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Why Clubs Are Turning to LiDAR to Support Their GPS Technology

Professional sports is a multibillion-dollar industry that demands ownership with deep pockets for investment in everything from player salaries to stadium upkeep to technology. That doesn’t mean, however, that leagues and clubs are playing with Monopoly money. Particularly at a tier or two lower than the highest levels of sports, organizations must be thoughtful – and, in many cases, downright frugal – with their financial resources.

Only recently have top leagues reached a tipping point at which a majority of teams began devoting significant funds to technologies such as performance tracking. Finally recognized for their competitive benefits and valued as worthwhile organizational investments, systems that leverage cameras, wearables and GPS (global positioning system) have increasingly been in use in sports settings around the world.

Given the rapid progress of technology, many organizations may find themselves asking a critical question: how do we optimize our legacy tracking systems with new tech?, and if we believe the data drawn from that tech is valuable, why should we consider devoting resources to new systems? When it comes to weighing the benefits of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technologies, a few important reasons stand out:

Precision. GPS technology is commonly used to track player movement on the pitch, field or court. But GPS has limitations, especially in dense urban environments or areas with tall structures that can obstruct satellite signals. (And guess where most stadiums and arenas are located?) Meanwhile, LiDAR is a laser-based system that measures distances and creates highly detailed three-dimensional kinetic reports with unrivaled accuracy.

Portability. Because of the previously mentioned environmental limitations of GPS, its viability is restricted to vetted structures and areas, and its readings when transported to disparate sites can’t be trusted for data comparison or aggregation. LiDAR technology such as Sportlight’s performance-tracking system, on the other hand, can be repositioned or packed up and moved across venues to accommodate road schedules, practices and other organizational activities requiring data collection.

Dynamic tracking. In optimal conditions, GPS can provide leagues and clubs with quality positional-location tracking. But real-life conditions are frequently suboptimal, and GPS doesn’t record finer player movements with nearly the same detail or accuracy as LiDAR. When used in conjunction with GPS, coaches, practitioners and sports scientists can gain insights into specific aspects of an athlete's performance, such as stride length, body positioning and reaction times – data that is vital for understanding player outputs, injury risk and more.

In any number of sports settings, LiDAR and GPS are complementary technologies that can work together to provide the most accurate and comprehensive data for various applications. LiDAR offers a richness and volume of data GPS alone can’t match, and can be deployed with far fewer restrictions than GPS-based systems. But by combining GPS data and LiDAR-generated data, organizations can achieve more accurate player tracking, even in challenging environments, improving performance analysis and insights.

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