Tim Kelly, Manager of Research & Partnerships within the Innovation, Research and Development (iRD) team at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), uses Catapult’s ClearSky system across a range of sports at the AIS and talks freely about the technology’s impact on performance innovation.
“The Catapult ClearSky system works on the analogy of the GPS system, which obviously uses satellites out in space. But indoors you need to actually replicate the same sorts of things that a satellite would do.
“Around the indoor court you would find what we call nodes, or base stations, or sometimes they’re called anchors. Essentially the anchors act as a satellite and pick up the transponders that are on each of the athletes using local positioning as a way that we can actually monitor and track our athletes.
“The AIS’ role in this is that we’ve always had a strong interest in the loads that players undergo in various sports, and the AIS has been interested in that for a long period of time. This goes back to the early 2000s when we decided to be involved in a Cooperative Research Centre for microtechnology, so we were one of the early pioneers – in Australia especially – for using GPS and inertial sensors in being able to track players around courts, or even rowing boats.
“Obviously in the past, indoor sports haven’t been able to use something like this, because GPS can’t be used indoors, so the ClearSky system has really opened the door for indoor sports to be able to get the kinds of metrics that outdoor sports have been using for about 10 years now.
“The relationship between Catapult and the AIS has been a long and extensive one. From the early collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre, the product development team spun off into a small company called Catapult, which at that time was really three guys in Scoresby, a suburb in Melbourne.
“The AIS continued to fund that company in exchange for product development services and, from those small beginnings, Catapult have done really well with the help of the AIS to tweak the product, add features, and distribute the early product around AFL clubs and Olympic teams, so there were over 21 different sports using it.
“The Australian Diamonds have been an early adopter of this technology and have funded a PhD to really understand whether the match demands, or physical demands of the players, was being matched up with the training the players were receiving.
“All credit to someone like Lisa Alexander (Australian Diamonds Head Coach), who is just a fantastically innovative coach, to see the opportunity there and get a little bit of a competitive advantage in terms of understanding the kinds of loads their players were typically going under. We think real growth area for the technology is the technical and tactical aspects of some of the metrics. As a standard, understanding player loads is a really useful thing to know.
“We think the tactical area is a really strong area to look at and one example that was used by Ric Charlesworth in hockey in the early stages of working with the Australian Kookaburras was that Ric came to the AIS with a question around the type of style the Kookaburras wanted to play, which was more of an expansive game. So really pushing up on the pitch. And Ric wanted to know whether the energy expenditure would be matched by the expenditure of the opposition. And using similar technology we were able to give him an answer and he was able to implement that kind of game.