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Why LiDAR Is the Future of Data Capture in U.S. Sports

Legacy performance-tracking systems typically rely on one of three different types of technology: radio frequency, GPS or cameras. Each of these systems served a purpose at one time or another, but all are saddled with drawbacks – from vibration sensitivity to invasive equipment to measurement inaccuracies – that limit the value of the data they’re designed to capture.

Today’s gold standard of player-performance tracking technology is LiDAR (light detection and ranging), a laser-based remote system that is prized for its accuracy and versatility, as well as its future potential. This isn’t just speculation. NASA and the National Ocean Service, among others, have been employing LiDAR-based technologies for decades, essentially providing the private market with a conclusive proof of concept. With so many entrepreneurs now envisioning the possibilities of combining advanced robotics and other new innovations with the most cutting-edge range-finding tech, current investment in LiDAR is booming. And with much of the Premier League already on board, the United States figures to be the next frontier for LiDAR technology.


Autonomous Driving Is Steering Investment in LiDAR

The primary driver of current investment in LiDAR is the race to build a better autonomous vehicle. Despite some notable public setbacks in the space, consumer demand in autonomous driving (AD) and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) is high. A recent McKinsey analysis estimated that AD and ADAS “could generate between $300 billion and $400 billion in the passenger car market by 2035” – which is reason enough to make car manufacturers bullish on the prospects of autonomous vehicle technologies.


But much of that excitement centers specifically around LiDAR. Although the earliest and highest-profile efforts at pioneering autonomous vehicles featured camera-based technology, a series of safety issues have stalled progress and since swayed the industry toward LiDAR as the future of AD and ADAS. At issue: cameras don’t really measure anything – not speed or movement. Certain measurements can be derived from a high-powered optical system, but this requires many cameras, a lot of synching and great expense. Essentially, the process is a workaround. The accuracy and consistency of these systems simply haven’t met the demands necessary for viable autonomous driving.


LiDAR, on the other hand, is designed for measuring purposes. Originally developed as a rangefinder, it measures directly – and very accurately – without using metrics to interpret visuals and derive its data. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of major car manufacturers are now investing in LiDAR as the future of AD. And with that investment, LiDAR sensors are expected to continue to get smaller and more affordable – making the most accurate and reliable form of movement tracking more accessible to all.


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