Messi vs you
Most SportTech innovations are geared towards runners and cyclists, as their steady forward movement is relatively easy to measure. For extracting exercise data in team sports like football or field hockey local positioning is key. That is why technology in these areas is still available only to professional teams. But this is about to change. Recent improvements in sensor technology is making SportTech find its way into amateur team sports as well.
Take the company DashTag, which also participated in the HighTechXL program. This Dutch startup based in the Eindhoven Brainport region, has developed a sensor for the individual team player. The sensor measures positional data like sprint speed, total distance covered and the position on the field during the game. Players can compare their data both with themselves, their team mates and the elites in their sport. “Players’ jaws often drop when they compare their own statistics with pros like Messi and Ronaldo,” says co-founder Dirk van den Berg. “But it also challenges them to try and do better than they did previously. The gamification of the data is an important part of our proposition.”
Hundreds of thousands of euro’s
Initially DashTag targets their product towards young football players, who immediately fall in love with it, Van den Berg says. “They recognize these kind of statistics from the computer game FIFA 16. The idea that they can now also apply the data to themselves makes them really enthusiastic and influences their achievements directly. One coach told us, ‘I don’t know what it is you put into those sensors, but it makes them run faster!’”
DashTag is one of the pioneers in making this kind of technology available to amateur sports players. Yet Van den Berg doesn’t think the gap with the professionals will close any time soon. “The systems professional teams are using are much more precise and expensive. For an amateur athlete that level of accuracy is often unnecessary.”
Pioneers are often followed by bigger players. At the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven these big players are often just around the corner. Take Holst Centre, a research institute located on the Campus that develops and tests technology for companies like Samsung, Philips and Panasonic. “We’re exploring the interface between sports and technology,” says senior scientist Sywert Brongersma. “We’ve developed a lot of technology for wearables in medical applications, like brain wave analysis, cardiac monitoring and sweat sensors. Now we are looking to see if these can be used in sports as well.”
To do this the Holst Centre is partnering up with so-called ‘sport field labs’ in the Eindhoven Brainport region, where sports technology is tested with professional swimmers, runners, cyclists and football players. The field labs serve as the connecting link between technology institutes, athletes and local SME’s. “Through this collaboration ideas can land in the local ecosystems, so that SME’s can start thinking of ways how to make profitable products out of that technology.”
Disappear in a drawer
Although the initial interest in SportTech is there, Brongersma still sees challenges ahead. “You’re not going to make your profits in the field of elite sports, because that market is too small. So you need to make your product attractive for the average person who exercises. But that person has to be motivated to keep using the product. For many people this is problematic, as most sports watches disappear in a drawer after six months of use.”
Yet the market for recreational athletes is big, Brongersma says, and offers a lot of opportunity. “I think in the next five to ten years we will see more and more tech companies tapping into this market.”
Chances are that before the next Olympic Games comes around there will be plenty of SportTech companies to help you train and race like a pro. So get off that couch, strap on that smartwatch and get a head start!