David’s Take on Tech & Sport – Data Stacking
This week’s column is all about wearables and GPS in football. Smart devices are all around us in daily life and I have been closely watching their introduction to the world of football. However, in my opinion, nowadays implementation of wearables and GPS in football only gives half the insights you would expect. How to unravel the other half? Find out below…
The future of football? Data stacking!
‘As the biggest kit addition since the shin pad, they have the potential to revolutionize the beautiful game not only for players, officials and coaches but also for fans in the stadium and viewers at home’. Bleacher Report hailed in 2017 wearable technology (WT) as part of electronic performance and tracking systems (EPTS) are the future of football. Fast forward four years later, this is even more true. However, I must admit that not all current wearables are having the same impact on the game, especially in terms of valuable data to work with.
Wearables in football
Wearable devices are not so new in football. Many professional clubs in the big leagues have used them in training, years before the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in March 2015 accepted wearable technology in official matches. Provided that ‘the technology attached to the players’ equipment is not dangerous and meets one of the following standards: IMS (International Match Standard) or FIFA’ as stated in FIFA’s Laws of the Game.
Nowadays, wearable devices exist in all sizes and shapes, and new ones are continuously on the development horizon. These smart devices, which contain all types of sensors, are seamlessly incorporated into the fabric of sports apparel, in body vests, or even footwear. The vast majority of the current wearables use a Global Positioning System (GPS) to aggregate data. The FIFA-authorised wearable GPS tracker vests of Catapult and StatSport are an excellent example of that.
‘GPS trackers as a stand-alone product are not that interesting’
GPS trackers monitor a player’s performance during training and games and provide real-time data to coaching staff and players. They measure and analyze players’ physical attributes and provide details on metrics such as distance covered, top speed, acceleration, deceleration, and insights on workload, the level of fatigue, and injury risk of the player.
That all sounds very interesting, but how relevant is GPS data from a football perspective? I honestly don’t see the additional value. For sure, not as a stand-alone product — not on a senior level and not in youth development. With GPS wearables, you get accurate information solely based on the player’s location but not the ball position. Furthermore, without additional technologies such as local positioning systems (LPS), there is no way to track the ball and see how that correlates with the aggregated GPS data. For example, was a sprint made with the ball on the feet or to create room for others? You need visualized foot-to-ball interaction data to make GPS data more insightful.
That combination is also way more interesting from a development perspective because it gives you football-related data of a youth player’s progression. At the moment, Playermaker’s smart footwear and the brand-new JOGO insole sensors are the only wearables worldwide that do so. The latter is even the first wearable that is not external, frictionless, and can be worn at all times. Having said that, I see the JOGO sensors as a good representation of the future of football.
Speaking about the future of football: I see enormous value in data stacking. Combining visual and location data with foot-to-ball interaction insights gives a better and more accurate view of a player’s performance than through GPS only. From this perspective, it would be excellent if sports tech companies would be more willing to integrate their products so that clubs and players can enjoy the benefits of Catapult, JOGO, and others altogether. We, tech companies, all contribute to the future of football, but together we can make a huge difference. That’s where the real added value of technology lies.
In conclusion, data stacking fits my intrinsic drive: to provide more insights and empower the decision-making process at every level of the football pyramid.
As the founder and CEO of JOGO and with the help of my talented team, I want to revolutionize youth football and talent development via top-notch technology. Our next big project is the launch of our insole sensors on Kickstarter.
Feel free to reach out for any question, discussion, or collaboration. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org