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Pro Sports, Fitness, Wearable Tech - A Match Made in Heaven
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
December 16, 2013

Pro Sports, Fitness, Wearable Tech - A Match Made in Heaven

By Tony Rizzo
TMCnet Senior Editor

After roughly five months of planning, conference program development and the assembly and organization of the best of the best speakers, thought leaders, pioneers and experts on wearable technology, we held our second Wearable Technology Conference and Expo of 2013, this time around in Los Angeles in the heart of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. It was a dynamic and interactive three full days of conference events, with great in-depth discussions on a range of subjects as diverse as the industry itself is proving to be.

We began our week on Monday, December 9, 2013 with our FAST (News - Alert) (Fitness and Sports Technology) Expo, a co-located one day event focused on the use of technology and wearable tech within the sports and fitness industries. Geared primarily to a professional audience involved in organized sports, athletic training and the fitness industry, our program provided an in-depth study of what is becoming available - or more accurately, what is already real - beyond what we as consumers see.

Real Time Player Game and Biometric Data

Our opening keynote speaker Paul Robbins, Director of Elite Performance at STATS LLC (News - Alert), began things off by demonstrating the company's large scale ability to track every player on the court or field, providing near endless real time data streams and views on player game interactions and behaviors. The system, SportsVu, provides trainers, coaches and managers with unparalleled, unprecedented and unique views of players in real time, with those views capturing nuances and details of any given game that are simply not possible to capture solely through video.

Adidas VP of Innovation for Wearable Tech, Qaizar Hassonjee, followed by demonstrating the company's miCoach Elite system. The system is a beautifully integrated platform that brings together machine to machine (M2M) communication, wearable technology in the form of wearable smart materials, biometric sensors and big data analysis.

What can one do with the technologies Paul and Qaizar demonstrated?

We were further privileged to have on hand for the event Dawn Scott, Fitness Coach, US Soccer Federation and Women's National Soccer Team - a true expert in utilizing these technologies. Unlike Qaizar and Paul, who deliver the technology (although to be fair Paul also has spent many years consulting with pro teams on fitness training), Dawn provided an in-depth view on how she uses the technology every day,  and underscored that the technology makes a real difference in managing a team's athletes and their fitness and well-being.  Part of Dawn's presentation included showing richly detailed charts and trend lines for both individual athletes and aggregated team information - all of it gathered in real time.

Dawn left us with two key take aways. First, those teams that are able to incorporate these health and fitness technologies into their team activities gain a real competitive advantage overall. And two, once a team takes the leap there is little to no chance they would ever return to a pre-technology existence. There is as yet no ability to actually utilize the technology under real game circumstances - that is certainly understandable. But the bottom line is that any team that doesn't get on board will be left behind.

Other FAST sessions included discussions on the companies driving wearable tech devices and software that can further enable what coaching, health and fitness pros can capture and analyze, discussions on tools and techniques for analyzing huge collections of real time big data, and a detailed review of the types of hardware coming down the road that will take everything we are able to do today forward.

Sports Fan Engagement

Not all wearable tech and data analysis is focused on fitness however. As several other speakers, among them Frank Wheeler of SAP (News - Alert)'s Sports and Entertainment group and Zach Barbitta, Marketing Director for Pivothead Smart Glasses demonstrated,  and indeed even as Paul Robbins hinted earlier in the day, many professional level clubs and leagues are keen to use wearable technology to drive fan engagement. Such engagement can come by way of delivering crisp real time statistics to mobile devices, as well as in capturing direct, on-field player viewpoints of activities through video and sending these video streams back out to fans, again in real time - just to name two.

The key take aways from FAST regarding what wearable tech is - at least for us: It is a serious real time toolset  for taking athletes at every level - from the true individual elite athlete to any organized sports team whether pro, amateur or otherwise - to entirely new levels of performance. And it is the emerging means to deeply engaging with audiences and fans - whether in the stadium, on the court, on the field, or catering to the folks simply hanging out in front of their TVs.

FAST and Furious

For as long as wearable tech has been an industry buzzword (or buzz phrase) the headline acts to date have been consumer activity trackers and consumer-oriented smartwatches. This is all well and good and serves as a solid cornerstone of the foundation from which wearable tech will grow.

The FAST conference makes it clear however that consumer-focused wearable technology merely scratches the surface of possibilities. Lurking behind the consumer eye candy is an already serious collection of pro-level sports wearable tech that neither looks pretty, fashionable or particularly fun. What it does however is to provide serious training advantages to serious athletes.

Interestingly, we need to note here that in truth it isn't necessarily the athletes that think about or care about wearable tech within a FAST context. It is their coaches and fitness trainers that do and it is entirely up to them to dig into the analysis of real time data - whether at the individual or team level - in order to mine the critical nuggets of information that will take the teams and athletes they work with to the next level.

Dawn Scott makes it completely clear that fitness and sports technology is here to stay. She can't imagine reverting back to a pre-tech ecosystem. We are only at the beginning here - it remains a nascent industry. But it is an industry that everyone involved is sports - whether for training, coaching or fan engagement purposes - will need to embrace and embrace quickly. To do otherwise is to lose the competitive edge.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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