Playertek: Professional sports analysis for the ordinary sportsperson
Making professional data more accessible for the average sportsperson.
It used to be simply a discussion over a pint in the pub with your mates, but the way the average fan consumes sports has changed massively in recent years.
Thanks to advances in sports science and greater availability of a wide range of data, people now want to know the distance covered by Gareth Bale in 90 minutes, Lionel Messi's heat map or the force generated by Paul O'Connell when he puts in a particularly massive hit.
Sports fans who are fit and athletic themselves also want to avail of this kind of data for their own use.
Would a half-back playing GAA at club level, for example, cover more ground than a Premier League central midfielder?
Would a corner forward do more sprints than a international rugby winger? That sort of data hasn't been available to the average fan on the street or to the guy who keeps himself fit by playing a bit five-a-side twice a week up to this point, but it is now.
Playertek, an Irish company based in Dundalk, are hoping to appeal to just that type of guy with their revolutionary professional-grade GPS Tracking System for Football, Rugby & GAA that has just been released on the market.
We caught up with Playertek founder Ronan Mac Ruairi, who told us why he thinks there would be a big demand for this type of product amongst the ordinary sportsperson.
"Unless sports science is your full-time job there's only so much data you can pore over so the key challenge for us was to get the manufacturing side down to a reasonable price level without sacrifcing accuracy and reliability," Ronan told us.
"Could we put it all together in a component package and get the stats down to a level that's interesting, exciting and easy to follow for everybody?
"There's such a prevalence of this sort of technology at a professional level, but you're even seeing it now with inter-county GAA teams. The pundits covering the likes of the Champions League have access to great live stats and consumers have come to expect it now and wonder why can't they have it for themselves?
"They're thinking 'Why am I heaving after 20 minutes of a match? Is it because I covered a large distance or is it because I had a late night last night?'"
The device that Playertek have produced is similar to something that you've probably seen before. Ever seen that little bump on the back of a rugby player's jersey just below their necks? Ever wonder why you could see a garment that looks like a sports bra under the jerseys of Gaelic football and rugby players?
Every professional team is subject to elite levels of data analysis these days but as is evident in the GAA, it's quickly filtering down to the amateur arena too.
Thanks to one device that fits easily into the palm of your hand, a player can now judge their performance through a range of measurable parameters.
What distance did they cover? How many sprints did they do in a game? How hard did their left foot hit the ground as opposed to their right foot? Were they as effective in the final five minutes as they were in the first five?
The Playertek device will provide an individual with all that data and more; the challenge for Playertek is to make the stats simple and accessible enough to appeal to the man on the street and also, at a higher level, relieve some of the burden on the coaching staff involved with a team by giving more power to the individual.
"The trick for us is to get it down to a level of accuracy that's useful on the pitch," Ronan says.
"All that technical information, we boil it down to a simple interface to effectively present you with 10 different numbers which basically boils down to intensity and workload; how much work you're doing and how hard you're doing that work.
"A lot of amateur clubs don't have the depth of technical support to deal with a full professional system. If you think of a squad of 25 people training on a particular day, for example, somebody's got to take data from all those 25 players, prepare reports and feed back to the coach. That's a full-time job in itself.
"Strength and conditioning guys and physios are busy enough as it is, because this is all amateur after all. With such a busy workload, what we didn't want to do was to produce a system to sell to clubs and counties that increased their workload. We wanted to produce a system that gets the same results but minimises the workload.
"Our model is just as good as what's out there but a lot less expensive. You can use it on a group basis or you can give the player the individual unit and they can look after their own data; that's a big relief for the strength and conditioning guys, the physios and the coaching staff."
With a product that's so technical and scientific, Playertek were keenly aware of the need to make it fun too, it's designed to appeal to the ordinary consumer after all.
With that in mind, not only can you continuously track your data with a view to setting individual training targets, users can compare their data with their friends and other users too.
Not only does that encourage some friendly competition but it acts as a source of motivation as well. Are you faster and fitter than your clubmate? Now you'll have the stats to prove it.
As well as that, you can use data from the Premier League to see how you compare with the biggest stars across the water. Did you do more sprints than Wayne Rooney in a match?
From a user-friendly viewpoint, sessions are easily uploaded, synchronised and viewable on personal devices and through Facebook and Twitter, your performance can be easily shared with your friends and team mates.
It's early days yet, but Ronan is hoping for big things in the near future and that within five years, that a Playertek device will be an essential part of the average sportsperson's matchday kit.
"I love the idea that for someone in their mid 30s going out to play five a side, that football will be a measurable exercise for them. Yes it will be a social exercise that they're doing for enjoyment, but they can also compare themselves to a cyclist friend of theirs with their stats from their weekly game and to prove that they're doing just as much if not even more.
"Within five years, I'd like it to be the norm that when somebody goes out to play football, for example, they'd have their shirt, their shorts, their boots and their Playertek."
For more information on Playertek, check out their website.