Imperial College London

Smart wearables that are pushing human performance past its limits


Soldiers going through breacher training.

NMES Group’s technology gives us greater control of our muscles, with applications in fitness, therapeutics, combat training, and space.

Muhammad Ali was renowned for building his own training compound in Pennsylvania, where he could prepare for fights by chopping wood and running up hills. Michael Phelps was known to sleep in an altitude chamber with reduced oxygen to stimulate the production of red blood cells. The British SAS train by marching for 48 kilometres while carrying 27kg of equipment.

But what if standard training regimes could be augmented so that enhanced physical performance was within reach for everyone? NMES Group has developed technologies that not only lower the barriers to improving physical fitness but also have exciting applications in the fields of entertainment, therapeutics, combat training, and even space travel.

NMES stands for neuromuscular electrical stimulation, which is the use of electrical impulses to create a muscle contraction. These electrical impulses mimic the messages our central nervous system sends to muscles so that our bodies can move and exert force. Applying neuromuscular electrical stimulation    to our muscles allows them to contract without the need for conscious thought.

Even very fit individuals don’t use all possible muscle fibres when exercising. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation  can be used to engage more muscle fibres during a movement than a person can achieve voluntarily. By taking advantage of this feature, NMES Group has developed technologies that allow for more efficient and impactful workouts, thereby accelerating muscle development.

The technology utilizes diPulse’s non-invasive smart wearables  that will be further developed to  collect sensory information from the exercising user: stress level, heart rate, respiration rate, oxygen level, movement, temperature and more. Their digital platform will use this sensorimotor information to assess how that user is performing.

Advanced AI algorithms will take that performance data, evaluate which muscles should be targeted to best improve performance, then through programs, deliver electrical impulses to stimulate those muscles via the smart wearables. The current diPulse platform delivers high quality neuromuscular electrical stimulation and soon these smart wearables will continually collect sensory information to ensure neuromuscular electrical stimulation is delivered where and how it is needed most.  

“NMES Group has created a unique platform that works with the body to augment all aspects of human performance. Through safely activating the nervous system, the technology physiologically changes the way our bodies behave, and in turn can influence new neuronal pathways to re-educate a whole host of performance activities.” - Victoria Sparkes MD, Therapeutics

NMES Group’s technology holds great promise for the training of police forces and the military: not only in enhancing their physical training, but in psychologically preparing them for combat situations. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation can be used to temporarily replicate specific sensations of combat  through sophisticated haptics, training individuals to recognise the cause of an injury and be prepared to work through such sensations.

“The technology that NMES Group have developed is exciting and will aid in the development of efficient and superior defence and security personnel by challenging mental and technological boundaries, enabling performance and health improvements, and increasing the security of personnel and wider society. With an innovation philosophy at the heart of Saab, being a part of the I-HUB and ISST gives us the fantastic opportunity to engage with and support SME’s such as NMES who are working on innovative technologies and solutions that increase security, and help build a secure and resilient world.” - Malin Svahn, VP Director of Innovation Programmes, Saab UK

In less stressful circumstances, this replication of physical sensation is of great interest to another arena: entertainment. NMES Group envisions a future in which gamers are further integrated into their avatars’ world and viewers are more deeply connected to the characters on screen.

Another major focus for NMES Group is the enhancement of physical fitness for civilian users. Workouts can be enhanced by neuromuscular stimulation in many other ways. For instance, it can be used to promote the release of endorphins, hormones that help relieve pain and reduce stress, reducing discomfort during a workout by supporting muscle relief. Strikingly, diPulse wearables allow specific types of muscle cells to be stimulated. If a user wishes to develop endurance, they can target type 1 fibres, and they can target type 2 fibres if they wish to develop the power and explosiveness of their movements.

Such fine-tuned targeting of muscle has applications outside of typical physical fitness, particularly in therapeutics. While neuromuscular electrical stimulation has been used to prevent musculoskeletal or neural degeneration in patients recovering from illness or surgery, it typically requires the patient to be wired to a fixed device in a clinical setting. This limits how customisable therapeutic programs can be and presents challenges regarding access.

By utilizing their smart wearables system, NMES Group aims to overcome such issues by delivering individualised programs to patients to their own home, overseen remotely by a designated healthcare practitioner.

Musculoskeletal degeneration is a particular challenge in space. Microgravity environments lead to a 1-2% loss in bone mineral density per month of space travel, with astronauts having ten times the loss in bone density after six-months in space compared to post-menopausal women over the same period. Preventing such degeneration isn’t simply a question of protecting modern astronauts who spend extended periods of time in space stations. It stands as an existential challenge for the future of extraterrestrial colonisation.

In a white paper published earlier this year, NMES Group make the case that their technologies are well-placed to mitigate or eliminate such bone mineral density loss in astronauts. The delivery of bespoke training through diPulse smart wearables before, during, and after a space flight would be a very practical solution since muscle resistance training is shown to prevent loss of bone mineral density. Workouts that utilise diPulse smart wearables don’t require weights, a huge advantage during space flights, where every kilogram matters. Transporting goods into space is expensive and time-consuming, and the storage of bulky workout equipment is inconvenient.

World-leading academics at Imperial College London are working to provide solutions for international security, safety, resilience, automation, systems engineering, and defence challenges. NMES Group’s engagement with Imperial College London’s Institute for Security Science and Technology (ISST) therefore presents an opportunity to be at the forefront of response to global challenges through innovation.

“We are excited about what the future holds for our technology and the ability to provide value across multiple industries to solve a host of human performance challenges. As we move to incorporate more sensory data into the platform, our AI driven system will become established. We believe this will be a game changer in multi-purpose technology that has a vast reach for unlimited sectors.” - Richard Statham, CEO

About NMES Group AB: NMES Group are a progressive technology company pioneering within the digital space to bring business to business bespoke solutions to complex human performance challenges. We are currently innovating within the health and wellbeing, entertainment, therapeutic and specialist application sectors, although our potential doesn’t stop there. Partnering with some of the leading industry specialists, we exploit our expert inhouse knowledge and wealth of technical and scientific experience to develop the right platform for the specific needs of your business. We are a member of the Institute for Security Science and Technology’s Innovation Ecosystem at White City.

About the Institute for Security Science and Technology (ISST): The Institute for Security Science and Technology is Imperial College London's hub for security research and engagement. Security is often only viewed through the narrow lens of conflict and war. Our mission at the Institute for Security Science and Technology is to challenge that perception and demonstrate the breadth and depth of a topic that touches everyone in society, wherever they are in the world.


Jack Cooper

Jack Cooper
Institute for Security Science & Technology


Global-challenges-Health-and-wellbeing, Global-challenges-Engineering, Security-science
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