Accelerating Sports Technology Development And Innovation

Roughly 4 years ago, I wrote a post about crowdsourcing sports innovation – how sports companies and organisations were inviting people with ideas to step forward and pitch their innovations. Fast forward to 2017, the ways of generating new sports tech ideas have grown and evolved. From sports hackathons to accelerators, incubators, and Meetups, and online communities and invite-only/secret-squirrel investment funds or a mash-up of 2 or more of the above.  I am definitely no expert in this area but based on my very limited experience, here’s a look at a few of the possible ways to accelerate sports technology development and innovation.

Hackathons

One way of defining hackathons* (from HackathonAustralia) is this: “Hackathons are competitions that challenge people to create something over a set time period using technologies.”. So in the case of a sports hackathon, that “something” created would be an innovative sports tech solution that meets an existing need/pain. It could be a hardware solution or a software solution or both.

[Themes] Depending who is organising or sponsoring the hackathon, events could have a specific theme/focus like the Western Bulldogs hackathon that provided participants with their athletes’ GPS data to do further analysis or the Future Of Sports Tech Hackathon by Enflux that allowed participants to use their motion capture technology or the Hack4Sports that had a focus on building sports tech startups.

[Needs Assessment] Whichever the theme, the participants would require some guidance/directions on real needs vs good-to-haves. That’s where industry experts and end-users (sports clinicians/analysts/coaches etc) who are at the event, can offer that perspective. This could be through talks or interactive workshops on specific areas such as improving performance or injury prevention or increasing participation etc.

[Forming teams] Following that, teams need to be formed to design the solutions. Some participants might have already formed teams prior to signing up to hackathons. But it is quite common for people to rock up by themselves. So hackathons might dedicate a session for team-forming. Typically people who have a passion in the same area would team up. Other than that, it is also helpful to have a good mix of hackers, hipsters and hustlers in the team.

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Hustler, Hipster and Hacker

[Pitching Comp] Most hackathons involve a pitching competition which means the solution (created within that 1 or 2 days of hacking) has to be validated with real life users/customers and has a potential market fit. The team with the winning pitch usually wins something that can help them take their idea further. That could be prize money or often they get to be part of an accelerator program to develop that Lo-fi prototype into a minimum viable product (MVP). Else they at least have bragging rights.

[If you are interested in a sports hackathon, please complete this SURVEY]

Meetups

Sports Tech Meetups (literally on the Meetup site) are to some extent scaled down versions of hackathons and/or pitching competitions. It is usually a local group of sports tech-minded people getting together once in a while to do stuff such as pitch nights or show-and-tell or have people already in the industry sharing their insights and experience. There are no fixed rules and format which makes it quite casual and there are no barriers to joining a meetup other than geography. All you need is an interest in sports technology.

[Here’s a couple of examples: Melbourne Sports Analytics Meetup, Seattle Sports Tech Meetup]

This makes Meetups a good platform for people who are new to sports tech to come explore the field, network and learn more.  It is also good for people who have developed a concept or MVP to come and get feedback from others (through pitch nights or show-and-tells). The next steps for these people could be to take part in a hackathon or join an accelerator program or incubator.

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Online Communities

I believe this is quite plain and doesn’t require much explanation. There are quite a number of online platforms that allow people with an interest or a stake in sports technology to be a part of. From Google Groups to LinkedIn Groups to Facebook Pages. But what I observed (at least on LinkedIn Groups) is that there are very little open discussions within the groups/pages. In most cases, article posts get “Likes” or 1 or 2 Comments. Sometimes the posts are just companies trying to promote their products and services which often gets no “Reactions” whatsoever. So I am not sure if these groups are any good at promoting or even accelerating innovations in sports tech.

There is another online platform that has been growing in popularity (in the last few years) especially in the startup community – it is an invite only platform called Slack. Basically, it is meant to be an internal chat system for team members of an organisation to have work/project discussions. But one sports technology startup group that call themselves Starters decided to jump on this platform and allowed anyone who is in a sports tech startup (or trying to build one) to sign up to be part of the group. Though there is a fee to get in, it’s mostly to ensure that only people who are seriously interested join.

