TECHSAVVY POWERED BY TECHSAVVY.MEDIA
SPORTS TECH IN MOTION Special Issue on Nordic Sports Innovation Summit
We would like to thank the following partners, sponsors and advertisers for making “Sportstech 2021” possible
EDITORIAL: SPORTSTECH IN MOTION
Lars Elbæk & Carsten Couchouron.
GOING THE DISTANCE WITH VR Maximus D. Kaos: Insights and Experience from a Health and Sports Technology Researcher.
SPORTSTECH IS BOOMING GLOBALLY
KMD is helping the sports industry optimise sports performance and the underlying business.
Mountain Bike United brings together mountainbikers across experience and ages.
INVESTMENTS IN SPORTSTECH Investors pour billions into the sportstech industry.
ROBOT SKEPTICISM Football clubs hesitated to get to know Turf Tank’s robot before they joined in on the innovation.
Players 1st is helping clubs win back their members.
APP COMMUNITY IN SOLO-SPORT
PARADIGM SHIFT IN SPORTS TRACKING Movement measurement will take tracking much further.
Does Denmark Already Have a Secret Advantage?
BRINGING SPORTING CLUBS INTO THE FUTURE
IMPROVING SPORTS WITH DATA
FUTURE SPORTS Combine tech and movement - and new sports will be as big as Counter-Strike.
EDITORIAL CO-ORGANIZERS OF THE NORDIC SPORTS INNOVATION SUMMIT
Lars Elbæk, SDU ass. professor, Department of Sports Sciences and Clinical Biomechanics
Carsten Couchouron, Founder & Director, Sports Lab Copenhagen
s a result of technological innovation, sports have changed dramatically during the last decades. Advances in digital technology that can measure daily physical activity and connect people socially, such as the internet, wearables, and exergames, have provided new pathways for engaging in health, sports, and physical activity, as well as fan activities. Consequently, the sports tech industry is growing rapidly in an effort to, for example, improve performance, talent development, team organization, fan engagement, viewer experience, and wellbeing. This is evident across most sports disciplines and especially in professional and elite football, a billion-dollar industry with high monetary investments and enormous financial rewards.
The growth of the sports industry and the societal changes affecting sports practice have also caught the attention of academia. Universities are eager to find an entry into sports tech innovation. Not only does it advance the field of sports, but innovative sports products and services also serve as sources of inspiration. In this way, they are strong contributors to academic exploration of sports and healthrelated benefits, including improving physical movement, providing greater social connectedness, and enhancing performance research in football and other sports. The first Nordic Sports Innovation Summit takes place on August 26th 2021. This marks the 50th anniversary of the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at SDU. It brings together academia, businesses, sports
organisations, the public sector, and civil society. It is a day that focuses on innovation in sports rooted in Nordic values. It exemplifies the Nordic approach to a healthy lifestyle, which is environmentally aware, well-integrated, inclusive, and enhances physically active communities. The Summit disseminates the latest trends, research, projects, and innovations and provides a platform for networking, knowledge exchange, and sharing of business experiences. We hope that you will find it inspiring and that you will leave the summit with new perspectives, ideas, experiences and will have established some new contacts for potential future collaborations between corporates, start-ups, sports organisations, sports science, innovation researchers, and students!
GOING THE DISTANCE WITH VR: INSIGHTS AND EXPERIENCE FROM A HEALTH AND SPORTS TECHNOLOGY RESEARCHER
am drenched in sweat. I just finished a gruelling virtual reality (VR) boxing session. My name is Max Kaos, an Assistant Professor at SDU. Among a variety of skills, in my personal life, I have trained as a boxer for many years. Reflecting on the VR session, I think of training I have had inside and outside boxing gyms. When I was unable to make it to the gym, for many years I used home videos to maintain my training. These were good for honing techniques. But, VR brings something new to the table. Instead of following the same humdrum movements of an onscreen trainer in home videos, I am motivated to actually box—to punch hard, to defend well, to mind my footwork, and to fight strategically—because much like real boxing, I want to win the match. It is engaging, and VR brings a new, immersive experience every time I use it. While VR may never fully replace skills learned in a real gym (such as how to take a real punch), it can add value to an overall workout regimen that, before VR, did not exist outside training with real people. That is the sort of experience I study in my professional
life. I am a member of STIR (Sports Technology Innovation Researchers), a group committed to discovering how technology can be used to motivate people to move more. Whether the purpose is for gaining health benefits in people’s daily lives, for providing more engaging ways to rehabilitate injuries and manage diseases, or for giving athletes new or different ways to train for better performance, we are committed to improving people’s lives. Two central ideas are prominent in the research I have conducted. The first is that people are more capable than we or they think they are. I worked with a team to develop exercise video games (or exergames) for children with cerebral palsy. Guidelines suggested to keep game pace slow. However, we conducted a year-long study involving children with cerebral palsy in the decision-making process of developing actionbased exergames. The games used a stationary exercise bike to control the movement of onscreen game characters, a computer that displayed the games, and a controller to perform actions.
