|16 February 2017|

USA

Sensors in sports equipment could help coaches and athletes improve their performance, a new study suggests.

As an alternative to the costly process of gathering data through cameras in stadiums and courts, sensors embedded in sports equipment – such as balls, rackets, and shoes – is a way of making big data analytics more accessible for the sports industry.

That is the belief of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who say sensors could be used to send real-time analytics to a smartphone.

“There’s a lot of interest in analyzing sports data though high-speed cameras, but a system can cost up to $1 million to implement and maintain. It’s only accessible to big clubs,” said Mahanth Gowda, a PhD candidate in computer science and lead author of the study, Bringing IoT to Sports Analytics. “We want to cut down the expense significantly by replacing cameras with inexpensive internet-of-things devices (costing less than $100 in total) to make it possible for many other organizations to use the technology.”

Romit Roy Choudhury, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science at Illinois, led the team jointly with Sharon Yang from Intel – in developing the advanced motion tracking algorithms.

The tiny sensors wrapped inside protective case “employ inferencing algorithms that can track movement to within a few centimetres. They can accurately characterize 3D ball motion, such as trajectory, orientation, and revolutions per second.”

Romit said: “This level of accuracy and accessibility could help players in local clubs read their own performance from their smartphones via Bluetooth, or school coaches could offer quantifiable feedback to their students. The feedback could also help with detecting and analyzing player injuries, such as concussions. The sensor inside a soccer ball, for example, can measure how hard it hits a player’s head, giving coaches an indication about whether to treat the player for head injury.”

He added: “We’re motivated to develop this technology to help coaches make better decisions on and off the field and provide enhanced entertainment to viewers.We want to bring advanced but affordable sports analytics to everyone, anywhere, anytime.”

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