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Sports Applications Technology

Zepp Labs Lands Big Investment for Sports Data Collection & Tracking

January 23, 2014


The idea that data may play a big part in sports isn't the kind of thing a lot of sports fans probably think about when settling down for a long weekend of football, basketball, or a similar sport. But it's already starting to show itself popular on some fronts, and Zepp Labs just landed a $15 million investment that really drives the point home.

Zepp Labs currently makes a kind of sensor mechanism that can be incorporated into a variety of sports, particularly those that involve outside tools like baseball, golf and tennis. The sensor in question can be attached to a variety of items—right now mostly limited to baseball bats, golf gloves and tennis rackets, but expansions are planned—and can in turn monitor a swing and provide feedback on same, calculating things like angle, speed, power and similar measures.

Zepp Labs' CEO Jason Fass has a pretty staggering ambition in mind for its sensor line, including patching its sensors into a panoply of different balls, as well as helmets and even shoes to collect the data that these sports tools produce with every step, swing and toss. Zepp Labs, at last report, is planning to stick to the software side of things, and expects to bring in new engineers, as well as app makers and graphic designers to keep the interfaces and the like running smoothly.

Zepp Labs won't be alone in this market for long, as Sony noted some plans at the recently-concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES (News - Alert)) event to bring out its own line of sports sensors. Fass, however, believes that Zepp Labs has one up on Sony, with better connections and superior software as well. Fass remarked “I think we're going to be able to adapt to the athletic and sports market in the way only a small brand can.” Indeed, Zepp Labs' breed of sensor is already drawing interest from outside the sports market; Fass noted that a musician was interested in a Zepp Labs sensor geared toward training in a repetitive motion like those commonly used in drums or guitars. That may not be a product line that's coming up, necessarily, but it shows that there's some versatility involved in the market that could prove particularly useful in the long term.

Not that sports itself won't be a particularly rich market for Zepp Labs hardware; the rise of fantasy football and its other sport equivalents should prove eager for the kind of data that can be generated by Zepp Labs hardware: average and highest speed measures and the like can provide the kinds of insights into an athlete's career and likely success that many common metrics simply hint at.

Sports, however, are in line to produce quite a bit more in technological advancement than just Zepp Labs and Sony have in mind, however. This July, the Kimmel Center at NYU will play host to the FAST Expo, collocated with the Wearable Tech Expo. With wearable sports and fitness devices set to hit 90 million shipped items in 2017, this is a market with a lot of room for development, and the FAST (News - Alert) Expo will allow those working on developments in the field to show off said developments and network on producing new ones.

The critical thrust here is that sports in general are about to get access to a lot more data than previously offered, and the implications of all that extra data may prove interesting to the future of sports in general.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker