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Cross-Sport Integration: Why LiDAR Has the Potential to Benefit More Sports in the Future

The common law of business balance project-management model has become virtually ubiquitous, across industries as diverse as advertising and technology, in managing client expectations. Its core principle is often expressed in a manner that will likely sound familiar to many of us: “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.”

Sometimes described as the Iron Triangle, the model may not be long on nuance, but it does effectively encapsulate the major challenges encountered in most areas of business. Solving a problem or creating a product that truly delivers for a client requires innovation, time and resources. Results are possible when two are in great supply, but they will often come at the sacrifice of the third.

If the task for creators of advanced performance-tracking technology isn’t more difficult than that for other industries, it is certainly uniquely challenging. The market is quite finite, clients have highly technical and specific needs, and even the best-developed technology must be meticulously considered, developed and calibrated for each new sport. It’s a challenge we relish at Sportlight, but it’s a challenge nonetheless.

Cross-Sport Performance Technology Is More Than Theoretical

One game-changing tool at our disposal at Sportlight makes the cross-sport integration of cutting-edge performance-tracking systems more than just an abstract concept or pipe dream: LiDAR.

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is the laser-based remote sensing technique on which Sportlight’s system is built – a technology used for decades by the United States military, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other organizations. The reason LiDAR has been favored by leading governmental agencies is because it’s exceptionally accurate, comprehensive and reliable. The data extracted from its use is unmatched by other forms of “tracking” instrumentation.

At the same time, there is a cost attached to the technology – particularly in order to optimize LiDAR-based performance tracking for capturing the data related to sport-specific movements. In other words, there is no all-in-one, point-and-click performance-tracking system – not one that provides the level of detail, accuracy and specificity sought by practitioners within each sport. The same functionality of the technology can be applied across sports, but to achieve satisfactory results requires significant investment and many months of research and development. That brings us back to the main principle of the Iron Triangle, which essentially says, “Good quality requires time or funding. Excellence usually requires both.”

Even LiDAR’s Effectiveness Hinges on Input From Sport-Specific Experts

No two sports are quite alike. Many incorporate running and jumping, for example, into their game play. But exactly how those skills are applied and the importance of each within each sport can be wildly different – and often influence or even dictate how a practitioner would train an athlete or rehabilitate an injury. Understanding which movements to track and the specific data to measure within each sport is critical to the optimization of athlete health and performance. Additionally, playing field dimensions, venue limitations and inherent game situations may create obstacles that must be overcome in the development of tracking technology for new sports.

This is why last year Sportlight brought in Matt Howley to be our director of North Amercian sports. Because although our systems can be found almost throughout the Premier League, technology that is attuned to football and solving football-specific problems isn’t automatically optimized for basketball or baseball – or even soccer-adjacent sports such as hockey or lacrosse.

Advanced LiDAR-based player-tracking technology may not become ubiquitous in the near-term. It’s unlikely that you’ll find the Sportlight system (or anything quite like it) at your son’s Little League baseball game or your daughter’s basketball tournament anytime soon. But as demand increases and development continues, access to accurate, reliable and functional movement data can be expected across more sports in the years ahead.

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