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But what is happening within this Starters Slack group is quite phenomenal. Ideas are exchanged, there are open discussions, Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions, connections and introductions are made online, followed with meet-ups in real life, actual events (hackathons, accelerator programs & meetups) are organised and promoted, and I am sure there is more happening between individuals through direct messages (DMs). What’s amazing is that though it’s mainly based in the US, there are individuals and companies participating from all over the world.

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Starters – a global sports tech startup community

Slightly similar to Starters is a SportsBiz slack group started by the SportsGeek from Melbourne. The main difference is that there is slightly less emphasis on startups or sports technology and more on sports business in general. But the objective is not that different – to use the platform for sharing ideas, finding collaborators and opportunities, and ultimately pushing the sports industry forward.

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Some Key Points

So there are a few key points that I take out of this. One of it is, we need to collaborate. No one can build anything great on their own. Not only do we need a diverse team with different skill sets, we need input from other people (locally & globally) or run the risk of tunnel vision. Secondly, competition spurs innovation. Which is quite apt since we are talking about sports technology here, where one of the aims of it is to help athletes perform better and win the competition. Lastly, none of the avenues on its own can be the be-all, end-all of this topic. Especially if we are talking about building successful long-term sports tech enterprises. People at different stages of their ideas or development would probably go through a different process. What may work for some may not work for others. We may need to change from something that doesn’t work anymore (e.g. LinkedIn Groups) to something else that does (e.g. Slack).

I know I haven’t commented much about accelerators and incubators. That’s mainly because I have not had any personal experience with them. What I do know is that you need to at least have a team (and not just a great idea) to be part of an accelerator and preferably an MVP to join an incubator.

Finally, I think for someone who: has a few good ideas, is passionate about  (or has some exposure to) sports technology and doesn’t quite have a clear direction or built a team yet, a Sports Hackathon can be a good place to start. So this is something I would like to explore a little more. If you think the same way and would like to take part in a sports hackathon (or not), or if you have other thoughts on accelerating sports technology innovation, do help me out and complete this SURVEY or leave a comment or drop me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn. With that, thanks for reading!

Other related readings:


*Hackathons have also been known as hack days, hackfests, startup weekends, makeathons, design-athons etc.

A new Journal, the rise and rise of sport technology

journal of advanced sport technology.jpgCongratulations to Abbas Meamarbashi and colleagues on the founding of the Journal of Advanced Sports Technology, servicing the middle east as well as the international community, it so exciting to see it developing everywhere. Sports Technology really has exploded in the past decade becoming a mainstream role in many sporting organisations and popular through consumer devices. It also offers unparalleled opportunities for sports scientists and allied health researchers and professionals to ask and answer many more interesting research questions that can ultimately benefit humanity.

 

Its a delight to see Griffith SABEL director David Rowlands amongst the editorial board too. Thanks for the invitation to publish the guest piece “Wearable Technology in sport, a convergence of trends” as well. I quite enjoyed exploring the underlying trends that have created the opportunities today and some pointers for the way forward.

 

You can read the entire first issue here

Design Tech and coding – How I got owned by high school students!

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Joining the Cavendish Road SHS year 10 coding class with Mr. Thomson

Well I got to be a school boy again earlier this week. Having had something of a collaboration with the Head of Business and Technology – David Thomson at Cavendish Road High School I was delighted to be invited to share some of of the joys of working with coding, sensors and more recently wearable technologies with STEM students. Sport is a great hook for engagement and SABEL’s success in a wide range of elite sports made for some great conversation. It was a great opportunity to interact with his Yr10 Digital Technology and the Yr 11 Technology Studies students under the watchful eye of Don Markovic. I was impressed with the coding abilities of the students and the delivery of the programme though a mixture of fun, experimentation to build real skills.

The Tech Studies students who are undertaking a project of their choice were an inquisitive bunch often getting the gist of why we might want to measure stroke rate in a rower or jump height of a snowboarder and asking so many insightful questions. Under Don’s tutelage I was able to talk about the importance of lowing project risk, getting that early win (which we call MVP- minimum viable product in the game) rather than creating the dream feature rich technology straight up. I’m looking forward to seeing how their projects progress over the break and through term 2. Well done Cavendish Rd SHS I could clearly see where their motto of tradition meets innovation at work.

