News & Events Sports Technology

Sports Tech Shoutouts 2022 06

In this edition of shoutouts, I decided to focus on wearable sensors. Sensors that measure the vertical height (of a jump), that can analyse swimming technique, that measures sweat loss and track metabolic fitness. One of them has been around for close to ten years while the others are just starting out. Find out more below.

There were some exciting sports tech events in recent months including the Sports Tech World Series Conference in Brisbane, Australia and the Sports Tech Research & Innovation Summit (By STRN). If you missed the STRN event, they created a summary/wrap-up video of the summit – Summit 2022 Aftermovie. Here in Melbourne, the “Sports and Event Tech” team at Startupbootcamp also concluded their 3-month accelerator program for their latest cohort of startups. I was fortunate enough to sit in on their pitch (for beers) night (in person!) and listened to 8 startups share their stories of how they are solving challenges related to sports and events. They all had great stories to tell and a massive shoutout to the team that ran the program. The organisers and mentors in the program really created an atmosphere and environment where people were allowed to make mistakes and learn and keep going. It felt really stimulating, collaborative and chill at the same time. It’s brilliant. Though the startups and their products aren’t all the usual ones we cover on SportsTechnologyBlog, I will still give them a brief mention and what they do:

  • MatchKit – a mobile web builder platform that allows athletes to professionally profile themselves, and increase their commercial potential
  • Firefly Initiative – they are creating a blockchain-based ecosystem that records & captures social impact, rewards Volunteers and provides an easier way for organisations to measure corporate social contributions.
  • SmartSportHR (previously Treiner) – is a new smart recruitment platform that integrates the use of technology with a database of thousands of coaches, matching them with organizations looking to fill sports coaching vacancies adequately.
  • Sportzfan (SparkUp Studios) – Through innovative blockchain technology, SportzFan incentivises positive fan behaviours via play-to-earn mechanics which brings teams closer to their fans and provides their sponsors with a unique and interactive channel to promote their brands.
  • Aphetor – Aphetor harnesses the power of Gen Z’s social media consumption to inspire them to get active, embrace challenges, escape their comfort zones, seek new connections and revel in the unknown.
  • HomeGround Sports Analytics – HomeGround analyzes key cricket training metrics from live/recorded training sessions for coaches and players of any level; it helps them customize training plans and improve their game technique.
  • Sonnant – is a SaaS voice content management platform for audio and video creators. It easily captures the key highlights of a football game (or any sport) so teams can quickly share what matters.
  • In.Live – is a live streaming platform designed specifically for live entertainment and tuned by professional artists to deliver superior audio and video quality. An end-to-end, secure ticketing-to-streaming platform featuring highly immersive engagement features.

Do check them out and see how they are changing the landscape of sports organisations and events for the next generation.

But coming back to our regular shout-outs, I want to highlight 4 different wearable sensors: 1) for athletes in volleyball, 2) for swimmers, 3) for sweat tracking and 4) for metabolic tracking. One has been around for almost 10 years while the rest are close to being to launched to the public. Here we go.

VERT Sensor Detects Landing Impacts Of Volleyball Players And Helps Mitigate Risk Of Injury

VERT started back in 2012/2013 and they developed a jump sensor to track how high and how often an athlete jumps. The back story was that Martin Matak, the founder of VERT, was curious about how high players in little-league basketball were jumping. But there wasn’t any suitable technology back in the 1990s that could be easily implemented and accurately determine jump height. Only in the 2010s when inertia sensor technology (IMUs) became more established, VERT could build its product. The VERT sensor can be worn on the waist of an athlete, either clipped on the short’s waistband or a belt. It then detects jumps and calculates the vertical height achieved by the athlete each time. As with most wearable sensor products, the jump data syncs with a smartphone or tablet so that athletes and/or coaches can keep track of those jump metrics.