By Maximus D. Kaos
We then conducted an eightweek study in the home. We discovered children could play the games and enjoyed them. We had essentially shown that these children were more capable than the guidelines thought they were. I believe this is true of most people. The second idea I have studied in detail is that there are nuances when developing for social play. People are social creatures, but it is not obvious how to connect with one another when technology, such as VR, is involved. For instance, I helped conduct a largescale study with able-bodied children comparing playing a set of exergames alone or with others. We thought children in the multiplayer condition would play longer and more often. Instead, we found no statistical
difference whatsoever. I tested several potential reasons for why this was the case and found, simply put, children in the multiplayer condition were not forming strong bonds with the other members. The games were networked, so they played apart from each other, and the children did not know each other beforehand. Thus, just including a way to play with others is not enough. Developing for social play is more nuanced than that. Social VR, specifically, is an area that needs much further study. Until recently, we were unable to have multiple players at once in VR, and so not much has been studied in that area. Now that we have capable hardware, designers need to pay close attention to nuances when developing social VR games. For
example, there is something lost when you cannot smile and look into another person’s eyes as they tell a joke because they are wearing a headset. Given the importance of forming strong bonds, nuances like these need to be carefully considered. But, I am hopeful for the future; I believe, much like boxing in VR, the immersive nature of VR will bring us new, meaningful ways
of engaging with others. We embrace new opportunities like these in the STIR group. A key goal of STIR is to contribute to healthier lifestyles and well-being and to develop new business opportunities and innovative technologies in the sports and health industries. We happily invite others to collaborate with us.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko by Pexels
SPORTSTECH IS BOOMING GLOBALLY; DOES DENMARK ALREADY HAVE A SECRET ADVANTAGE? There are already many successful Danish start-ups in sportstech, and large sports organisations betting on technology and participants are ready to receive them. And all of this has happened without a unified, focused investment in the industry - but that might soon be changing. Written by Sebastian Kjær
sing state-of-theart radar and data technology, Trackman is helping the world stars of golf and baseball improve even more - and additionally, they have had a surplus in the three-digit millions over recent years. The running app Endomondo secured 25 million users before it was sold for a quarter billion kroner - about 40 million dollars. And with a recent investment of 150 million kroner (about 24 million dollars), the company VEO is, with its intelligent camera, well on its way to
becoming a worldwide leader in its field. Beside their successes, the three Danish companies have another thing in common: they combine sports and technology. And they are far from the only guiding lights in an industry that emerged from Denmark. That does not mean, however, that they all come from the exact same background. Despite the industry’s strong position, there is still no unified initiative or association for sportstech in Denmark, as is the case with robotics and fintech, for instance. But that may be
changing. DIF Innovation Lab was launched in 2017 to unite companies, start-ups, sports associations, athletes, and universities around sports technology with greater focus. The enterprise believes that it is a benefit to both companies and sports life if cooperation can be achieved across fields. “Our vision is to make Denmark the Nordic capital of sportstech. And we fully believe in its growth potential. We have a position of advantage that just needs to be utilized,” says Anne Mette Trier, Head of DIF Innovation Lab. DIF Innovation Lab gives start-
ups the option of validating their sportstech concepts with real users. DIF helps companies connect with various sports associations, which can then provide access to association members, as well as coaches and volunteers. The goal is to give Danish companies a larger share of the international sports technology market.
AN INDUSTRY GROWING EXPLOSIVELY The sportstech industry is not only on the move in Denmark. Companies are also seeing the potential of mixing sports and technology globally as well. The latest numbers from
SportsTechX, which specializes in data and analytics in the industry, shows that in the first half of 2021, more than 5 billion dollars were invested in sportstech start-ups globally. That is more than what was invested in total each year in the previous five consecutive years. At the same time, rounds of mega-investment have become increasingly common; in 2021, there were 14 investments in start-ups exceeding 100 millions dollars. For comparison, 2020 saw 10 rounds of that size overall. That is why this is the perfect time to start taking interest in sportstech, says Carsten
Couchouron, who has a long career in various sports association, agencies, and events behind him. He started in sportstech a year and a half ago with Sports Lab Copenhagen, where he is applying 25 years of experience from the sports industry to help improve commercial opportunities in sportstech, as well as drawing on his international network to give Danish start-ups a chance of connection with the rest of the world. “Things have happened very quickly over the past 3-5 years. We already have some impressive success stories in Denmark, and I see no reason Denmark and the Nordics
shouldn’t be global frontrunners. With strong companies and organisations, we have many reasons to regard our position as incredibly advantageous,” says Couchouron. With over 200 Danish startups working with sports innovation in various ways, he sees a strong base with potential for becoming the next beacon of sportstech. And combined with a range of strong actors - including the Sports Confederation of Denmark, the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association, the University of Southern Denmark, SportsHub Denmark, and of course Sports Lab Copenhagen itself - also seeing the potential of the industry, a robust ecosystem is already in place. It will all depend on tying the various
parties even closer together.
OUTTHINK, NOT OUTSPEND Danish IT firm KMD started its foray into sportstech in 2017. This was when Frans Hammer was hired as chief consultant on the area, having been a handball coach for several league teams, as well as for the Italian national team. And now that the first years of the enterprise have passed, he sees great new opportunities for businesses,
which also motivates innovation for the rest of the company. “This might turn into something of a NASA-project for us. In sports, everything is gambled on being just that one-and-ahalf percent better than the competitor. While it might not be directly transferable to the communes, it might create some technological perks that can be used elsewhere in the company,” says Hammer, who today is Advisory Director at KMD. But for Hammer, it is not only the business of sportstech that
Sports Lab Copenhagen was started a year and a half ago as a meeting ground for sports entrepreneurs. At the same time, their aim is to inspire the next wave of innovation and tech entrepreneurs in sports by organising joint activities and initiatives with the University of Southern Denmark (such as workshops, co-creation projects, and collaboration models). This will form part of the seamless entrepreneurial pathway from student-entrepreneurs to international scale-ups.
is of interest. He is also a part of the management of the Danish Olympic Commission and is newly elected Vice Chairman of the Sports Confederation of Denmark, where sports technology is also one of his key interests. He believes that, from a sports-oriented perspective too, Denmark has much to gain by implementing technology this way. “We need to think about digitalisation in elite, wide, and social terms, and how we can innovate in sports with technology. I would argue that Endomondo has done more to combat inactivity than most Danish sports associations have. And us in the elite will have much better ground in international competition if we open our doors to data and technology,” he says.