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Talking about the value of iteration in the design and execution process

This article also appears as an Advance Queensland Community Digital Champion article

Sport 2.0, where are we heading?

sport 2-0 andy miah.jpgSometime ago I had the opportunity to review an interesting book for MIT press entitled SPORT 2.0 with a complimentary copy turning up in the mail just recently. As someone working in advancing the use of technology in sport this book provided a refreshing viewpoint of what is happening from a grander perspective. It speaks to the way we think and do sport as the world changes before our very eyes with almost no aspect of sport left untouched. In my own little niche it reminds me of Porters work for HBR on Smart devices (How smart connected devices are transforming competition). Andy Miah, the author takes us on a tour deforce of what we might think sport is through looking at what games are culturally as well as in the more traditional sporting context. He considers Sport 2.0 in the context  of the digital environment, gaming and augmented reality as progressive and at times disruptive innovations. The history and ensuing evolution of the Olympic games makes for a very interesting case study and is a major focus. An entire section of the book looks at the development of the games in modern times with the influence of media, social media, citizen journalism and what mobile technologies are doing in this arena. If your so deeply into your sport or technology such that you can’t see the wood for the trees this one might give you a grander perspective, all for not much more than a paperback  price.

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/sport-20

@andymiah

# Sport 2.0

iMOVE CRC bid success

imovecrc-logo-260.pngEarly last year SABEL Labs and colleagues were pleased to work with several Universities in the preperation of a CRC bid, the iMOVE CRC. Happily the bid was successful and we congratulate Dr Jim Lee of Charles Darwin University  for his efforts in leading their institutional success. iMOVE CRC is focused on intelligent transport systems and cuts across almost every facet of Australian life.

Whats that got to do with Sports Technology you ask? Well we reckon wether two legs or four the technologies are about the same and we can apply what we know about human locomotion to that of cattle as they make their journey from the paddock to the plate. A happy cow, that grazes just enough, is great for the Australian economy and given that 80% of export cattle pass through the port of Darwin there is a natural nexus there. Of course this is just the beginning as the integration with other parts of the value chain lead to some quite exciting analytics, fusion of data and applying our wireless technologies in new and interesting ways.

Looking forward to what comes next Jim!

Heres the press release in full!

MEDIA RELEASE  (from http://www.imovecrc.com )

$55 million federal grant for ten-year intelligent transport R&D centre will deliver better transport systems for Australia 

More productive and safer transport systems country-wide are an important step closer with today’s announcement that the federal government is supporting a new intelligent transport cooperative research centre (iMOVE CRC) with a $55 million R&D grant.

The iMOVE CRC has been in development for over 18 months and is strongly supported by industry, technology innovators, state road authorities, federal and state government departments and industry associations. These partners are complemented by Australia’s best research talent in fields relating to the development of intelligent transport systems.

The centre’s establishment is well-timed due to the challenges currently faced by Australia’s transport systems and the rapidly evolving development of technologies and business models that can help solve these issues.

“Transport is the backbone of our economy. As a country we will fall behind if we cannot move our people and goods effectively and efficiently,” says bid lead for iMOVE CRC, Ian Christensen.

“Our roads are congested and our transport systems are not co-ordinated and it’s getting worse in many cases. The establishment of the iMOVE CRC gives us an immediate opportunity to tackle this situation, by harnessing the power of ‘big data’, developing smarter solutions and engaging with the community to trial and deploy new technologies.”

The CRC funding and ten-year timeframe will enable the 46 partners to develop technology outcomes that will benefit the whole of Australia. It will deliver better options and experiences for individual travellers, much-needed productivity improvements in logistics and access to new markets for business.

Says iMOVE CRC Bid Chair, Ian Murray AM, “As a country, we lose around $16.5 billion a year because of congestion. When you also factor in the human and financial losses due to accidents, we are looking at a phenomenal social and economic cost. We will now have the technology and smarts available to significantly alleviate these problems.

“The iMOVE CRC has a research program and experienced people ready to start work immediately. I am tremendously excited by the opportunities we have in front of us with this funding.”

The introduction of connected and intelligent transport systems also requires national coordination mechanisms. The iMOVE CRC will play a role alongside other national bodies in assisting states, territories and peak industry bodies to collaborate and deliver cohesive national outcomes.

