A home run


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A fast track to data collection for connected products that are a hit

Novel smart data collection technology is lining up to be a hit in the world of baseball. Devised by product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants, the SparTag innovation consists of a small tag that can be attached to the end of a baseball bat to measure a player’s swing – coupled with a connected system to analyse the raw data collected, interpret it and turn it into actionable information to improve a player’s technique.

The technology could also be used in a range of other sports and fitness applications – ranging from tennis and golf to swimming or skiing. In the healthcare industry, the tags could be attached to a patient’s joints for gait analysis as part of rehabilitation after injury. And, in the workplace, SparTag could be used for analysis of ergonomics.

“SparTag is a tool for learning – the baseball bat concept is just one example of ways in which it can be used,” said Ruth Thomson, head of consumer product development at Cambridge Consultants. “SparTag offers a quick and efficient method of capturing, processing and analysing motion data from equipment or directly from the body – and presenting it as useful, actionable information.”

The compact tag contains a three-axis accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer, coupled with sophisticated algorithms tailored specifically to the device. Combining all the data from its sensors, SparTag can report trajectory, orientation and acceleration with great accuracy. Crucially, the smart system then interprets the data and presents it in an easy-to-understand way. For baseball, this means showing the three key elements of a player’s swing – power, follow through and attack angle – alongside the ideal ranges for each. This opens the door to the development of low-cost, targeted coaching tools for athletes at all levels.

“SparTag makes it possible to design better products because it enables you to understand the data you’re collecting,” said Thomson. “That knowledge then gives you a much clearer picture of the kind of device you need to create to solve a problem or meet the needs of potential users.

“We use SparTag as part of our connected device development ‘toolkit’, as it enables us to characterise the type of device our clients need – fast. It helps ensure we ask the right questions early on in a development, so that we can focus our efforts on delivering the right answers.

“To develop a connected product that’s a commercial hit, it’s vital to match the application to the hardware – so that you get the best results from the lowest cost. Our toolkit allows us to develop concepts quickly, based on a standard platform, and see what is possible. We can quickly answer the question: ‘Can it be done?’ – and define what is needed to achieve it.”

Cambridge Consultants will be demonstrating SparTag, together with other innovations such as the KiCoPen smart insulin pen concept – a Red Dot Award winner – at the 2016 International CES, January 6-9, in the Sands Expo, stand 73731.

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