“When a small nation like us has ambitions of Olympic medals, or of competing in the best football leagues, it is a given that we cannot challenge our opponents economically. For instance, the Italian national football team has more employees than the entirety of the Danish Football Association,” says Hammer. We nevertheless win more Olympic medals than our population size suggests, and FC Midtjylland has managed to qualify for Champions League as the smallest club in the league’s history. Hammer believes this is a sign of our tradition for working smarter than others and technology is the strongest weapon in that arsenal. “FC Midtjylland is a fantastic example. They have used technology and data to figure out their own secret advantage.
And subsequently, they chosen to fight where they had the greatest shot at winning. In popular terms, it is not about outspending the other party, because we simply don’t have that edge. Instead, we need to outthink them - and technology may be the answer to that,” says Hammer.
GATHER THE BUILDING BLOCKS The first commercial beacon in sportstech is already shining bright, and the sports world is ready to embrace these new solutions. The Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association has also since 2018 been involved through ‘DIG Impact’. And even though the larger sports organisations - both the Sports
to re-invent the same wheel. The work with other actors has started as well, and the goal is to give sports innovation in Denmark a strong ecosystem with a one-stop-shop,” says Breddam. He would rather see a joint effort to make Denmark the field leader worldwide rather than many efforts to determine who will be field leader in Denmark only.
“If we want to be the sportstech hub of the Nordic region, we need to cooperate across the board. We already have some experiences from various actors that we can build upon, and we are now applying them in the preliminary work to find structure and the right ways of cooperating. Because this will only succeed if we all join up and agree on what needs doing,” says Breddam.
Since 2018, DGI Impact has been involved in the industry by annually selecting 4 to 8 start-ups to receive a total investment of two million kroner (300.000 dollars).
Confederation of Denmark and the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association - have ambitions more directed towards sports than towards entrepreneurs, Jacob Breddam, who manages DGI Impact, sees nothing mutually exclusive about the two areas. Quite the contrary - he believes that all the conditions for creating a successful enterprise for both sports and commerce are in place. All that’s needed is a stronger joint effort. “That is our goal with DGI Impact: gathering all of us in a vertical ecosystem, where everyone working with sports innovation are gathered, and where we can agree on who will be doing what, so we don’t have
PLAYERS 1ST WANT TO BRING SPORTING CLUBS INTO THE FUTURE Players 1st is helping clubs win back their members by using hard data based on the actual wishes of sports participants.
orten Bisgaard and Jacob Buksted Poulsen have helped some of Denmark’s largest companies sort out their data and translate it to workable insights for improving their businesses. They also have a passion for golf. And in 2012, they decide to merge competency and passion with the company Players 1st, whose goal is to help golf clubs optimize their members’ experiences. And since then, it has become much more than a passion project. Our main purpose is to go in and analyse the gaps between what the club offers and what its members want. And then we work on closing those gaps. We started in Danish golfing, and like ripples in the
water, we spread to the other Scandinavian countries, and then on to Europe and the US,” says Bisgaard, CEO and co-found of Players 1st. The concept is really quite simple. The company has specialized in compiling questionnaires for club members, which the company then processes effectively and translates to intelligent reporting in a dashboard, which the club can then act on: Does the playing area need better maintenance? Is there a lack of social events? And how do the club’s sales compare to others in its field? It may have started with golf, and Players 1st are the de facto leaders in their field worldwide, but over the last years, the company has been expanding its model sporting disciplines.
Morten Bisgaard and Jacob Buksted Poulsen
RISING WIDE For Players 1st, the bottom line has been the commercial aspect of sport, as golfing clubs with big investments in facilities have been reluctant to also run the business side. But even though a badminton club is not based on the same economic incentives as a traditional business, it needs to be able to understand its members if it wants to keep them. “Our product resonates with the current tendency and trend of focusing on recruiting and retaining. That is what we
support - and we can document it in writing instead of just by gut feeling,” says Bisgaard. This foray into the world of sporting clubs in a wider sense has accelerated through deals with associations like the Sports Confederation of Denmark, the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association, and the Danish Golfing Union, all of whom have since implement the questionnaires from Players 1st in more than 500 clubs across disciplines. And according to Bisgaard, this is only the beginning. “If the sport is to evolve, we need to know the needs and expectations of consumers and club members, both for the club and the discipline - and that includes everything from community activities to practice. And in that area, we are seeing that demands are only getting bigger and bigger,” he says. The clubs are seeing a general tendency of moving away from set practice hours and towards more “on demand” services. And the corona shutdown has
exacerbated this development. “The shutdown pushed many athletes to newer, more independent sports activities, and what can the classic sports and disciplines do as a reaction to that? It is obvious that they need a way in if they want their old customers back. But what does that require of their product, compared to what they used to offer? Are there new demands, or have expectations changed? That is what makes our product incredibly relevant right now, as we measure both loyalty and experience,” says Bisgaard.
