school athletes and teams at IMG Academy in Bradenton FL.

How it works

The Gx Sweat Patch was designed to be an unobtrusive and highly-functional sports accessory by accurately testing and intuitively displaying the two key elements of hydration analytics: sweat rate and electrolyte concentration. The flexible patch is less than a millimeter thick and adheres to the forearm to maintain watertight contact with the skin. As an athlete sweats, fluid is absorbed through tiny holes in the back of the patch, causing a reaction that displays data in two channels. The sweat rate is visualized by an orange line that zig-zags across the patch as fluid is absorbed, and the sodium levels are shown by a line on the right side of the patch that changes shades of purple. Using the Gx app, the qualitative data from the Sweat Patch can be captured and processed with a phone camera using image-recognition technology that was trained with machine learning. Three colored lines on the patch help the smartphone camera understand light levels to ensure accuracy.

Image recognition technology trained with machine learning.

The resulting sweat profile is combined with other athlete and activity data (such as weather, weight, duration, and workout intensity) via a proprietary algorithm to show the athlete’s fluid and nutritional needs. A second algorithm is utilized to match those needs to products in the Gatorade Ecosystem for each stage of the workout: preparation, performance, and recovery. These recommendations can be accessed in the app or sent as SMS notifications.

The next steps

Gatorade’s Sweat Patch and app started public piloting in the fall of 2019. Early results have validated the vision and business case to democratize personalized sports fueling recommendations for everyday athletes — across any sport and weather condition. For Gatorade, the new service has unlocked new business and partnership opportunities, while energizing the innovation in sports science ethos that the company was founded on.

Gx Sweat Patch Pilot leading up to the IRONMAN World Championships 2019 in Kona, Hawaii