When you think about athletic tracking technology it will serve you well to remember that Catapult Sports is based in Melbourne, Australia and now has new offices in the UK, Asia, and here in the United States. Because of Skype I was able to chat over the Internet with Boden Westover, Media & Marketing Manager, about their new sports business or #sportsbiz happenings.
The #digisport company began with an Australian Institute of Sport concept created for the Athens Olympic Games. With some government funding and mechanical engineers on the team, Catapult Sports was founded in 2005.
Team and individual analysis of micromovements and statistics are becoming standards for sports training, game day, and injury management. In order to fill these sport specific data needs, Catapult Sports has developed a small device known as the OptimEye that fits inside your apparel and assists with performance monitoring but actually does much more.
The current version of the OptimEye Bug now uses up to 12 sensors to measure every sport move. This mobile device gauges 20 different metrics to gather data used for performance enhancement, technique analysis, biomechanics, and skill acquisition. A kayaker’s stroke count, speed and distance are examples of the types of complexities measured by OptimEye. Monitor velocity, height and direction, intensity and training loads, and workout volumes
Measuring acceleration, deceleration, impact, and orientation is done via the OptimEye magnetometers, accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS. Fitness, strength and movement are critical components of sport which the Bug can measure. A player’s work rate and fatigue level are key measurements that can be monitored and optimized by using OptimEye.
“Finding the sweet spot for a squad,” explained Boden,“in workload volume and intensity, are keys to training, game day and injury management.” If there is a technique flaw, OptimEye can spot it in 2D.
Football, basketball, soccer, rowing, and Olympic Sports are target customers. Over 200 elite sports teams and institutions are current users. I asked Boden which NFL team was their best customer, his answer was, “The Dallas Cowboys.”
Their presence in the NBA is impressive in that the New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets are on board. Boden said the feedback from the larger NBA basketball players was, “They did not like the feeling of wearing a sports bra.”
NCAA clients include the University of Oregon, LSU and FSU. The English Premier League has several users and to my surprise, the Seattle Sounders FC of the MLS made the list. Rugby League and Union are signed up.
Perhaps the best Catapult sports league relationship is with the Australian Football League (AFL). The USOC and US Women’s soccer program are high profile U.S. customers. High Performance Centers at IMG Academy, UK Sports and the USOC all use Catapult wares. Research Centers at USC, Connecticut and the Gatorade Sports Science Institution are more impact product users.
Technology that measures and enhances elite athletic performance – the science of winning.
New for 2013 is Catapult ball tracking technology that uses their patented “Smartball technology.” The AFL ball was tested at several Australian University Sports Science studios. This year the AFL will test it at the 2013 NAB Cup. A patented module that weighs 8 grams is inserted into the ball which updates 10 times per second and is within 85 CM of a moving player.
I asked Boden if the NFL has any interest in this amazing ball tracking technology which he replied, “We are in contact with the NFL.” It came across that many sports leagues such as the NFL may want to use this tech but are calling for more testing. Should things go well with the AFL, look for this type of technology to become part of most all sports leagues and events.
Local Position System
The other new Catapult Sports technology is the Indoor GPS system that does not need a satellite link to operate, making it the first of its kind in the industry. “It is more accurate than GPS,” said Boden. They are calling it a Local Positioning System. The design calls for four stationary poles setup at the corners of a field. Boden stated that, “Professional Leagues are interested.”
The just released Sprint 5.0.9 upgrade has been optimized with customizable reports for individuals or a team that can be exported via text or excel file. A Firmware 685 update allows for improved real-time or post training downloads and data accuracy. Reports can be saved with multiple templates. All IMA variables are included. It has an indoor and outdoor setting. Boden says, “The real-time data is being used for tactical analysis and as a teaching tool.”
The accuracy of Catapult Sports technology is impressive. They use a proprietary Inertial Movement Analysis (IMA) algorithm to calculate acceleration/deceleration, free running and movement. Physiological parameters such as heart rate, vertical and horizon movements help to provide accurate measurements. The IMA data can be us used to provide a customizable assessment of workloads for individuals and teams.
Training can be measured by volume and intensity. I like how the technology can address position specific needs for sports like American football. Programs can be tailored for team and individual training needs.
Game Day where games are won and lost. Many OptimEye customers have requested more tactical analysis and decision making capabilities in real-time as a game or sport is played. Monitoring a player or teams fatigue level during Game Day is a competitive edge provided by using the Bug.
Injury Management helps create limits and measure fatigue which helps minimize injuries during a season. Knowing when to push and when to ease up is valuable rehab data. Analyze whether a players training performing is game ready.
The ability to compare plays is an extra capability that the Bug provides. You can compare different plays in order to find out a player’s optimal performance and fatigue data.
The Bug can be used with a Periodization model that helps to measure daily, weekly or monthly training plans in order to known when to push athletes hard, or let them taper, or recovery. Monitoring this data with real-time downloads ensures that a player or team is prepared to have a peak performance during a regular season game and any end of the season playoff games.
The ‘Synch with Video’ function caught my eye as a useful tool. Boden shared it can be used for tactical analysis and for playbooks in a 2D perspective. He said it was, “Like the MLB at Bat app.” Athletic technique, variables and accuracy can be seen with the assistance of video.
Catapult Sports has one special app for rowing that runs on iOS for the IPhone named Coach View. Boden said, “Officials used it in the Olympics.” It’s a performance enhancer, monitors training loads and can be used for race analysis. Distance, velocity and stroke rate are measured. Spilt times, speed, and direction data is also produced. Use Coach View to calculate velocity and stroke speed while assisting with technique analysis. Use the app for optimal workload volume and intensity. Graphs and visuals help to show a boat’s roll, pitch and yaw.
The business development plan is for Catapult to have regional offices around the world with headquarters in Melbourne. The new Catapult Sports office in Atlanta is preparing to put on a seminar at the March Madness Final Four complete with demonstrations and speakers.
I pressed Boden for product pricing and he answered, “No deal is the same, it depends on marketing considerations and the units purchased.” There is a subscription model in place where Catapult Sports can host your data securely and in the clouds.
Sports Techie, Monitoring performance with Catapult Sports technology might be the right tool for you to improve as an athlete, coach, trainer and team. I respect their products because they were created through a passion for sports technology by experts. The 200 elite sports organizations around the world that use Catapult help to legitimatize their products in the eyes of future Sports Techie end users. The data collected by the OptimEye optimizes training, game day and injury management.
The Periodization model is something I did subconsciously as the Head Coach at Redmond HS lacrosse last season. OptimEye is a revolutionary technological tool that assists with the science of finding the sweet spot of performance for individuals and teams. Using the OptimEye to help monitor performance and gauge fatigue are outstanding functionalities of this sports technology.
Smartball Technology is a tech the NFL could use to assist with goal line, first downs, and out of bounds calls. Ball tracking technology by Catapult is a system all leagues should consider implementing. Aussie Rules Football is a definite pioneer for attempting to use this technology in games this season. One thing we know is this tech will only get better as time goes on. As early as 2014, we may see more leagues adopting ball tracking with Smartball Technology.
The Local Positioning System is another new Catapult technology. Rather than rely on GPS they have developed a system that operates inside a facility or outside on a field. The stationary poles produce more accurate measurements and allows for real-time data downloads. One major benefit of performance monitoring this way is the opportunity for instant analysis.
If you go to Atlanta during the Final Four, or contact them after reading our blog, let Catapult Sports and Boden know you heard about their innovative sports technology from Sports Techie. Ask them to analyze you while free running.