THE PULSE OF SPORTS The golf solution was rolled out through the Danish Golf Union. Partnerships related to other disciplines were subsequently initiated with (among others) the Danish Handball Federation, the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association, and the Sports Confederation of Denmark. More recently, the company has added organisations like the English tennis association and the Norwegian swimmer’s association to its list of international partners. “Making deals like that takes a bit more time, because of the political side of these organisations, but when we’re in, we’re in firmly,” says Bisgaard. Players 1st’s implementation strategy has an advantage businesswise, as they get access to many clubs in one deal. And because of this strategy’s wide embrace, the company can also
pursue their mission of giving something back to sports and help the various associations and clubs develop and evolve. “We have a finger on the pulse of sports, as we are constantly measuring what is happening out in the clubs: What is the pulse of swimming, what is the pulse of handball? And within handball, who is good at retaining and engaging club members, and who aren’t? And from there, we work with the associations to send a team of consultants and raise the bottom line - and in that way, we raise up all of Danish sports life,” says Bisgaard. This kind of insight relies on having the necessary information mass to benchmark across clubs and even across countries. And Players 1st have that mass, allowing them to spot shared trends affecting the market in real-time, and thereby help sports develop in a positive direction. “Right now, our challenge is that we have so much data, and we need to open up even more data - for the benefit of sports. Therefore, we are working on partnerships with universities and other actors that can help us identify the good stories and the best cases and get them out in the world. In that sense, we have something of an open-source mentality, and we want to use that to give something back to sports,” says Bisgaard.
CLUBS ARE BUSINESSES TOO While individual-focused sports like running and mountain biking have wind in their sails,
more traditional association sports like handball and football are - with a few exceptions - struggling to attract new players. And while the volunteer factor is one of the major advantages of club sports, then maybe they also need a commercial incentive if the clubs are to resurge. “It is very interesting to see how the American clubs take a far more commercial angle. We try to bring that up in our dialogues with Danish clubs, because they need to change their mindset and start seeing their members as customers. Members have increasingly disloyal mindsets, because they have access to so many other offers out there,” says Bisgaard. That does not mean that the local gymnastics association needs to think strictly in terms of profit. But the social macrotrends of flexibility and raised expectations of experiences have hit the clubs hard, and the clubs can benefit from taking some lessons from the business world. “There are many interesting dialogues about sports facilities and what to do with them. But the question is just as much about the clubs needing to change their membership model to increase flexibility and target new audiences - or maybe retaining those who are leaving, through a different type of membership,” says Bisgaard.
The company’s digital questionnaires and online result-displaying dashboard is designed to help sports clubs retain and recruit members, coaches, and volunteers. The company works closely with several Danish associations - including the Sports Confederation of Denmark, the Danish Football Association, the Danish Gymnastics and
Sports Association, and the Danish Swimming Federation. Using intelligent reporting, Players 1st makes it easy for clubs to stay informed on what members want. And because the solution is digital, clubs can get started for as little as 1,500 kroner (200 euro/170 British pounds) annually. Read more on www. players1st.dk.
FACTS: PLAYERS 1ST •
Players 1st is the leading company providing solution for measurement of members’ experiences.
Photo by Patrick Case from Pexels
COMMUNITYORIENTED APP SUPPORTS A FASTGROWING SOLO SPORT The sports tracking app Singletrack was relaunched this February as Mountainbike United and gathers the mountain biking community on a single platform. The app makes setting out flexible and accessible, and allows mountain bikers to easily organize across age and skill levels. Af Camilla Bevensee, Nordic SportsLab
Two right-angled triangles make a large ‘M’ against a neon green background and ensure that you can always locate your stalwart mountain biking companion in the confusion of apps on your home screen. You press the icon and soon you have your feed of tracks, groups, and news read to scroll at the touch of your thumb. You press ‘Go’ and power on at the first leg of a 24-kilometrelong mountain bike route tagged with ‘tough inclines’ and ‘muddy turns’. You are a mountain biking enthusiast, and like thousands of other such enthusiasts, you have Mountainbike United at your side during your weekly sessions with your sport. Founder Morten Kamp Schubert has no doubt about the goal: to
become the leading service for the mountain biking sport worldwide. The tech entrepreneur and his team are on the right track after the relaunch at the beginning of the year. The new version emphasises community, and aside fromprovidingguidanceforroutes, the app has many features meant to embrace the community so important for the mountain biking experience. “We want to be the app mountain bikers go to not only when biking, but also when they are not biking, and when they are just thinking about it,” Schubert says.
TECHNOLOGY BRINGS MORE OUT IN THE WOODS
The relaunch of the app as a unified universe for mountain biking is supported by the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association’s innovation project for entrepreneurs, DGI Impact, which over the last three years has selected a handful of startups with potential for developing and proliferating sports across Denmark and has supported them with up to half a million kroner (about 80.000 dollars). “The app makes it possible to go out and try out the sport, and because it makes practice so flexible, it can be used as a recruitment tool to get more people into mountain biking,” explains Jakob Breddam, project manager at DIG Impact. He hopes that the app can support clubs established at multiple locations, and help retain people already active,
since they can practice when it suits their schedule and can do it wherever they happen to have brought their bike. Schubert from Mountainbike United agrees that the app needs to support the traditional clubs and their way of organising. More features aimed at clubs to ease the burdens of managing members and offering coaching are underway for the app, but he emphasises the importance of the platform being able to support all types of mountain biking groups. “Fundamentally we are interested in getting people involved in official clubs, but we would also like to unite people in other groups. Whether it’s a neighbourhood clique, friends, colleagues, business connections, or someone you have met on the app, we can do
so much for them all, and we will continue to do so,” says the app developer, and continues: “There are many who don’t see it as a real sport, more as a form of exercise, a spare time interest, or a hobby. Hence only a very small portion of mountain bikers are members of a club.” The increased accessibility and flexibility facilitated by the app is also more important for DGI’s Breddam than it is to get mountain bikers involved in clubs as a first priority. “Mountainbike United is without a doubt helping make the mountain bike field more flexible and accessible for a lot of people. The app facilitates users taking their bike by car somewhere new and explore a new route on the way to a family event, or finding and meeting others who brought the bike to
their summer home, and that is important if the sport is to grow, so more people will join clubs down the line,” Breddam explains.
