Kikkerland Solar Radio
£18, www.protechshop.co.uk. Stay in touch with the outside world thanks to this sun- and hand crank-powered radio
The Cave Tent
£390, www.heimplanet.com. Based on the molecular structure of a diamond, this tent inflates itself in just one minute
£83, www.biolitestove.com. Cook up a storm over a twig-fuelled flame – and recharge your iPhone
£20, www.bakerandbell.com. Use with flint to make a spark; the latest in ancient technology
£100, www.slowdownjoe.com. This gravity-activated lamp switches between a wide and narrow beam
Silicon notebook: Olympic technology
For Sky Christopherson, launching a tech start-up was a sport, writes April Dembosky in San Francisco. But after a few years of 80-hour weeks in front of a computer, his health plummeted from the level of a professional athlete to a heart attack scare in the emergency room. So he decided to turn sports training into a tech start-up.
“I completely underestimated how fast your body falls apart when you go sedentary,” he says. “And yet that decline in health is so normal, so accepted in the business community.”
Christopherson, a former US champion in track cycling and an alternate on the 2000 Olympic US cycle team, abandoned his management role at his real estate imaging company in Seattle to start Optimized Athlete, an enterprise that seeks to improve health and athletic performance using tracking technologies.
To test his system he approached a group of US Olympic athletes, mainly cyclists, hooking them up to devices that monitor diet, sleep and exercise to an Orwellian degree.
At night, they wear sleep-monitoring devices that map light, deep and REM sleep. They wear continuous glucose monitors that generate blood sugar readings every five minutes via a wire inserted under the skin. They study their genetic reports. They count every step they take, every calorie they eat.
The goal is to find intersecting patterns in the data – hyper-personalised clues about what snacks provide the most steady glucose levels, what bed temperature yields the deepest sleep and how it all fits together for faster times to the finish line.
Christopherson believes the trends that give his athletes an edge over their competitors can be applied to ordinary people hoping to do better in the local marathon, or people simply trying to lose weight.
“The Olympics is like a laboratory,” says Gary Wolf, one of the early exponents of the “quantified self” movement.
“If these work in the well-defined context of the Olympics, people will be more confident about applying them in the more complex ecologies of their lives.”
The idea for the company came from the Optimized Athlete, Christopherson’s own self-experiment. He not only restored his health, but also went on to break a world record on the cycle track in the 30-plus age group.