Sports Tech

Smart sports equipment to help you play better

Such devices capture data for players to track their progress

SPH Brightcove Video
A tennis racket that tells you if you're hitting the 'sweet spot' or a football that trains your kicks - ST Digital's Trevor Tan tests out smart sports gear that will help hone your skills in badminton, basketball, football and tennis.
As Luke Koh swings his racquet and strikes the ball, his father Marc is looking at the data sent from a sensor on the racquet to his tablet.
As Luke Koh swings his racquet and strikes the ball, his father Marc is looking at the data sent from a sensor on the racquet to his tablet. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Nine-year-old Luke smacks another forehand as his father, Mr Marc Koh, 43, looks on.

However, Mr Koh is not looking at his son striking the tennis ball, but at the Samsung Android tablet he is cradling in his hand. He is keeping his eyes peeled on the data on Luke's forehands.

Attached to Luke's tennis racquet is Qlipp, asensor the size of a one-dollar coin, that is created by local start-up 9 Degrees Freedom. It tracks tennis performance data, such as stroke type, ball spin and swing speed, and transmits them to the tablet wirelessly, via Bluetooth.

"Previously, if I told my son that he was hitting a stroke wrongly, he might not understand. But now, he knows what I am talking about. It is no longer arbitrary as he can see the data," said Mr Koh, a currency derivatives trader who previously managed the Singapore Tennis Association's full-time tennis programmes.

For young Luke, Qlipp has helped him fine-tune his strokes. "(Looking at the data), I will then know if this technique has helped me improve," he said.

Said Mr Kegan Tan, 29, founder of Mad About Badminton, a badminton listing service that also distributes Sotx smart badminton racquets: "Parents are investing top dollar into giving their children the opportunity to play racquet sports. With the smart racquet, parents have a definitive gauge of improvement. This gives coaches and parents the confidence that training is on track"

Polytechnic student Tay Liwei, 20, recently got a Sotx A3 Smart Racquet as a gift from a friend.

Mr Tay, who has been playing badminton for 11 years, said: "I can analyse my game better and work on my weak areas immediately after a session."

He loves the fact that the smart badminton racquet has the ability to record data that are related to his smashes. "It allows me to know how fast I can smash and, based on that, I can work on my smash technique," he said.

Mr Aaron Wilfred, 29, a certified basketball coach, said that these smart sports equipment give athletes tangible data with which to track their progress over time.

He added: "Smart sports gear makes improving your game available to the average person."

The smart sports equipment genre might still be in its infancy, but its potential could be huge.

The global sports equipment industry was valued at US$64.9 billion (S$87.2 billion) in 2011 and is forecast to grow to US$72.8 billion this year, according to business research firm MarketLine.

For tennis alone, there are an estimated 43 million people around the world who play the game, according to Dr Donny Soh, 38, founder of 9 Degrees Freedom.

"There is a big market to tap into," he said.

He felt there will be more such smart sport gears in the future, but the challenge is to make these devices useful and yet affordable.

"If not, they will become a gimmick," Dr Soh said.

• ST Digital reviews four smart sport equipment to see if these gizmos really help to up your game.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline Smart sports equipment to help you play better. Subscribe