Good day, and welcome to the second Sports Technology Blog shoutouts for 2022. The year has gone by quick and personally, I find it difficult to keep up with all that is going on because lots have been going on. Just talking about sports, we have just had the Super Bowl in Feb, while the Winter Olympics was going on in Beijing, followed up by the Winter Paralympics. Then at the same time we have the Rugby Six Nations, and the ICC Women’s World Cup happening in New Zealand. And most of us would be aware, that at the same time when all these events were/are taking place, there are LOTS of unrest and calamities happening around the world. So shoutouts to the athletes who stayed focused or are staying focused on what they had to do even with all the distractions and possible anxieties and unknowns about the future. As we like to encourage everyone to do, we just need to keep pushing on.
[Quick question: are you subscribed to our blog? If you are not, do it here (link), so you won’t miss out on any updates!]
Back to our main content. For this edition of shoutouts, we share about smart sensor tech that is aiming to revolutionise cricket, a new development/feature from a sports tech leader that will help streamline performance analysis, and an interesting application of simulation tech that advances equipment development. Read on to learn more.
Smart Cricket Is Delivering Data & Insights To Batsmen And More
Smart Cricket (previously Speculur) was first ideated in 2015 and their goal was to capture data of cricket shots. That idea was developed in the form of a cricket bat sensor (Batsense) and a mobile app which they showcased at the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales. They then officially launched in 2019 and was used during the ICC Cricket World Cup. So how did does it all work and what does it do for a Batsman?
The Batsense sensor is an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that captures acceleration, angular rate and orientation (magnetometer). It can be attached to the end of a cricket bat using a sleeve that acts as an interface. A batsman can install Batsense onto any cricket bat and turn that into a ‘Smart Bat’. Once the sensor is in place and connected to the Batsense smartphone app, the batsman can start hitting and collecting data. The sensor tracks metrics such as Impact time, angles (back lift angle, follow through angle, bat start angle, impact angle, blade angle), speeds (max bat speed, average bat speed, speed at impact), rotation at impact and shot efficiency. These metrics coupled with video footage of the shot and a 3D visualisation (avatar) of the motion helps identify where the batsman is strong at and where they can improve. The app also comes with various features to facilitate coaching and monitoring of player performance throughout trainings and matches.
Since launching in 2019, they have sold over 10,000 units worldwide, and they have even developed Smart Stumps that can collect data from the Batsense and broadcast that data real-time during a match. Going forward, the team at Smart Cricket are committed to expand their range of sensor technology to bring more insights into the game and help level up the performance of budding cricketers while reducing the risk of injuries. Some of those wearable technologies in their roadmap include putting sensors in cricket gloves, cricket helmets, shin pads, cricket ball and even shoes. Definitely a space to look out for. In the meantime, check out this explainer video from Nasser Hussain:
Vald Performance Integrates Vision Tracking Into Their ForceDecks Platform
Ever since ForceDecks became part of Vald Performance in 2018, they have been making lots of little improvements to make performance measures easier and better. Just over a year ago, they released the ForceDecks Mini to offer an ultra-portable solution so it’s easier to bring it around. This year, they have integrated video capture into their ForceDeck iPad app so that users (physios, exercise scientists, etc) can easily record the athlete’s movement, posture and joint angles, and review it in relation to the ground reaction forces (GRF) data from the ForceDecks dual force plates.
It may seem like a simple add-on, but the benefits are really significant. Firstly, syncing video and force plate data is not always straightforward. ForceDecks has not only done that, but they have incorporated computer vision algorithms to identify and annotate key moments and phases of the assessments/measures. So when it comes to reviewing the assessment and giving feedback to the athlete, the exercise scientist can quickly jump to the specific annotated key moments instead of trying to manually scroll through the video to find them. Secondly, having visual reference of the athlete’s movement, side-by-side with the data helps provide better context to the athlete and helps keep them engaged. One additional thing Vald Performance has done is developed a wireless adapter for the older ForceDecks models so that users of those models can also utilise this new iPad feature. Read more about ForceDecks Vision here: link. Or check out their video below:
Altair’s Suite Of Tools Allow Hockey Stick Engineers To Simulate & Optimise Their Design For Slapshots
A little bit of history lesson: Ice Hockey sticks were originally made of wood with the oldest known hockey stick dating back to the mid-1830s (according to Wikipedia). They were early on made from the maple or willow trees and later on carved from elm, yellow birch, aspen or ash. The hockey sticks were carved from a single piece of wood and they were really heavy but they were also really durable. Later on in the 1940s, manufacturers came up with laminated sticks (multiple layers of wood glued together) which were much lighter and more flexible. The 1950s saw the introduction of fibreglass to strengthen the sticks and the 1960s was when the curved blade became a thing. Then it was in the 1990s that composite shafts were adopted followed by the one-piece composite stick making its debut in the 2000s (Thanks to another useful reference: hockeystickman). So besides the curved blade, the main developments/innovations of hockey stick design were in the materials used for the shaft and blade, and the advanced methods of manufacturing. This made them stronger, lighter and with the right stiffness and flex at the right places,
From the perspective of engineering and manufacturing, when a new hockey stick is designed, it needs to be prototyped and tested (in the lab and field), and it will likely go through a few iterations of design and testing before it is released to the market. That can be a long process. And when it comes to designing a high performance hockey stick, one that is capable of delivering a highly vigorous shot like the slap shot, it becomes quite challenging to quantify that capability. How much stiffness and flexibility at which points of the stick would allow the player to perform a good slap shot? Could we even execute the exact same slap shot so that a proper comparison can be made? (It would probably go in the “too hard basket”).
But that’s where engineering modelling and simulation can come in and answer that, and quantify it much more efficiently and accurately. Altair’s simulation solutions gives the engineer all the tools they need to:
- design & model the hockey stick (HyperWorks),
- do material selection and comparison (Multiscale Designer)
- or do structural optimisation (OptiStruct)
- and simulate the slap shot (Radioss)
The above clip is an example of a slap shot simulation from Altair where two different stick materials were compared – a composite stick vs a wooden stick. They found that the composite stick had a much higher amount of control over the puck and thus generated more shot power than its wooden counterpart even though they were given the same velocity input. You can read more about how they manage their simulations here: link. I shall also leave you with this clip of the hardest shot in AHL/NHL by Martin Frk where he did a 109.2 mph (175.74 km/h) breaking the previous record of 108.8 mph by Zdeno Chara:
And that is our second edition of shoutouts for 2022. If you would like more information about any of the above, or you have some sports tech ideas you would like to chat to someone about , feel free to reach out or leave a comment below. If you enjoy our content, please do share it on the socials using the links below and make sure to subscribe to our blog here: link. As always, thanks for reading!