10 Best Sports Tech Innovations Improving the Game
In the words of Lee Aviram Shoshany, manager of digital media technologies for the nonprofit Israel Export and International Institute, “The intersection between the passion for sports and the passion for technological innovation is a ball of fire." Technological innovations are enhancing the global sports experience each and every day. That’s one of the many reasons why we love doing what we do at Upper Hand.
Investors, telecoms, teams and leagues are eager for game-changing applications for athletics worldwide. There are so many incredible advancements to choose from but here are ten of the best technology innovations breaking into sports!
On the outside, miCoach looks and weighs the same as a regular soccer ball. However, this invention from Adidas can measure speed, spin, trajectory, and strike point through a sensor located in its core. By sending measurements to a paired wireless device, this smart soccer ball allows soccer players and coaches to track skills digitally.
Nike's Sports Research Lab has long been developing gear to reduce drag in athletes like sprinters and marathon runners. Its newest innovation AeroBlades, resembles tiny hooks or spikes called "formed nodes". Nike has produced arm and leg sleeves covered in AeroBlades and adhesive patches. In order to test the effectiveness of the invention, Nike stuck AeroBlades to mannequins and placed them in a wind tunnel. By controlling air movement, AeroBlades reduces wind resistance and helps athletes reach the finish line faster.
- Viper Pod GPS
Winner of the Best Wearable category at the 2016 Sports Technology Awards, this player tracking system is currently used by Premier League football clubs such as Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United. Developed by Northern Ireland based company STATSports Technologies, Viper Pod GPS is a small box that fits into a vest worn by players under their shirts in training and matches. The pods collect data such as running speed, distance, acceleration and dynamic stress load. The STATSports software helps coaches determine if players need more training, are exhausted, or are at risk of injury. More importantly, it helps measure the rehabilitation and recovery progress of a player.
- The House of Mamba
Named after Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant, this smart basketball court in Shanghai is the brainchild of tech company AKQA and Nike. The court consists of LED screens, sensors and motion-tracking devices. Coaches can upload programmed footwork routines for their teams to follow, while players can look at the brightly lit floor display to ensure their real steps line up with the ideal form. Examples of basketball drills include dribbling a basketball or playing defense against a hypothetical opponent.
- Solos Smart Glasses
Designed by Kopin Corporation, these smart shades display stats such as cadence, speed, distance, heart rate and duration. The glasses are aerodynamic and comfortable for training cyclists who want to check their vitals and boost their performance mid-ride. They also contain a speaker, which delivers an audio feed of the stats and connects to a mobile interface.
- SwingTRU Motion Study
GOLFTEC has been named one of the "10 Most Innovative Companies in Sports in 2017" by FAST Company magazine. A world leader in golf lessons and the largest employer of PGA professionals, GOLFTEC released the SwingTRU Motion Study in 2016. Over the past 22 years, GOLFTEC has collected data on more than 90 million golf swings. A statistically significant portion of this data was analyzed to understand the differences between how golfers of all handicaps – from PGA Tour® players to beginners – move throughout the swing. SwingTRU identified specific body positions within the swing that correlate directly to handicap level. Such body positions play a crucial role in improving distance, accuracy and consistent contact. Taking on board these findings, GOLFTEC coaches now report a student success rate of 96%.
German software company SAP Software & Solutions believes it can use technology to not only measure a tennis player's stats, but to also predict their moves in advance. The HANA platform creates algorithms based on serve direction, return contact point (where a player is when he returns the serve), shot placement (includes where the ball lands, slice, topspin, and speed), and player movement. Using this data, HANA calculates what a player is likely to do at any given point of the match. Players can use HANA to improve their strategy and gameplay by understanding their own strengths as well as their opponent's future moves.
- NMP ForceDecks
Introduced by Daniel Cohen, NMP ForceDecks consist of two linked platforms or "force decks" that measure force when movements are performed on them. NMP's software interprets the measurements and provides information on the muscle performance, injury risk and rehab progress of athletes. This technology has already been implemented by more than 25 leading sports clubs and training centers such as the England cricket and rugby league teams.
- Underwater Lap Counters
When swimmers are racing back and forth across the pool, they often experience difficulty in keeping track of the number of laps they have completed. They are dependent on human officials who display the number of completed laps at the pool's edge. In order to eliminate such distractions for swimmers, Omega has developed underwater lap counters. The counters are installed at the bottom of each lane. Every time a swimmer completes a lap, he or she touches a pad on the wall. The counters will display the number of completed laps, thus eliminating the need for swimmers to look up from the pool.
- Concussion Sensors
Contact sports carry with them a high risk of concussions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), football involves a 75% risk of concussion for males. The impact speed of a football player tackling a stationary player is 25mph. The research surrounding chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — the degenerative brain disease that results from compiled hits to the head — has stirred up a national debate concerning the health of players involved in contact sports. However, concussions are extremely difficult to measure. That's why some high schools have adopted concussion sensors created by companies like Shockbox and Checklight. The sensors are placed in helmets or mouthguards, and can wirelessly transmit the force of impact of a hit to another device.