Euro 2016: Immersing Yourself in Smart Football Tech
As the great EURO 2016 tournament has already started, football enthusiasts from around the world are hotly anticipating the opportunity to see their heroes tackling and running for miles within each game, following the ball, their opponents or exploring better positions.
Performance data is being used in many sports, but it has largely been neglected in football, as it is a complex, creative sport that is difficult to quantify. Some stars’ stats might be surprising – people were amazed when Adidas published Messi’s performance data from a recent game and it turned out that the best player in the world was… strolling around the pitch for most of the time.
As the trend of the ‘quantified self’ gathers momentum month by month, football performance seems to be an interesting field to explore, especially during such an inspiring time as the EURO tournament. Wouldn’t it be cool to measure your own football stats and compare them against the world’s top footballers? Or at least have another reason to gloat in front of your buddies after a friendly game?
A couple of years ago Adidas launched miCoach – a range of smart products that allow you to track your on-pitch performance. There is X-Cell that allows you to track your heart rate and acceleration, Speed Cell that you can plug into your boots or even a Smart Ball that records the strength of your shot, swerve, speed and other metrics related to the quality of your strike. Not unsurprisingly, all of this comes via the use of mobile apps that offer features such as training tips (e.g. how to kick to swerve a ball or how to improve lateral movement), the ability to track your performance stats and share it with your friends.
Nike seems to be more cautious in investing into this space, however we have witnessed a couple of smaller projects emerging here and there. One example is the Nike Football app, containing drills, games and useful content for football players. 4 years ago, Nike filed a number of interconnected smart device patterns, however these ideas have been either dropped or are still in development. They were exploring ideas such as optical footballer tracking, a smart ball with multiple sensors, smart shoes, smart shin pads etc. Nike was even planning to track proximity between players, which could give football coaches great insight into their players’ tactical performance.
Microsoft has also come into the game via their partnership with Sensoria, a platform that allows clubs to create consolidated heatmaps, using metrics both at player level and for the whole team. With innovative data modelling, team tactics can be evaluated quantitatively and necessary adjustments can be made rapidly, even before the next game!
Training performance has been measured for years now. Major fitness brands and other technology providers are continuously striving to support football clubs with smart gear – and it seems like this field of technology will just keep growing. The only thing that can impede these efforts are major football associations, who are still reluctant to allow too much tech on the pitch. So whilst we still need to wait for the football world to become fully connected, every step we take forward gets us closer to that goal.