GAMIFICATION INCREASES THE FUN Breddam also emphasises that gamification has started to become a part of the app, an important part of the potential he believes the project has for getting more people outside and participating in sports. “There is a colour-coded map giving an overview of which tracks you’ve biked on, and of course the goal is to colour in
the whole map of Denmark. It’s a fun feature, where you compete with yourself a bit, and that may motivate some to get going.” Morten Kamp Schubert is not shy about sharing his ’Ride the World’ map of Denmark, where large parts have been coloured in green. Photo: private screenshot Schubert has a long range of gamification features up his sleeve in the style of ‘Ride the World’, which has already become a popular challenge in the community. “Challenges like that are irresistible to many. We see that for some of our users, it has changed their behaviour and
their way of engaging with the sport. Suddenly it becomes very empowering for them to reach the next turn, to colour in the next area,” explains the active founder, who himself plans on having the whole map coloured green in time.
APP PREVENTS CONFLICTS While Mountainbike United is addressed at mountain bikers, Schubert explains that the app is developed with a mind for all forest-goers, so everyone can coexist in the environment despite different speeds and interests. “We want to help the
environment and the different nature-goers coexist and get along. We do that by pointing mountain bikers towards places with official routes.” Even though anyone can find a great route for mountain biking in the forest, consideration for other nature-goers bars the possibility for this kind of user-generated content on Mountainbike United. “We only put in officially approved and sanctioned routes, and in that way we direct bikers away from paths and areas where they might not be welcome. It happens often that mountain bikers aren’t quite as welcome if they blast through a highly trafficked walking route
or through an area for walking dogs,” Schubert, who has always loved the terrain-going biking sport, explains. On official and approved routes, other forest-goers need to expect that mountain bikes can suddenly appear, so they are cautious and keep away from active routes. The same is not true of other parts of the forest, which can lead to bad experiences and in the worst cases collisions. By guiding users to the approved routes, the app helps prevent the kind of conflicts that unorganised highspeed mountain bikers bring with them. Interest in mountain biking has exploded in Denmark over
the last five years according to the Danish Nature Agency, and especially during the corona crisis, the routes have seen increased activity. There are no exact figures, but it is estimated that around 300,000 Danes mountain bike more or less regularly. Of those, only 3% are organised into traditional clubs. The app currently has 133,000 downloads, and Schubert estimates that around 60,000 of those constitute active users. The basic version app is free to download and use, while many features require a monthly subscription fee of 49 kroner (8 dollars).
KMD WANTS TO IMPROVE SPORTS WITH DATA By making use of data, KMD is helping the sports industry optimise both sports performance and the underlying business. For KMD themselves, the investment is also a way of ensuring happier employees and fresh innovation.
MD’s large, cumbersome IT solution is usually associated with state and communal projects. But the IT giant is far more than punched cards and local data. Just a few years ago, KMD began developing sportstech solutions. The company’s first major foray into the world of sports was through a partnership with the Danish League, which represents Danish football clubs in the country’s top-level tournaments. When KMD contacted the association in 2017, they were in the process of collecting data on football court activities including the positional data on players and balls that are used in media and broadcasting. “It was a huge media gimmick measuring which players did the most running and ran the fastest. After some back and forth with the Danish League on the possibilities, we saw the data having much larger potential. The sports industry is in dire need of digitalisation - including
companies with large revenues,” says Christian Binggeli-Winter, Vice President for Information Management & Analytics at KMD.
FROM GIMMICK TO BUSINESS TOOL First step in the partnership was to secure ownership rights over the data and collect it in data warehouse that all the clubs could access. That set up step two: making it possible to translate the data into possibilities and solutions useful to the clubs in their day-to-day operations. How do the football clubs ensure they are properly informed when the right player is available on the transfer market - not because they have contact with the player, but because the data suggests they’re a good fit? What correlations does the data show between what happens at practice and the results of a match? And is it possible to automatise reporting on each
player’s performance after a match? “Data can be used for so much more than just checking who ran the most and who needs to be substituted because their heart rate is too high. In the big picture, the data can show whether a club is on the right track in terms of both sports and business. And by seeing a football club as a professional business operating on professional strategies, we can start challenging and amending those strategies with the help of data,” says Binggeli-Winter. Today, KMD works not just with football, but have partnered with ice hockey and handball associations too. Additionally, they work directly with multiple clubs, and are in talks with Olympic athletes. KMD is convinced that their work primarily affects community spirit and openness. The data needs to belong to the clubs, and everyone, not just the clubs, must be able to create value
developed so many exciting solutions around these goods ideas alongside experts and start-ups. We want to match with partners who excel in their own field - we just need to be there to help create the data’s ecosystem,” says BinggeliWinter. from it. That is why the data is being used to formulate actionable solutions and tools. For instance, a VR-solution meant to help players visualise a match situation in advance. Or a platform that collects data on sleep to identify and improve upon sleep’s effect on performance. And most recently, a solution to operate the entire commercial aspect of a club from a data-oriented starting point - everything from the sponsorship deals to ticket sales. “We need to reinvent ourselves and not just deliver a one-time service. And that’s why we have
INNOVATION AND HAPPY EMPLOYEES For KMD, the investment in sportstech is far cry from its other solution, which largely provides systems for pensioning and unemployment benefits. But that might be why the venture has made other dividends than just more income. “The sports industry takes its work very seriously, because very little separates third place from fourth place. And I believe that we, as an organisation, can learn much from these projects, as we often apply new
technologies and methods to create improvements measured in just a few percentile points,” says Binggeli-Winter. At the same time, he argues that this creates happier employees, as they get to use their datarelated competences in ways related to their spare time passions. And that rubs off on other areas within KMD. “In the sports industry, we have sometimes been pushing ourselves very hard when we were stumped, until at last we find a solution - which we then can bring back and make into new tech products that may be interesting to apply elsewhere. We are so used to having so much data in the public sector that we sometimes forget to ask ourselves if we have the right data, or if we should do something differently. In this way, sportstech is helping us push against our standard patterns,” says Binggeli-Winter.
