Elite level athletes have long had the ability to integrate data analysis principles into their training – monitoring and crunching data on their performance to help them break personal bests and world records.
Thanks to the explosion of the Internet of Things – the idea that just about any everyday object can be made “smart”, and able to collect data and communicate wirelessly – these sort of insights are now available to athletes and players at any level.
Here’s a rundown of what I think are five of the best Internet of Things enabled sports and training gadgets and apps which can help you to take your game to the next level:
Babolat has been producing tennis racquets for almost 150 years, and has always moved with the times, their products evolving from wooden frames, to metal and then carbon fibres. The influx of smart tech and data analysis in sports is the latest game changer, and Babolat has stayed on the ball here, too, with the introduction of the Play Pure Drive racquet.
Sensors in the handle record every shot that is made, registering the direction of travel and the point of contact, as well as the force, of the ball with the racquet.
Keeping all of the sensors in the handle means that the impact of their weight or positioning on the racquets handle is minimized. A smartphone app acts as a personal coach, analyzing the data collected by the racquet and comparing it with data from other players stored in its database, in order to suggest improvements to your game.
You don’t have to buy a whole new racquet to benefit from smart tennis technology. Providing you have a compatible racquet, Sony’s Smart Tennis Sensor will simply clip on, allowing you to collect data on every shot. Like the Babolat it comes with its own app which is also a portal to the data collected and collated by other users of the service. Unlike the Babolat, the device can also record video, allowing you to review every shot after the game. This video can be overlaid with graphical visualizations created from the data captured by the racquet, allowing for even deeper insights into a player’s performance.
This smart football (or soccer ball to Americans) aims to help you improve your play by providing instant feedback on the power and trajectory of your kicks. Like Babolat, Adidas is another old-school sports equipment manufacturer which has consistently moved with the times and clearly sees Big Data and Analytics as the current driving force in sports tech development. The device hides all of its sensors right in the middle of the ball where they won’t affect its dynamics, and transmits them over Bluetooth to its partner smartphone app. It allows free kicks and penalties to be practiced even in a confined area – kick the ball against a wall and the visualizations will show how it would have travelled if you were in the middle of an open pitch.
Zepp Labs is a company established with the aim of bringing data analysis into consumer-level sports tech. Their Zepp Golf solution consists of a sensor-enabled glove which is worn during play, and which transmits data on the player’s swing to an analytical smart phone app. One insight which came up early in testing of the product was that older golfers tend to pull back less distance before a swing, resulting in less shot power. The personal coach element of the app monitors a player’s performance for these flaws and suggests remedial action in real-time. The company also produces smart products for baseball and tennis players, and has most recently moved into softball.
A sock might be one of the last gadgets you would expect to see “smartened up” for the Internet of Things age, but you would be wrong!
Sensoria have produced this sensor-stuffed smart sock for runners, which is able to measure not only how far and fast you travel, but the way your foot impacts with the ground – helping you to minimize the risk of stress or injury by maintaining a good form throughout your run. Among its innovations is the sensor technology itself. Textile-based sensors have been developed which can sit between the foot and the running shoe without causing discomfort, and can even be thrown in the washing machine with your regular laundry. Sensoria is another company which was founded specifically to produce sports equipment with analytic functionality, and after raising money for its first product, the sock, via crowdfunding, it has gone on to develop a t-shirt and sports bra also incorporating its textile sensor technology.