Emerging Technology
17. February 2022
Reading time: 7 Min.

The Digitalization of Sport

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When the Football Premier League was founded in 1888, the worldwide triumph of a sport began. At that time, men in work boots were still kicking a leather ball that was heavily soaked by rain. But the most important rules had already been laid down.

Since then, a lot has happened: from nurturing grassroots sports to the big business of professional sports, both in terms of advanced equipment and in modern game tactics. However, some huge and revolutionary developments are comparatively unobtrusive – among other things, the deployment of tracking devices hidden under the jersey. Electronics and Big Data have made their way into the training and performance centers of the clubs, enabling the recording and analysis of ball events or the individual fitness of the players. High-resolution GPS tracking systems measure motion sequences during the game and provide real-time information about each player’s performance. In combination with accelerometers, gyrometers and heart rate monitors, it means the footballer can be digitally captured: algorithms evaluate ever larger amounts of data and allow the trainers to draw conclusions from this for optimal training and load control. Sports scientists, system manufacturers and trainers are constantly researching how the data can be optimally evaluated and what can be learned from it.

The use of sensors in sport is promising and offers many advantages for athletes, teams and clubs:

  • Better learning of motion sequences with immediate sensor feedback
  • Better understanding of the athlete’s interactions with equipment and within teams
  • Faster improvements based on accurate data, not just on trial and error
  • Development of better sports equipment using huge amounts of empirical data
  • Easier creation of individual training plans and virtual personal trainers
  • More detailed documentation of sporting events, with more information for spectators and participants

Sensors are housed, for example, in tennis racquets and baseball bats, balls, shoes and helmets. In many sports there is a great interest in a better understanding of the movement contexts. And the growing number of fitness wristbands and pedometers makes it clear: amateur athletes have at least as great a need for ‘self-measurement’ as the professionals.

Sport is therefore a major growth market for sensor technology. The main reasons for this trend include miniaturization and the decreasing cost of components with increased accuracy, evaluation algorithms hosted on ever smaller chips, low-power techniques – including for radio – and the exciting possibilities of mobile computing.

Würth Elektronik has just expanded its sensor division. Readily available product ranges extend from infrared detectors for the optical determination of blood oxygen saturation and pulse rates, to absolute and differential pressure sensors, to extremely accurate 3-axis accelerometers. These ranges are augmented by very small Bluetooth radio modules.

Of course, we will never rest on our laurels: given that Würth Elektronik is intensively involved in the promotion of start-ups through technical support, it’s inevitable that further exciting product ideas for wearables are just around the corner.