“Sponsored: This article is made in cooperation with Movesense”
MOVESENSE: MOVEMENT MEASUREMENTS ARE A PARADIGM SHIFT IN SPORTS TRACKING GSP and heart rate monitoring has become the norm in sports tracking. But by adding measurements of movements as well, the tracking can go so much further. And Movesense has made the platform that makes it accessible for the masses
Using your watch to track route and heart rate has become the standard for top athletes and avid amateurs alike in a few short years. It doesn’t matter if you use the data to improve your training or just claim your bragging rights on your favourite sports-focused social media; tracking-wearables has become an essential part of the equipment in many sports. But according to Movesense, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. The next paradigm shift in quantifying the sport we love will be driven by measuring our movement. “An archer doesn’t get any useful information from GPS and heart rate is not that important for performance in archery. But
knowing the rhythm of each shot, the stability before firing each arrow, etc. could be very interesting and opens new ways to optimize training and improve performance,” says Terho Lahtinen, Senior Manager of Future Concepts in Suunto, which Movesense is a part of, and adds: “All sports are about movement, which makes measuring movement relevant to almost all sports in the world. This makes the appeal much wider than that of heart rate monitoring and GPS; Movement measurement is a real gold mine for developing new relevant sports tracking solutions.”
AN OPEN PLATFORM FOR WEARABLES
Movesense has extensive experience in GPS and heart rate monitoring through Suunto sports watches. But after building their sensor for movement measurement, they realized just how much of a game changer this could be to sports tracking. Which in turn made them re-think the whole business model. “It has the potential to become a much bigger business than what sports watches is today. Our conclusion was: This opportunity is so big, that we as a company can only scratch the surface of what’s possible. So we decided to make an open platform,” Lahtinen says. This platform includes both the hardware needed as well as digital tools that make it easy for entrepreneurs and innovators to develop wearables that can track their favourite sport - without the heavy upfront investment in hardware development and production facilities. “We don’t know much about volleyball, but if someone else wants to measure movements in volleyball, we give developers the tools and technology to build a dedicated solution for that. Our mission is to make the entry barrier to creating wearable solutions as low as possible,” Lahtinen says.
the athletes’ limbs and sports equipment alike. When worn with a chest strap, it can also measure heart rate and ECG. The versatile attaching options provide a lot of new ways to track and optimize training and performance. As a few examples, the Movesense sensor is used for studying visual perception of soccer players (attached to the head), analyzing swimming technique, as well as tracking the training of javelin throwers (with a sensor on the wrist, hip, foot and on the javelin itself). In other words, the possibilities in this new paradigm of tracking are endless. Movesense would never be able to cover all the opportunities themselves. And for that reason, they would rather make it easy for others to utilize their technology. “It’s a business opportunity for us, but it’s also a mission for us to make sports tracking accessible in a much wider way,” Lahtinen says and adds: “Today, generalist fitness
trackers are easily available, but solutions aimed at specific sports are often too expensive and complicated for the broader audience. We already have a number of customers working with amateur teams and individual sports participants, because with Movesense, they can provide very valuable insights at a much lower cost. I’m sure that in all sports at all levels, there are a lot of motivated athletes who want to improve their performance. And measuring is a way to find useful insights that make training more effective, no matter if it is about strength, speed, agility, reaction time, technique, or some other element of athletic performance.”
THE DEPTH IS ENDLESS The movement sensor from Movesense is small, durable and weighs in at less than 10 grams, which makes it attachable to
INVESTMENTS IN SPORTSTECH INVESTORS POUR BILLIONS INTO THE SPORTSTECH INDUSTRY Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, sportstech is a rapidly advancing industry. Its success may be owed to us all having become more dataoriented and more digital, say experts, who believe the industry has just started growing.
You would think that a time of pandemic, with its limited spectators at sports events, would put a damper on the growth of sports technology. Nevertheless, 2021 is already a record-breaking year in terms of investment: Over the first six months, more than 5 billion dollars have been invested in the industry worldwide. The industry’s growth has not gone unnoticed at Keystones, an investor network for business angels. They have set up a special sportstech group of
15 investors, all of whom have invested in multiple Danish sportstech start-ups. The group’s chairman - lawyer and former director of the Danish Ice Hockey Union Enver Hansen - believes that the industry generally has flourished, even though the pandemic has clearly been felt in some area. “Obviously the corona pandemic has affected companies hit by audience and viewing rightsrelated issues, as those that purchase viewing rights would very much want the audience to be there. But overall, the
“Written by Erik Lillelund”
sportstech industry has done well during the pandemic, especially its digital products, naturally,” the group’s chairman says. He nevertheless anticipates that the industry will exceed the already high expectations. “The forecast says that the global sportstech market’s worth will exceed 31 billion dollars by 2024, but I think we will have to amend and upscale those numbers along the way. It may be closer to 40 billion. And in my unequivocal assessment, that will have an effect on Denmark,” he says. In other words: the sportstech industry is booming. Already by the first half of 2021, 14 rounds of more than 100 million dollars have been put into sportstech start-ups globally. These are record-high numbers.
