Seattle Sport Sciences, Inc., a leading sports technology company, helps soccer coaches and players get the most out of every practice. Their flagship product, the SideKick Techne Pro™ training machine, brings cutting-edge technology to the pitch by launching soccer balls at players to work on a range of skills like goalkeeping and chest passes, all the way up to flying headers and bicycle kicks. The SideKick training machine allows players to perfect these skills through repetition. The coach loads a ball into the machine one at a time, and a player can take several turns in a row at one skill, or work through the various skills sequentially and instantaneously.
With founders who share a passion for soccer and technology—in that order—Seattle Sport Sciences realized that with the right tools, the next Pele could be practicing on the pitch today. With the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) event on the horizon, Seattle Sport Sciences needed to quickly create a prototype to demonstrate a new product to attendees. Then, they’d need to turn that prototype into a market-ready product. With the event only a week away, this presented an interesting challenge.
While the SideKick training machine has helped a countless number of coaches and athletes, Seattle Sport Sciences wanted to further its features and increase the coach’s ability to analyze player performance. Understanding coaches needs, the Seattle Sport Sciences team knew that the system must be easy to set up in the proper locations in the field by non-technical coaches.
The Seattle Sports Sciences mission? "It should be as easy to deploy as throwing cones on the field."
The system also needed to execute a ball shooting program that can vary iterations and locations, track data from sensors on the field and record player scores based on measured responses.
Seattle Sports Sciences needed a demonstration to show at NSCAA event. Working closely with Seattle Sports Sciences, Digi Wireless Design Services was able to create a wireless sensor network, fit it into a small, custom enclosure, and refine it enough that anyone at the event could walk up and interact with each node--all in under one week.
“I spent 30 years in software development and I am rarely impressed by engineering achievements, but this was one for the books. It was actually one week before the conference when the idea of having something ready for NSCAA was raised by Adam [WDS firmware engineer] in a conference call. I understood and accepted the risks of failure in deciding to go forward," said Jeff Alger, CEO, Seattle Sports Sciences. "Communications were terrific, consistently good judgment under pressure throughout, and objectives clearly over-achieved. The prototypes made for a tremendous difference in our conversations with attendees about our future directions to be able to point to and interact with those prototypes.”
While this demonstration was flashy and used the same core technologies as the end product would, it wasn’t a finished product. Seattle Sport Sciences teamed with Digi to create a revolutionary auxiliary control and automation suite of products, ISOTechne™. ISOTechne uses computer control to repeatedly and automatically fire soccer balls to the player. By utilizing Digi Wireless Design Services’ expertise and Digi XBee® technology, Seattle Sport Sciences designed a system of targets that the player runs to as each ball is fired. The Digi Wireless Design Services team created a prototype and the team is now preparing that prototype for production.
The new machine is equipped with a set of wireless, hockey puck sized sensors that are distributed in the field. The wireless pucks that are able to handle a wet, muddy outdoor environment connect wirelessly using Digi XBee modules.
Lights give the coach or person setting up the system a signal as to where to put each “puck” on the field. Once deployed, the pucks communicate wirelessly with a master unit and are used for training and assessing players. Pucks signal to the base when and determine where to fire balls. The lights also signal to players where to go next. Prox detectors in the pucks record how close the player gets to the puck and how fast. Digi Wireless Design Services wrote a program for communication to and from the pucks, the master unit and the ball machine using XBee modules.
As the wireless sensors precisely track the player’s response, ISOTechne controls ball direction, speed and ball spin. Seattle Sport Sciences engages many of the marquee sports programs in the world to redefine training sequences and performance metrics, and for the first time ever, coaches can now objectively compare players’ performance under nearly identical conditions.
With Digi Wireless Design Services and Digi XBee technology, Seattle Sport Sciences went from prototype to production faster than a free kick.