How Barcelona aims to be Silicon Valley of sports
FC Barcelona is aiming to be the ‘Silicon Valley of sports’ after helping develop an industry-leading wearable technology system.
The Liga leaders co-developed Wimu with start-up RealTrack Systems to get the most insight possible from training sessions and matches across all of the club’s professional teams.
Before that the four indoor teams – futsal, handball, basketball and volleyball used different athlete-tracking systems, with the flagship football side using yet another in STATSports.
Upon rating all the systems the Barca Innovation Hub decided that Wimu was best as it offered both outdoor GPS functionality and indoor antenna-based tracking.
It then worked with Andalucia start-up RealTrack Systems over a two-year period to improve the design of the product before enhancing the reports and visualisations it delivered.
Albert Mundet, the BIHub’s head of knowledge, told Sport Techie that the start-up, which was staffed by a team of former Nokia engineers, “had a lot of potential with what they were delivering and what, at the same time, they were willing to improve”.
“Every week, our 25 physical trainers in an internal workshop would discuss new metrics, the reliability and usability of the metrics they were already doing and considering if there was something that should be improved,” Mundet said.
“The expertise of Real Track has been on engineering [while we can] build on top of that a KPI report based on Barca’s knowhow.”
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Marta Plana, a board member at Barca who oversees the Innovation Hub, said: “We want to be the Silicon Valley of Barcelona and sports in general.
“We’re trying to change the mindset of being inside ourselves to expand ourselves. That’s a change that says a lot. We’re local, but we have a global impact.”
Barca is also working with wearable technology firm DuPont Advanced Materials on an exclusive smart garment that can take accurate ECG and respiratory rate measurements, among other innovations.
However Wimu has been made available to the likes of the Spain national team as well as clubs around the world.
“What we’ve tried to create is an ecosystem for fostering knowledge and innovation,” said Plana. “For me, that’s the biggest and most important part of the Innovation Hub.
“We’re benefiting the club, we’re benefiting society, and the goal of this collaborative model – within the club, within other clubs and with FIFA – is that we’re able to attract companies and entrepreneurs that develop new technology that will make us improve.”