CONSUMERS WANT TO BE MEASURED AND WEIGHED
The umbrella terms of ‘sportstech’ covers, among others, digital fitness, fantasy sport and betting, performance tracking, and fan engagement. The success seen in many of these areas can be ascribed to current macro-trends over the world. We want to measure, optimise, and share our performance with friends and family. That is the view of Ulla Brockenhuus-Schack, partner in the venture capital foundation Capital Seed. “Overall, sports have gotten increasingly data-oriented on professional, semi-professional, and amateur levels. As a consumer, you want to know how you measure against yourself, your friends, and the professional top athletes. ‘Play with the pro’, as they say. The fight for talent has become a megatrend, and to be dataoriented, you need technology. That is the exact connection that creates so many opportunities for tech companies,” she says. Hansen agrees with this analysis, which also suggests that more and more have the option of arranging their activities along professional lines, if they so choose. That entails a larger degree of freedom to follow and engage with one’s favourite team and favourite discipline. And investors are starting to realize this. “Sportstech is not some red-headed stepchild of the investment world but is widely recognized. What keeps investors away are the same things that keep them away from any other given industry.
Rather, there is a strong belief in the growth of this industry especially as people globally get more spare time to engage as both fans and participants,” the chairman of the Keystones group assesses.
A DANISH HEAD START Even though the Danish sportstech successes like VEO, Endomondo, Tonser, and Trackman can be counted on a couple of hands, entrepreneurs back in Denmark still have a head start when they begin developing new digital sportstech solutions. “Danish companies have a clear advantage because the test market is so good in Denmark. The Danes are very much natives of the digital world, and therefore very qualified consumers. This can be an advantage for when Danish companies go out in the wider world, as it means many Danish solutions have international potential from day one,” says Hansen. The investment field in sportstech is however still dominated by large countries like the US, China, and India. The latter especially has profiled itself globally with the fantasy
sport company Dream 11, which is one of the first Indian companies in history to achieve so-called ‘unicorn’ status: a start-up with a value of more than 1 billion dollars. This is no coincidence. Many sports technology companies are greatly successful in these days because their digital solutions cross into several different markets and appeal to wide swathes of consumers. “The consumer angle of this industry is very interesting. As companies can often spread to many different intersections - for instance media firms delivering content - it means they can appeal to many different consumer bases. And that creates a wealth of options for tech companies,” says Brockenhuus-Schack.
TURF TANK: FROM ROBOT SKEPTICISM TO INNOVATIVE MEGA PRINTER Football clubs hesitated to get to know Turf Tank’s robot before they joined in on the innovation. But today, the line-drawing robot is a top seller across sports discipline in both the US and in Europe. And with its new function, the technology is once again ready to open the gates for a new wave of innovation in the industry.
t started as a project in entrepreneurial studies at Business School Hjørring, where it quickly became clear that the idea would fill a void currently in the market. And during those early stages of the project, at practice at the local sports centre, Stefan Thilemann was introduced to the idea by one of the original designers. A happenstance conversation there would result in him becoming a part of a start-up’s growth. The idea was so intriguing that he volunteered his assistance in developing it. With a starting point in a university project about LEGO robotics, the first prototype was designed. The
prototype was brought to entrepreneur trade shows and competitions across the country, helping generate interest in the project, and ultimately helping secure the first investment and after that, the design of the first proper test model. Thus, the foundations for a robotics company were laid. A company that today sells line-drawing robots for sports all over the world. “It started out rather rigidly with the drawing up of a football field, and nothing else. But along the way, it’s become much more; today we can handle any sport from football to Quidditch, and the US is absolutely our largest market,” says Thilemann, who
today is CTO of Turf Tank. Robotics have come a long way, salespeople have been hired in both the US and Britain, and Stefan Thilemann teases a big announcement for next year without quite lifting the veil for what the company has on the drawing board. Things are good for the company from Hjørring. But success was far from a given, and it was particularly hard convincing the first clubs to let a robot be part of their employee roster.
THROW IT OUT TO GET IT RIGHT After the first prototype was demonstrated in 2015 - at
the great Dana Cup football tournament in the founder’s hometown of Hjørring, of course - almost a full year would pass before the first robot was sold to a customer in Denmark. Of course, production methods had to be perfected, but clubs also faced the robot with a certain scepticism, even if they could see the benefit productivitywise. “It was the first machine that could do this task autonomously - that could draw up the lines of a football field without any human interference or assistance. Most could see the value of it, but no one wanted to be the first to invest - after all, what if it didn’t work? We had to deal with that a lot in the
beginning,” says Thileman. Granted, in the beginning functionality was limited to football fields with very strict measurements, and if the robot made any error in the process, it could not pick up from where it went wrong, but rather had to start a total do-over. “In the beginning we’d cross our fingers at every demonstration, hoping that the lines would come out right. And if a prospective customer concluded that our lines were imprecise, they would practically throw us out,” Thilemann reminisces. In most cases, however, he’d note that placement and measurement errors where with the human line-drawer, and not with the robot. And when the
customers saw that he was right, one after one they surrendered to this new technology. Meanwhile, Turf Tank was optimising the technology, for instance with an upgrade in GPS technology. And as Turf Tank displayed great reliability, the industry - which has generally not been used to radical innovation - surrendered to the robots at large. “Our customers today are Turf Tank ambassadors. When we are at a convention, they approach us, and they are so passionate about the product, that they’ll help selling it to other attendees. We have gotten hold of the market, and our customers believe in our product and trust it so much that they recommend it to their peers,” says Thilemann.
