Adidas equips World Cup teams with fitness sensors, scopes out healthcare opportunity

By Jonah Comstock
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miCoach EliteWe've written about professional sports teams deploying mobile health tracking devices in basketball and cycling. Two years ago, Adidas added professional soccer to their list, and they've now equipped 19 teams in the United States and Europe with its miCoach Elite system. Several teams that have been training with the system are headed to Brazil next month for the World Cup. And in the future, Adidas technology might be crossing over into healthcare too.

That's all based on remarks made by Adidas VP of Innovation Qaizar Hassonjee, who spoke at HxRefactored about the latest moves by the company. The soccer players will actually wear jerseys with built-in sensors, as well as a "player cell" tucked into a pocket in the back of the jersey.

The miCoach Elite system tracks speed and distance with an accelerometer and via GPS, in addition to tracking player heart rate. All that data is sent to a base station and then uploaded into the cloud, enabling coaches to access it from the field on an iPad. Hassonjee said that heart rate alone will show you how hard a player is working, but Adidas' software and sensors allow coaches to track the power individual players are putting out on the field as well.

"Those of you who are cyclers know how to use power, but it’s very different to measure that same kind of power on the field," he said. "But now, using these sensors and the algorithm, we are now able to see how much power each soccer player is putting out on the field. So we can normalize, and see what’s happening to the whole team, we make it so we know what the minimum power and the maximum power is so you can know how efficient each of those players are. We look at heart rate, and calculate efficiency based on that. These are unique metrics that were not there before and that really gives coaches a lot more insight than they would have had."

At the end of his presentation, Hassonjee put out an appeal for partners -- something that Adidas has not expressed much interest in previously. He also suggested that the company is looking for use cases outside of sports -- in wellness and possibly even healthcare.

"All of this up until now has been a very closed system," he said. "What we have had is our devices working with our apps and our platform and our coaching. We now have had so much experience with the content we have that we are looking at opening this platform up. We want to look to partner with people who have better experiences then we have with our devices and people who have devices and can bring more information, so that we can use the content, and then have a platform so we can share information in terms of what’s happening to users who happen to also be patients and happen to also want to be fit and healthy. We want to see how we can work together with other people outside of sports who have the same needs -- to be fit, to be healthy."