Changing the world of professional sport through satellite applications

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By John Hildreth, North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence

John Hildreth from the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence considers the role that satellite technology is playing in sports science.

Satappsandsport_398pxIt is well known that many professional sports, including motor racing, athletics, rugby, tennis and cricket, have readily adopted different technologies to help improve the safety of their sports, the spectator experience, or to gain an individual or team advantage through improved performance or decision making.

These sports are all examples where technology-enabled data and information are playing a more significant role than even 10-15 years ago. This is coupled with the ever-increasing personal and financial pressures placed on individuals, clubs or teams that have been witnessed during this period. For example, last season’s Championship play-off final between QPR and Norwich City to secure a place in the Premier League was estimated to be worth £120 million for the winner. Elsewhere, a hundredth or thousandth of a second can be the difference between victory and defeat for a grand prix driver or world-class sprinter, with the associated financial impacts being dramatic.

It is for these reasons, and gaining the slightest competitive advantage, that sports team are resorting to greater dependency on technology.

Weather forecasting technology plays a crucial part in teams’ planning before and during motor races, while many athletes track their distances and speed through GPS-enabled technology and applications, as part of their performance monitoring.

So it was no surprise to see that satellite data is now being used in ‘the beautiful game’ to gain a greater insight and ultimately improve results. This adoption follows FIFA’s decision in July 2015 to permit players to wear Electronic Performance and Tracking System (EPTS) devices, which have been sanctioned for use in competitions by the Football League in England.

The devices are relatively small and have been used by several clubs as part of their training activities, providing information about the distance covered, acceleration, average and top speeds of each player.

Currently, 19 Football League clubs have registered their intention to use these devices during competitive matches. This includes Wycombe Wanderers, whose kick-off for the match against Plymouth was delayed by seven minutes whilst clarification about was sought about the use of the EPTS devices!

It is the adoption of satellite technology and satellite data into new markets or to create new products and services for existing markets which provides a real opportunity for innovative companies and entrepreneurs. The Collaborate to Innovate Space Conference 2015 which takes place on 26 November 2015 in Newcastle, will feature speakers including Steve Lee of Stevenson Astrosat, Andrew Richardson of Realsafe Technologies, and Ben Mawhinney of DroneLabs. Each will provide delegates with real life examples of where they have been able to spot the ‘gap in the market’ and fill this gap using satellite technology or data.

To find out more or to register for this event, go to