Liam Walton is the Validation Team Manager at INCUS and plays an important role in developing and testing the brand’s technology. Find out more about Liam and his role at INCUS and get a better understanding of how the company is making strides in the sports tech industry.
Talk us through your background with sport and tech.
Like most young lads from the North East, I wanted to be the next Alan Shearer so I’ve been playing football since I was young. However, it was quite obvious before finishing school that this wasn’t going to happen. I still wanted to stay in sport, so I decided that I would study sport science. Biomechanics was my favourite discipline; the analytical nature and technology used to achieve marginal gains in elite athletes fascinated me. I decided to specialise in this at Loughborough University through a Sports Biomechanics Masters. I’ve used some incredible technology during my studies and placements but this requires analysis post session and is often limited to certain locations. The opportunity to help develop a wearable technology which can give athletes of all abilities feedback anywhere really appealed to me.
How did you first get involved with INCUS and what made you want to work with a company like it?
I joined INCUS in November 2018 shortly after completing my Masters degree.
For my Masters dissertation, I worked with Loughborough Swimming to investigate the deterministic parameters of a swim start. I loved it, so the opportunity to continue working in the swimming space really appealed to me. I’d also completed placements with British Cycling and British Athletics, and as INCUS is a multi-sport company, I thought why not combine all my experience in all three disciplines and work in triathlon?
What excites you most about working for INCUS?
The opportunity for me to be at the front line of testing and validating all of the fantastic products, metrics and ideas that we have at INCUS. This keeps work exciting, fresh and interesting as there’s always a potentially groundbreaking result at the end of a study or test. From a Validation Team viewpoint, ensuring that what we develop works and is as accurate as possible before release is a big part of INCUS’ and my own values. So this also excites me as it allows us to help people improve through accurate results.
What’s been your favourite product development moment so far and why?
I’ve been here for a good while now so I’ve seen a lot of prototypes and great developments, big and small. The upcoming features on form and injury will be amazing; the testing and research on this has been fun to do and lead. The team has done incredible work to collect data and start turning it into meaningful numbers. However, I’d probably say the work we’re doing with NOVA 2.0 is the most exciting. The real-world value for this product is so visible and needed. Seeing this come to life in our demo races and seeing it working live at races in Abu Dhabi is incredible. I love the research and validation into NOVA and always will, but testing NOVA 2.0 has been an interesting change of pace.
Can you talk a bit about how you work with INCUS-Enabled Athletes to improve their technique and efficiency?
The metrics that are available in our customer version of the app are fantastic and our INCUS-Enabled Athletes use these in their weekly training. We’ll keep an open communication on these. However, through our Trial Days with our athletes, we can provide them the full power of the INCUS System. Our athletes will typically travel to INCUS HQ, where we’ll complete a session in the pool. Here, we complete a baseline swim whilst filming and recording through NOVA. We’ll look at the metrics and match this with video footage to see strengths and areas to improve. We’ll then make some changes and see the improvements on NOVA in a session and continue to follow up over the following weeks.
For example, with Ruth Astle, we saw she was quite flat with her rotation but after our session, she increased her rotation on both sides by 14 degrees which is incredible. We’ll complete a similar session on the treadmill, matching video footage with INCUS metrics, both current and unreleased to look for ways to improve performance. Similarly, it's great to discuss metrics and product changes with them as they help to drive the products in the right direction.
Can you explain your involvement with the NOVA Pro, specifically setting up demos with athletes?
My role with NOVA 2.0 is to lead the testing of the system, coordinating with all elements of the product to ensure that they are working as expected with the main aim of demonstrating the product through demos. These demos require coordination with athletes as well to ensure not only the testing runs smoothly but also the logistical side. For example, during our first demo, we had Rosie Weston racing against Team INCUS, the latter completed a super sprint in a relay format whilst Rosie completed the full distance solo.
What’s on the horizon for you and your role with INCUS?
That’s a great question! The Validation Team has multiple studies ongoing, from longitudinal studies to injury research and wetsuit research to new metric validation. There are so many exciting projects that I look forward to sharing the results with everyone. As both NOVA and NOVA 2.0 grow, myself and the validation team will be pushing the products forwards to ensure they’re working accurately and to their maximum potential for end users.