Thursday, 20 September 2012

Technology in Sports

By Joram Sengendo (Summer Analyst)
London 2012 took this nation by storm. The latest instalment of the Olympiad was Made in Britain and was a much bigger production than its first iteration, staged in Sparta in 776 BC but its essential nature remains the same. We are compelled by sport precisely because of its ancient and timeless elements. We are awed by the commitment of athletes who will measure out four years of training in miliseconds and milimeters.

Perhaps because it is so easy to pare sports back to these essential elements, it is also easy to discount the other inputs that contribute, in their own ways, to how sports are played. We watch sports for the men and women who play them and not, for example, to see the latest manifestation of goal line technology or to remark on the performance of a newly designed ball. And yet sport has changed significantly over time in the way that it is played, in the way the athletes prepare and the way that audiences watch competitions. Technology is a central driver of those changes. Take the 100 metre dash, for many the apex of Olympic competition. When it was first run in 1896, athletes came to the track with a trowel in hand and dug themselves into the start. It was not until 1948, the last London Olympics, that starting blocks were introduced, allowing for a more explosive beginning to each race and helping athletes shave tenths off their time. 1948 also saw the introduction of the photo finish, ensuring that victory in the tightest contests was determined mechanically and human fallibility removed from the judging. As for audiences, in 1896, several years before Marconi’s successful wireless communication between Britain and Newfoundland, the world waited for news of the Olympic competition to be relayed via telegraph. At London 2012, every event was captured on camera and relayed instantaneously to viewers across the globe on television, computer and mobile.
Amoo, in collaboration with our booster series partners Goodman Derrick LLP, has been celebrating the relationship between technology and sport in its latest instalments of the Amoo Booster Series. In July and August we held two events where we heard from some fantastic start-ups that are working to change the way we engage with sport. In July, we heard from Arnold du Toit of Drive Daddy, Craig from Share the Match, and James Knight and Ed Saperia from Original Content London.
Arnold pitched his company’s first product, the Rolley Golf, a ride-on golf trolley that allows golfers to effortlessly walk or ride round the course, offering more mobility than a golf cart and more reliability than traditional golf trolleys all while using less electricity and requiring less maintenance.
Share the Match on the other hand, offers the promise of altering how fans interact with the matches they watch and the clubs they follow. A location-based social network for football fans, it enables fans to share matchday experiences with other fans in real-time. As an application it can plug in to match transmissions allowing fans to interact with each other while the match progresses on the same screen.
Not content with altering existing sports, Ed and James at the New Sport Awards proposed re-inventing sports altogether. They proposed a competition for sports and technology enthusiasts to fuse their passions to incentivise the creation of new sports and games.
In the end there could be only one winner and our audience determined that that winner was Arnold Du Toit of Drive Daddy who went away with some spectacular Olympic prizes (a t-shirt and a mug, both very fetching). Networking and socialising went long into the evening.
The July event such a success that Amoo and Goodman Derrick decided to repeat the theme of technology and sport the following month. August's event began with a keynote address from Angus McNab of Opta Sports. What began as a group of friends counting out pass completions and other football stats in a pub has now become the world’s largest provider of performance-related sports data.
Angus was followed by a new batch of entrepreneurs: Howard Kingston of We R Interactive, Eric DeGolier of Vortex Sports Design and Roman Grigorjev of Revelmob.
Howard took the audience through We R Interactive, a game publishing company that blends together the best aspects of television and film to create social games that bring global audiences together. The company’s flagship title is the immensely successful IamPlayr– the world’s first online game that allows players to live the life of a professional footballer. Gamers guide their footballers through their professional careers, keeping them fit through training and taking realistic non-sporting decisions involving sponsorships, sports cars, personal relationships and the inevitable night-life. Companies like Nike, BetFred, Alfra Romeo and Red Bull have signed up to insert their products into the game.
Eric DeGolier of Vortex Sport Design was next to present. His new cycling product, BodyRocket, can be strapped onto a bike to measure its aerodynamic drag, making available to amateur cyclists tools that were previously only available to the wealthiest cycling teams in the world.
The final presentation of the night was a pitch by Roman Grigorjev of Revelmob – a company that produces consumer mobile applications. Its latest offering is Guessmate – a game application where friends attempt to guess the subject of a tiled-picture with only a few tiles displayed initially. This concept is very social and flexible, with applications ranging from sports-advertising to tourism, and beyond.
This month’s event concluded with a victory for Howard and We R Interactive. The pitch blew our audience away in a strong field and celebrations and networking continued long after the pitching had stopped.>
Amoo will continue holding monthly Booster Series events, and invites all entrepreneurs, investors, patent lawyers and other start-up technology supporters to attend these great networking events. The feedback has been nothing less than spectacular, and we are confident that you shall find great value and unique insights during our events.