Island-based Rowing Canada using cutting-edge technology in battle against COVID-19

It’s a sign of the times. Island-based Rowing Canada is utilizing cutting-edge viral-detection technology in a pilot project to protect against COVID-19 as it prepares its athletes for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

The Kontrol BioCloud technology, trademarked Space Safe Technology by the Canadian company, is designed as a “real-time” analyzer to detect airborne pathogens, such as COVID-19. The system is being installed and tested in the ERG Dome and medical treatment centre, both located at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence on the Camosun College Interurban campus.

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Tricia McBride, lead physiotherapist for Rowing Canada, described it as “adding another critical layer of safety and confidence to our existing COVID protocols.”

“This technology will allow our athletes to focus on their training without worrying about the air they are breathing,” added McBride.

Training on Elk Lake, which the national team has been conducting in small-group boats, is not an issue because the shed droplets dissipate much quicker outdoors. Training on indoor rowing machines occurs in the ERG Dome at PISE, which is a hard, sprung structure. That’s where the new technology is being installed. Its designers say the applications could be wide-ranging in hospitals, offices, classrooms, retirement homes and public transportation. They say its “real-time” analyzer detects airborne viruses by sampling the air quality with a proprietary detection chamber that can be replaced as needed. An alert system is created in the Cloud or over local intranet and will signal if viruses are detected.

“We developed BioCloud to help us get back to normal across all sectors of the economy, including athletics and sports,” said Kontrol CEO Paul Ghezzi, in a statement.

“We are delighted to operate this pilot with Rowing Canada.”

Rowing Canada is looking to rebound at Tokyo from its single silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Rowing has produced the second-most Summer Olympics gold medals for Canada with nine, behind only track and field’s 14, and the third-most overall medals with 41 behind track and field’s 60 and swimming’s 49. Most of those medallists have come out of Elk Lake, where Rowing Canada has been based since the 1970s. The national training centre, however, is moving to Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan following the Tokyo Olympics.

This is the second trial involving new technology being used by Island athletes in response to COVID. The Victoria Royals are among eight Western Hockey League teams using the world’s first diagnostic artificial intelligence app created to detect the virus. The diagnostic test is non-invasive. Players download the app to their smartphones and follow the directions that enable the phone’s camera to take a picture of their oral cavity. The image is automatically uploaded to Vancouver-based company Light AI’s cloud-based server, where an artificial intelligence algorithm analyzes it for signs of COVID-19. Results are sent back to the players almost immediately. A negative test is 98.6 per cent accurate, said Peter Whitehead, founder and CEO of Light AI.

“It’s cool to be part of this [trial],” said Royals captain Tarun Fizer. “It’s next-level stuff. Who knows where technology will take us to.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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