As they progressed, their sensor solution found its niche in volleyball. By quantifying the jumps of each player during a volleyball match or practice – tracking how high and how often they jump, VERT is able to help coaches analyse the performance of players over time. Coaches can monitor each player’s workload and come up with training plans that can prevent injuries and help players peak at the right time. Besides player load management, the team at VERT has also developed tools for coaches to run specific tests (i.e. VERT drills) and track the athletes’ abilities using the sensor. Also, through analysing lots of sensor data from different programs, they found that jumps from serving lead to the highest landing impacts compared to other jumps (block or attack jumps). After further internal testing, they developed the “Landing Impact” metric. The measures of the landing impacts can be broken down into low impact, medium impact, high impact and alert impact. This new metric combined with other jump and load data can better inform teams and flag higher injury-risk players who might require intervention. You can read more about their update on Landing Impacts here: link . [Additional Note: for those interested, I came across this insightful study on spike-landing motions that talked about how technique affects landing (research study link)]

Different phases of a serve from take-off to landing. Source – study link

Lastly, I found this interesting video by Egor Pupynin, a volleyball player from Russia who used VERT sensors to track the jumps of the whole team and also shared some interesting insights about sensor accuracy (from 4:47):

eo Is Challenging The Status Quo Of Swim Tracking With Their New Wearable

The SwimBETTER wore by Olympic swimmer Kyle Chalmers (source: eo)

eo is a sports technology lab based in Sydney, Australia. Started in 2020, their goal is to develop sports technology solutions that will achieve at least one of these four things for athletes: 1) improve performance, 2) accelerate recovery and adaptation, 3) prevent injury, and 4) aid rehabilitation. The founders are experienced, proven leaders in sports business and sports science; and their approach to achieving those goals mentioned above is by sifting through innovations in different fields of technologies and applying them in sports. What is bold and ambitious about eo’s mission and vision is they want to set new standards for what can be achieved, and they want to do it in multiple sports disciplines. Practically, that means they work with a diverse network of sports performance experts, each with many years of experience in their areas of expertise. One of the products they are launching first is a wearable solution for swimmers called SwimBETTER.

SwimBETTER Sensors worn on the swimmer’s palms (source: eo)

SwimBETTER is essentially two sensors worn on each hand/palm of the swimmer and it identifies areas where the swimmer could work to improve their performance. The hardware was designed and developed in partnership with Boost Design and it recently received a Good Design Award in the Product category. From a sensor hardware point of view, it can capture 3D motion data and force data and it transmits all that data via Bluetooth to the user’s mobile device. Then if we look at the metrics they deliver, those include stroke rate, total force per stroke, force field (or distribution), stroke path, hand velocity, stroke phases (glide, pull, recovery), and stroke path consistency. The sports performance team at eo also shows us how we can apply the above metrics and visual data to improve different phases of the swim stroke. From identifying when a swimmer has a good catch, and when overextension is happening, to understanding how breathing affects a swimmer’s stroke and swim speed. There’s more in their explainer video series.

SwimBETTER Front Crawl Metrics and datat visualisation (source: eo)

At the moment, SwimBETTER is only available for pre-order and they are aiming to ship in November 2022. In terms of swim strokes analysis, they currently have a complete solution for freestyle (or front-crawl). The complete analyses for the other swimming styles are still under development. The product does come with a hardware cost as well as an ongoing license fee/subscription. Check out their product page or if you are interested to know more about other innovations they are working on, go visit their blog: link. Lastly, here’s their promo video below:

FLOWBIO Is Building A Wearable That Helps Athletes Manage Hydration

An early prototype of the FLOWPATCH on a cyclist, tracking sweat loss in real-time (source: FLOWBIO)

FLOWBIO is a startup based in London. It was founded in 2020 by an entrepreneur who is also a triathlete, and an electrical engineer who has experience in System on a chip (SoC) design. The duo met at the Entrepreneur First community (LD14 cohort) and decided to rely on both their backgrounds and expertise to come up with a startup idea that can have a real impact. After some brainstorming, they narrowed down to developing a wearable device for endurance athletes to help them measure and track their performance.

