News & Events Sports Technology

Sports Tech Shoutouts – April 2021

In this edition of Shoutouts, we wanted to focus on three developments that would be of particular interest to i) sports tech startups developing for the game of football, ii) athletes who would like to run/move better with the help of tech & a movement coach, and iii) sports product designers and researchers who are concerned about aerodynamics. Read more below.

Ahoy there! It’s hard to believe that the month has passed by so quickly. There have definitely been some dejavu moments where some parts of the world have gone back to ‘lockdown’ or we hear of ‘spikes in numbers’. After a while, it feels like there hasn’t been much improvement to the pandemic situation and we are just at a standstill. In fact, some countries in the world are having extended lockdowns because that seems to be quite the effective strategy so far. On the bright side, some things are still pushing ahead. Like the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The situation is not great in Tokyo but the Olympic, Paralympic and organising committees are doing all they can (with the assistance of experts around the world) to ensure that the events can still take place safely for the athletes. April was pretty eventful for international sports as we had days such as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace and World Table Tennis Day (April 6th), Play True Day (April 9th) that encourages clean sport and April 14th marked 100 days to go till the Olympics. There are also more of these interesting Olympic related happenings around the world here: link.

But for this edition of Shoutouts, I have got three pieces of news/features/developments that I really want to bring to everyone’s attention. And I think these are really worth your time reading, especially if you are either:

  • 1) an athlete looking for a program to help you move better (wherever you are), OR
  • 2) a sports practitioner with some background in biomechanics, OR
  • 3) a sports product designer who is developing a product that needs aerodynamics testing or simulation, OR
  • 4) a sports researcher looking for an easy to use and scalable flow simulation software, OR
  • 5) a sports tech startup/business with a product that could have a positive impact on the game of football

If you belong to any of the above, this is definitely for you. But still, if you have already read till this point, you know you need to find out more. So here goes ->

Plantiga Launches Their Beta Program To Help Athletes Move Better

Plantiga is a sports/health tech startup that has been tinkering with the idea of smart footwear applications for quite a number of years. The founders saw that there were various gaps and opportunities in athletics, healthcare, biometric security and even logistics that could be filled if they could put sensors in people’s shoes and track their lower limb movement everywhere they went; and experts could look into that data to better understand how they were moving and there were multiple potential applications. But they soon narrowed down their focus and developed instrumented insoles for sports and health applications. Their hardware (insoles with IMU sensors) and software platform are designed for sports and health practitioners to easily perform movement tests with their clients/athletes to assess function, gait, asymmetries, performance ability and readiness. They are currently working with around 60 partners including clinics and professional teams where most of these partners use their platform to do baseline measures on their athletes and from there, monitor progress or performance.

More recently, Plantiga launched their Beta Program that targets individual athletes. Athletes who sign up for the Beta Program will receive a set of insoles with sensors to track their training and activities involving their lower limbs (walk, runs, jumps). They can monitor their progress over time on the Plantiga App. But more importantly, they will be connected with a Movement Coach who would check in on them remotely/virtually on a weekly basis to review and analyse their data. Then the Coach will break it down for them and provide personalised insights to help them achieve their goals. Ultimately, the aim of the program is to use data and actionable insights to improve and strengthen the athletes limbs so they not only perform better but it also extends the longevity of their career. If you are an athlete and this resonates with you, you can sign up to their Beta Program here: link.

An additional note:- besides inviting athletes to join the Beta Program, Plantiga is also looking to onboard more Movement Coaches to be part of this movement. The last I spoke to the founder (Quin Sandler) there is particular interest in recruiting remote Coaches with a biomechanics background and in the Australasia region. For sports practitioners or biomechanists who might be interested, there are more details on their LinkedIn page. Lastly, check out their promo video below.

AirShaper Is Optimising Sports Products Design Through Their Cloud-Based Simulation Platform

The design of sports apparel/products requires various considerations including fit, comfort and performance. Performance of a sports apparel/product could mean better structural support, better protection, more flexibility, better thermal management, better airflow or less drag, etc. When thinking about better airflow/aerodynamics and reducing drag, we might consider wind tunnel tests or running computer simulations. The challenge with both of those are they can cost a lot – not just money but time and computing resources.