“The current explosion of data, the computing power of mobile phones, and the increasing automation of vehicles creates a vast range of opportunities to improve the range, safety, convenience and effectiveness of peoples’ travel options. Mobility and transport is one of the most exciting and dynamic aspects of urban and economic development. With its broad range of partners the iMOVE CRC will enable Australian organisations to develop world leading products and services.

“As well as with our partners we will be working in consultation with numerous other stakeholders, such as the Australian Logistics Council and the National Transport Commission. This will enable us to get the best possible outcomes for Australia,” says Mr. Christensen.

MEDIA RELEASE

“We are eager to get things happening
and look forward to working closely with all our partners and stakeholders over the next ten years.”

About iMOVE CRC 

The iMOVE CRC is a new national intelligent transport R&D centre funded through the Co-operative Research Centres programme. It is supported by 46 industry, government and research partners including the federal departments of ‘Industry Innovations and Science’ and ‘Infrastructure and Regional Development’, state road authorities, retailers, logistics and insurance companies, technology developers, automobile clubs and many of Australia’s top universities.

The ten-year centre will undertake industry-led research that uses emerging technologies to improve Australian transport systems nationally. It will deliver fast and predictable freight systems and enhanced mobility for Australians on the roads and public transport.

http://www.imovecrc.com 

Contacts 

Ian Christensen, Bid Lead

ichristensen@imovecrc.com

0411 276 104

Jacqueline King, Bid Secretariat jking@imovecrc.com
0404 045 293

Congratulations James Lee

jimssportslab-smallCongratulations to our SABEL NT director James Lee (and founder of Jim’s Sports Lab) on his recent promotion to Senior Lecturer at Charles Darwin University and recent publication.

Dr. Lee has never been shy to follow his passion for sports technology a journey that has taken him to Japan for a year with Ohgi laboratory, and several teaching and research positions at a number of leading Austrlian universities. Since landing at Chares Darwin university just a few years ago he has transformed their teaching programmes through the adoption of online and social media technologies to create a more engaging programme, led several research initiatives to help solve problems unique to the Northern areas, coordinated the areas participation in a CRC bid (fingers crossed) and continued to collaborate widely.

Recently this has also leading to a publication on cloud based wearable sensor technologies and data analytics platform, as a partnership between SABEL Labs members and the Kanoya National Institute of Sports and Fitness.

An Architectural Based Framework for the Distributed Collection, Analysis and Query from Inhomogeneous Time Series Data Sets and Wearables for Biofeedback Applications

James Lee 1,* David Rowlands 2, Nicholas Jackson 2, Raymond Leadbetter 2, Tomohito Wada 3 and Daniel A. James

Abstract: The increasing professionalism of sports persons and desire of consumers to imitate this has led to an increased metrification of sport. This has been driven in no small part by the widespread availability of comparatively cheap assessment technologies and, more recently, wearable technologies. Historically, whilst these have produced large data sets, often only the most rudimentary analysis has taken place (Wisbey et al in: “Quantifying movement demands of AFL football using GPS tracking”). This paucity of analysis is due in no small part to the challenges of analysing large sets of data that are often from disparate data sources to glean useful key performance indicators, which has been a largely a labour intensive process. This paper presents a framework that can be cloud based for the gathering, storing and algorithmic interpretation of large and inhomogeneous time series data sets. The framework is architecture based and technology agnostic in the data sources it can gather, and presents a model for multi set analysis for inter- and intra- devices and individual subject matter. A sample implementation demonstrates the utility of the framework for sports performance data collected from distributed inertial sensors in the sport of swimming.

You can download the full version Here PDF Version: http://www.mdpi.com/1999-4893/10/1/23/pdf

 

 

Scope TV segment airing tomorrow 8:30am Channel 11

So you may remember getting a behind the scenes look at a ScopeTV segment we filmed on our virtual reality cycling simulator. The episode goes to air at 8.30am Saturday 04/02/2017 (tomorrow) morning.

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This is just the prototype of the project, with the entire experience being created with help from my wonderful friends at the Griffith University IDEA Lab. We’ve moved on to new and exciting testing with this device and a few other games are in the works. Looking forward to putting the results from the research studies out there for you to look at soon. Hopefully you can tune in and see the episode live as it airs, if you are from further abroad or can’t watch it live, we will post a link when it hits the web!

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