In recent years, analytics in sport has developed from something of an optional extra to an absolute fundamental in achieving success in the industry. As such, sports teams and organizational bodies are constantly on the lookout for the next intelligent technology that can give them the upper hand over their competition, or get the most out of the commercial side of their business.
As the technology being developed becomes more and more intelligent, it is increasingly important that clubs and organizations partner with the startups developing it. With this in mind, we looked at five startups making waves in different areas of sports analytics.
Of all the myriad tracking technology companies out there, PlaySight is one of the most impressive in both its ambition and its execution. Catering for almost all sports you could think of, PlaySight utilizes what it calls SmartCourt technology to log just about every action that takes place on a court, field, or in a ring to give a complete breakdown and video replay of each and every session. The company has its own analytics platform and the sheer number of metrics its technology can track is impressive. Take tennis, for example - PlaySight will track serve speed, give analysis of strokes, offer instant video replays, provide automated line calling, live video streaming, a 3D tactical review, as well as other general stats. It’s an extensive package.
The one major downside of PlaySight is that it’s limited to courts and fields that already have its technology installed. Each sport requires a number of cameras to capture all the data it needs, and though PlaySight doesn’t reveal on its website exactly the cost involved in installing them, we can assume it’s more than in purchasing a wearable, for example. Having said that, users don’t necessarily have to one their own SmartCourt and can play on nearby courts that have the tech installed and get the same product.
If there’s one piece of technology any gambling person could want, it would be one that could accurately predict the outcome of sporting events. At Stratagem, the aim is to make that technology a reality. Focusing on soccer - given that it’s a UK company - Stratagem uses intelligent predictive models and data-driven recommendations alongside detailed analytical content to bring unrivalled rigour to the sports trading industry. The company makes its money by either selling its data to professional gamblers and bookmakers, while also looking to build a fund to place its own wagers. Stratagem is raising $32 million in capital to set up the fund which, according to the Verge, it plans to position as an alternative to traditional hedge funds.
Alongside this, the company offers asset management, odds comparison, and betting tips. ’If there’s a short on target from 30 yards with 11 people in front of the striker and that ends in a goal, yes, it looks spectacular on TV, but it’s not exciting for us,’ says Andreas Koukorinis, the company’s founder. ‘Because if you repeat it 100 times the outcomes won’t be the same. But if you have Lionel Messi running down the pitch and he’s one-on-one with the goalie, the conversion rate on that is 80%. We look at what created that situation. We try to take the randomness out, and look at how good the teams are at what they’re trying to do, which is generate goal-scoring opportunities.’ Ultimately, Stratagem is looking to turn analytics against the bookmaker.
Synergy Sports Technology
In the race for supremacy in sports analytics, many startups choose to focus on one sport in particular to carve out a more definable niche. Synergy Sports Technology has thrown itself into basketball analytics, and has one of the most sophisticated analytics platforms out there for events on the court. According to the company it self, Synergy ‘dissects and analyses virtually every basketball game played worldwide above the high school level - that’s over 50,000 games per year. Synergy’s product is versatile and the company is applying it to almost all areas of sports analytics. It caters for coaches and teams, fans and fantasy, as well as media and streaming.
Synergy’s focus on basketball has successfully led to its domination within the sport. According to the company’s website, every NBA tea, every WNBA team. NCAA men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the US’ Olympic teams and International League teams are all using the technology. CEO Garrick Barr is a former coach of the Phoenix Suns, which goes some way to explaining the company’s partnership with the NBA, but the promise of logging and analyzing every play, defensive technique, pass, and shot possible in basketball specifically is a persuasive one.
Taking a different approach to that of PlaySight, Zepp is a startup that makes hardware which measures an individual athlete’s performance. The startup has raised some $20 million, with the most recent round coming in 2014, to fund its sensors which log metrics from baseball, golf, tennis, and soccer. Zepp’s aim is to make sports analytics both affordable and unobtrusive in terms of hardware. The sensors range from $99 to $149, and none are bigger than a bar of soap. Individual athlete data can be combined to create team profiles, meaning Zepp has a place in team sports as well as individual competition.
In an effort to make data collection more integrated and even less intrusive than it already is, Zepp has partnered with Old Hickory to produce the Smart Bat, a signature bat with space for the Zepp sensor build in. A small cavity in the knob of the bat makes room for the sensor, which the company promises removes any potential distractions while delivering accurate data. The sensor then relays extensive information about the user’s swing via bluetooth to a mobile device. As sports technology continues to mature, it’s products like this that will make up the landscape of data collection - rather than attaching sensors, tracking devices will be inbuilt into existing sports hardware.