An early conceptual design of FLOWPATCH (source: link)

It is known that sweat contains a wealth of information that when analysed, can provide accurate, real-time data about a person’s health. There are even a number of diseases that can be diagnosed and monitored through biomarkers found in sweat. But the main benefit that is applicable to athletes is monitoring the amount of sodium and chloride in their sweat, the lactate levels and the sweat rate. By tracking electrolyte and fluid loss, athletes can get real-time feedback on their hydration levels and replenish them so that they can maintain their performance. And that’s what FLOWPATCH was created to do – it is a non-invasive wearable device that helps athletes manage their hydration for performance.

Functional prototype of the FLOWPATCH used by beta testers (source: GTN)

The FLOWPATCH is made up of two components – the sensor module/patch and the shell. The sensor module contains microfluidic technology/channels to direct the sweat and electrochemical sensors to measure the fluid loss and the sodium concentration. The shell contains the electronics and processor to convert the signals received from the sensor, process the data and send it to the athlete’s mobile device (smartphone, smartwatch or bike computer). The goal is to translate that sweat loss data into hydration recommendations – to drink how much fluids or replenish certain electrolytes. This information would all be accessible via the companion app. FLOWBIO is also partnering with sports (electrolyte) supplement companies like Science In Sport, and the vision is to allow athletes to have a more precise rehydration/refuelling strategy that meets their needs.

At this stage, FLOWPATCH is still going through beta testing and it is estimated that it will be available to the public in 2023. For those who are interested to get in early, you can sign up for their waiting list. You can also read more about their story here: link, or check out their demo day video below:

[Related Post: The Tech Approach To Managing Hydration]

Ultrahuman Has Developed An Ecosystem Of Wearables To Holistically Track Your Metabolism

Ultrahuman App

Ultrahuman is a health and fitness startup based in India. When they first started, they had an app that focused on fitness and meditation. But within 2 years of starting, they have expanded into hardware. In fact, they have developed an ecosystem of wearables that can provide insights to athletes on how their food intake, training and daily activities are influencing their metabolic health and performance. That ecosystem consists of a Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) solution (Ultrahuman M1), a fitness and sleep tracking ring (Ultrahuman ring), plus of course the Ultrahuman app that brings it (the data) all together giving the user a clear picture of their current condition and how they can further improve it.

Firstly, there’s the Ultrahuman M1 (previously named Cyborg), which relies on sensor hardware from Abbott. It is basically the Abbott Freestyle Libre 2 sensor and it works exactly the same way. After the CGM sensor is applied (on the user) using an applicator, they can monitor their glucose levels for 14 days. The main difference is the Ultrahuman app that syncs the data from the sensor, and the app is also the key interface that analyses the data and provides various insights to the user. Some of the metrics that Ultrahuman uses to guide users include a daily metabolic score, glucose variability, Food Score, Activity Fuel Score, Metabolic vectors etc. The objective is to let users better understand their food/calorie intake in relation to their training schedule and other daily activities, and make better nutrition choices that lead to balanced glucose ranges throughout the day. The only thing is users will have to keep track of their training and activities using another way/device and integrate with a 3rd party app.

Integrating activity and sleep tracking with glucose monitoring (source: link)

Ultrahuman then developed its own hardware (Ring) to track fitness and sleep. That way, they can offer a fully integrated suite that connects food intake with sleep activity, exercise and general well-being. Although there are already other smart rings in the market and we know it can be done, it is still amazing to see how much electronics and sensors can be packed in such a small form (motion sensor, temperature sensor and heart rate sensor). Using the same concept of “scores” to let users know how well they have been doing in the different areas, the Ultrahuman Ring gives users a 1) movement index, 2) sleep index and 3) a recovery score. And for Ring users who also wear the M1 CGM, the Ultrahuman app can take all those data and indices, and deliver predictive insights based on their metabolic profile.

At the point of writing this, the Ultrahuman Ring is taking pre-orders on Kickstarter and they estimate delivery to be in January 2023. Go check them out on their Kickstarter campaign page, or have a look at their campaign video below:

And that is our sixth edition of shoutouts for 2022. Quite a number of interesting new wearables to look out for in the coming months! 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 social using the links below and make sure to subscribe to our blog here: link. As always, thanks for reading!

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