AirShaper has created an on-demand cloud-based platform that can help product designers effectively and efficiently test and understand the aerodynamics of their designs. It gives users the option of 3 different tiers of analysis – from ‘Basic’, ‘Regular’, to ‘Advanced’ (which provides the most in-depth analysis). Designers could either upload their 3D CAD (Computer-aided design) model or upload their 3D scans (in .STL file format) to the AirShaper platform, pick the simulation options required, then pay at the checkout. The simulation/s then starts running on AirShaper’s cloud-based platform and once that is completed, users receive a full analysis report and they can access those results on the AirShaper website.

A couple of examples of sports equipment companies that successfully utilised AirShaper’s platform were Vaude and Decathlon. For Vaude, they were designing a new backpack for cyclists, and they wanted to come up with a design that could let cyclists stay cool when they are riding. They first ran simulations using the 3D model of a cyclist to understand airflow around a cyclist and they identified potential cooling channels which they could incorporate into their backpack design. They performed further simulations to optimise their designs before conducting wind tunnel tests to validate their designs. Read more about the Vaude and AirShaper project here: link.

AirShaper Shape optimisation tool

In Decathlon’s case, they were working on a new bicycle helmet and their focus was reducing drag in their design. AirShaper’s new shape optimisation software/tool goes through iterations of morphing the shape of the model/object and evaluating the aerodynamics based on parameters and goals that the user sets until the performance target is met. This helped Decathlon in achieving their desired design specification.

So for any sports product designers or researchers out there who are looking for an easy and scalable simulation program to help them with aerodynamics related optimisations, do check out AirShaper and their options. Lastly, check out this video below about their work with Vaude.

FIFA Launches New Solution-Driven Innovation Program To Tackle Five Challenges

FIFA, the governing body of association football has recently introduced the FIFA Innovation Program. As written on the FIFA website – “The FIFA Innovation Programme is FIFA’s vehicle for dealing with innovative products that enter the market but are not ready or currently eligible for use in the game of football.” What they are saying is that they recognise that sports tech startups or even established organisations may have developed a useful product or product variation/feature that could be a game-changer (super beneficial) for the sport of football. However, current rules and regulations are unable to accommodate that technology/innovation. Therefore, FIFA is running this program as a pathway for innovations to go through a period of testing and validation (while adhering to FIFA’s guidelines and timeline of 2 years) with the goal of becoming eligible for in-game use.

There is a list of key criteria that interested applicants (sports tech organisations) must fulfil before they can apply to the program. Those criteria include:

  1. The product or solution must already exist, at least in the form of a prototype
  2. The product must address one of the five challenges as set out in the Innovation Program
  3. The applicant must have a viable supporting competition organiser willing to host (experimental) trials using the product
  4. The applicant must propose a plan on how controlled trials and monitored experiments can be run and how independent assessment will allow for validation
  5. The applicant must have a clear timeline in mind that does not exceed two years and bear all costs in relation to points 1-4.

Now the five challenges are established based on collating and refining the needs currently faced by the football world and picking out the ones that can be solved through technological innovations. Interestingly, two of the challenges are about football equipment and playing surfaces and the other three are about officiating technologies.

Since it has been announced, there are already a few companies that have been accepted into the program (PlayerMaker, Vieww, and VivaTurf). There are no concrete dates set on the FIFA website as far as we can see. So sports tech businesses that have innovative solutions and meet the criteria should go ahead and apply to the program. There are more details about the launch of the program here: link.

And that is our sports tech shoutouts for April 2021. Hopefully, it would have inspired some of us and led to some actions in the right direction. If you would like more information about any of the above, or if something sparked an idea and you would like to chat about it, feel free to reach out or leave a comment below. If you enjoy our content, please do share it using the links below or subscribe to our blog here: link. As always, thanks for reading!

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