One Kirkland-based company uses predictive analytics to translate complex data into coachable moments.
Technology has been improving athletic performances for decades. Noteworthy examples include widespread adoption of instant replay in several sports and the NFL’s approval of in-helmet headsets. The sports industry always has turned to technology for innovative ways to improve its games and the individual performance of athletes within it.
And technology still is changing sports. One recent example is the advancement of portable and wireless technology. More and more coaches and trainers are outfitting their athletes with sensor-enabled wearables that can detect the impact of a hit to the head or calculate a player’s on-field acceleration.
However, while there are many sports sensors that can detect and track impact and performance, the data they produce isn’t always easy for coaches and trainers to understand. What’s more, with different sensors for detecting impact and others for tracking performance, coaches and trainers often must equip their players with multiple devices, meaning they could be inundated with data from several sensors.
Kirkland-based Athlete Intelligence by i1 Biometrics launched in 2012 as a maker of sports sensors, but today the company aims to transform the industry by doubling down with a new kind of wearable and an innovative platform that translates athletic analytics and data into actionable insights, or what the company’s president and CEO, Jesse Harper, likes to call “coachable moments.”
“The sports sensor market is kind of where the fitness sensor market was five years ago,” said Harper, who spent 18 years working at Polar Sports & Fitness Monitors. “Early on in the fitness sensor market … they gave you data, but there wasn’t a lot of context around how to utilize it in your daily life.”
Today, fitness sensors such as Fitbit come with user-friendly dashboards that translate complex data and analytics into easy-to-understand reports. Until recently, however, Harper said the sports industry hadn’t seen something similar.
“Everyone’s been focused on what’s the newest wearable that will collect this bit of data, but very few people have taken the time to translate that into a meaningful set of outcomes for coaches,” he said. “So, that’s where we’ve put our energy, into the predictive analytics and looking at what are the actionable insights that you get from data.”
Through the Athlete Intelligence platform, Harper said, the data collected from the sports sensor is paired with video, statistics, nutrition, and other factors that affect performance. Then, using predictive analytics, the data is processed and delivered to coaches and trainers in the form of mobile alerts and an intuitive dashboard, allowing them to harness the data they’re receiving in a more meaningful way.
“We try to empower coaches with data in a way that they understand,” said Harper. “We used to make the same mistake. We used to say, ‘Hey, we make sensors,’ and (coaches) liked it, but they couldn’t understand it. Now, we’re all about helping coaches understand (the data).”
The platform, which comes out this month, already has been tested by local coaches and trainers, including those at the University of Washington.
“We have been working with wearable impact sensor technology for a long time,” said UW football’s head trainer, Rob Scheidegger. “So, we’ve been experimenting with a lot of different technology. There’s several different products that are out there.”
Scheidegger said UW football tested the Athlete Intelligence system with positive results during a recent training camp. “The Athlete Intelligence system is nice because it’s very streamlined,” he said. “Sometimes in some of these programs, it can sort of be death by information. You’re just smothered in all this data, and it’s hard to tease out the information that could be actually used practically to make your program better.”
In addition to the Athlete Intelligence platform, the company also is releasing an innovative sports sensor in June.
Unlike its current Vector MouthGuard and ShockBox helmet sensor, the company’s new Cue Sports Sensor is small enough to attach to the inside of a helmet, a headband, or skullcap, making it both accurate and a one-size-fits-all option for athletes who play various sports.
“The Cue Sports sensor still fills a niche in the market where there aren’t very many head-impact sensors,” said Harper.
UW football tested the Vector MouthGuard with the Athlete Intelligence platform during its last training camp, but Scheidegger said he sees UW football using something more in line with the Cue Sports Sensor during spring football.
Currently, the Athlete Intelligence platform is only compatible with the Vector MouthGuard, ShockBox helmet sensor, and Cue Sports sensor. However, the company said it plans to make the platform compatible with all sports sensors by the end of the year, further adding to the platform and products’ accessibility.
“We understand the game, and we understand that data can be overwhelming,” Harper said. “We’ve spent a lot of our energy figuring out these coachable moments so that we can help coaches do what they do best, which is interact with their athletes and not get lost in the data.”