PRINTER, FOOTBALL FIELD SIZED A time-consuming task solved efficiently by a robot. That was Turf Tank’s sales pitch in the beginning. Some where obviously concerned that they would lose their job to a robot. But more often than not, their hands were needed for other tasks at their club, and it turned to be nothing but an advantage to have a robot helping out. Since then, the robot’s level of precision has become an important selling point, as a wrongly drawn up field can decide a match. And as the technology matures further, more and more new possibilities arise for the robot’s use - even outside the playing field. “We try and give the customers as many options as possible. As our method and technology has
improved, they’ve opened new avenues for us. We started being able to have them write numbers and draw shapes, for instance for American football. But today we can also draw logos and all sorts of other things,” says Thilemann. That’s why he also believes that Turf Tank and its customers together are figuring out how technology can contribute to the sports club. Today, customers have access not only to the line-drawing, but to a robot who flexibly and precisely can print messages and shapes all over the field. Already this is improving morale and sponsorship possibilities all over the clubs. But how far away from the lines of a sports field the robot will end up, only time will tell.
FUTURE SPORTS COMBINE TECH AND MOVEMENT - AND THEY WILL BE AS BIG AS COUNTER-STRIKE Sportstech companies EVOtag and Jabii have each created a game combining the technical aspects of gaming with some real-life sweat. The next step is building communities and holding tournaments, for the ambitions are not small: these games have the potential to be as big as Counter-Strike. Written by Anna Bernsen
ars Sønderskov has a dream of pitting real special forces soldiers against professional gamers in a match of EVOtag. “Who would win? Those who have trained for combat in the real world, or those who have trained in the world of the computer?” asks Sønderskov, CEO and founder of EVOtag. In EVOtag, each player is equipped with the pistollike EVOtagger device and a smartphone. In the EVOtag app, the player can, among other things, see a map of the
game, choose weapon type and ammunition, place landmines, and keep a tally of “killed” opponent. In others words: EVOtag resembles traditional shooters quite a lot, but with one major difference: EVOtag is played outside, in the physical world, and if you want to win, you need to move. “We want to create an experience that makes the player forget time and space, just like when they’re sitting down and gaming. It’s a huge added bonus that you are being active and out in the fresh air and sunlight,” says Sønderskov.
VIDEO GAMES AS A RECOGNIZED SPORT It is not many years ago that video games like CounterStrike and League of Legends were professionalized and recognized as sports under the heading of esports. Today, there are therefore tournaments with millions of viewers, organisations that unite the industry, and you can practice Counter-Strike in local clubs
much as you can practice football. A new generation of sports hopes to emulate this success. The new generation combines tech and movement, so players get sweat on their bodies along with a feeling of gaming, health bars and combo strikes included. App Delivers the Gaming Experience Jabii is another new game mixing gaming and physical sport. In Jabii, each player has a special boxing glove in their hand, and the goal is to knock out the opponent. But you must be quick and dextrous. The boxing glove has a telescopic arm giving it greater reach than most professional boxers. However, it doesn’t hurt as bad at all. An airfilled bladder at the glove’s end blunts the blows, so they don’t hurt at all. The telescopic glove could, in and of itself, be something of a gadget. But Jabii has chosen to tie in an app and thus give extra depth. “We started out not at all considering linking an app to the gloves, as it was expensive to develop. But an app allows for all the functions of the gaming world. You have data collection on matches, a lot of light and sound effects, even match replays,” says Giang Le, CTO and co-founder of Jabii.
COMMUNITIES ARE ALL-IMPORTANT
With 2,000 EVOtaggers and 2,200 Jabii-gloves sold in Denmark, there is still quite a long way to the games being as accessible as football or Counter-Strike. But both companies are well on their way building up communities around their game, so the games can be recognized as established genres of esports down the line. Here, partnerships with associations and organisations play a large role. “We are working with a lot of communal clubs and esports associations, and they are incredibly important in this situation. Because if they think we have a cool product, they will probably want to help setting up some events,” says Sønderskov from EVOtag, and elaborates: “We are also working with the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association, with the purpose of organising tournaments. The goal is to arrange several crosscountry tournaments, where players meet and participate in larger matches.” Jabii has similarly sold its boxing glove to a number of esports businesses and youth clubs, which for Le is a step in the right direction if Jabii is to become an established sport. But the company is also working on integrating the community directly into the app. “We want to breathe some life into the community by letting our users message each other directly in the app, so the app can facilitate meetups in the real world. Our hope is that users that way will start organising local tournament on their own,” says Le.
AS BIG AS COUNTERSTRIKE Neither Sønderskov nor Le are afraid of dreaming big when it comes to the new generation of sportstech games. “I rather believe that the new sports will, in time, surpass the traditional ones, because they have so many more possibilities. But for one thing, technology needs to keep up, and the sport needs to get organised.” When the founders of EVOtag and Jabii both foresee a bright future for this type of game, it is partially because Denmark has a flourishing culture of communities. And that is a decisive part of organising game events, which both Sønderskov and Le believe is vital for establishing the games as sports. “Denmark is good place to start because of the strong community culture. So if the Danish associations and firebrands start organising games and tournaments, then I can absolutely envision EVOtag becoming as big as CounterStrike,” Sønderskov says.
UNDERSTANDING THE TUTURE TODAY Right now, startups, innovative companies and the people behind them are solving future challenges with innovative business models and a techsavvy mindset. Maybe you are one of them? Maybe you want us to tell your story? TechSavvy Media is the leading digital startup media in Denmark. We specialize in telling great stories in the intersection between technology, innovation and business. If you want us to tell your story on our platform or in one of our many industry-specific magazines, don’t hesitate to reach out at email@example.com.
TECHSAVVY MAGAZINE TechSavvy Media Høveltsvangsvej 8 3450 Allerød mail: firstname.lastname@example.org