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Wearables Versus LiDAR: Where Does the Future Lie?

Sports technology advances in fits and starts. In a space that traditionally has been conservative in its adoption of (and investment in) new tech, game-changing processes and equipment tend to arrive all at once, after they have been tested and fully proven in another field or by a bold outlier competitor.

The same has been true of LiDAR, the laser-based technology that was first developed as a mapping tool and, more recently, as the core tech in most autonomous vehicles. LiDAR, also known as light detection and ranging, is hyper-accurate – the most sophisticated and reliable way to measure speed, movement and position of objects (including athletes). Radiofrequency, cameras and GPS – the technology found in most of today’s sleek wearables – have had their days. But currently, there is no existing tech, nor any in view on the horizon, that is superior in tracking applicable dynamic movement data than LiDAR.

Here’s why sports franchises in leagues across the globe need to know about it now: LiDAR has reached a tipping point. Because of its use in autonomous vehicles, huge investments in research and development are being made, and production is scaling up. This means LiDAR technology will soon become cheaper and smaller while, at the same time, growing better. Any entity with biometric movement problems to solve will soon benefit from these booming advancements.

Take, for instance, soccer’s Premier League. The current legacy solutions – mostly GPS wearables and camera tracking – are hampered by limitations, especially around accuracy and consistency. Both technologies demonstrate proven errors and biases for intensity metrics, such as accelerations, decelerations and change of direction. They also struggle to pick up valuable data at low speeds. And especially in the larger stadiums seen around the Premier League (and in the NFL, Major League Baseball, etc.), GPS tends to struggle with signal quality.

There’s more. Optical tracking results have yielded significant inconsistencies from stadium to stadium based on camera position and angle. And because most Premier League clubs use optical tracking for games and GPS for training, data consistency and combining those data sets to create a clear picture of actionable information becomes problematic. Moreover, in game situations, GPS can provide data only for the home team – not that of competitors.

LiDAR solves all these issues. It can be used indoors, outdoors, in any stadium and on any training ground, with accurate, consistent, reliable results. And as of today, Sportlight is the only provider of this LiDAR technology for Premier League clubs – tech that can be easily adapted and applied to football, basketball, hockey, rugby and any other sport, at any level.

Twentieth-century technology doesn’t solve 21st-century problems. Today, our understanding of physical performance is extraordinarily advanced, but outdated tracking technology hasn’t kept up. GPS and cameras don’t provide the depth and quality of data that clubs strive to monitor – the metrics that matter. LiDAR, which has given teams a new tool, is set to give sports technology its next great leap.

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