Football is no stranger to wearables, as evidenced by the ubiquity of GPS vests, but it is about to get a new weapon in the technology arms race: smart shin guards.
Italian sports tech and analytics company Soccerment will today launch their pioneering protective gear, which captures data on every run, pass, shot and change of direction the wearer makes in a match or training session.
“We decided to go for shin guards because they are perfectly positioned to get biometrical data about performance,” Soccerment founder Aldo Comi tells City A.M.
The shin guards are made of extra-tough and elastic polymers in order to protect their electronic component, which stores data to be downloaded via Bluetooth once play has stopped.
What makes them particularly useful, Comi believes, is that they capture data on both athletic and technical performance.
Where GPS vests only tell you about a player’s physical output, smart shin guards also reflect how they played.
“By combining them you have the full spectrum of performance,” he says. “And in football what matters most is the technical performance, otherwise Maradona wouldn’t be so great.”
Clubs typically source technical performance data separately from providers such as Opta and cross reference it with GPS-facilitated physical statistics.
However that integration process can be costly and time consuming, and it relies on technical performance data being available.
“If you play for Chelsea you have that data but if you’re in the under-19s or under-15s you don’t,” Comi says.
What smart shin guards offer for players and teams
At an individual level, Soccerment’s smart shin guards and associated software can help a player to improve.
It does this by comparing their performance to other players in the same position and telling them what they need to work on, for example using a weaker foot or building shot power.
It can also tell them which professionals their playing profile most closely aligns with.
When used by a whole team, the smart shin guards also offer tactical insights by mapping player positions.
And while they might not be able to detect whether a pass has reached its intended recipient or a shot has flown into the top corner, they can evaluate the probability of an action having a successful outcome – in other words, expected goals and expected assists.
This taps into Soccerment’s expertise in analytics and is considered a more useful measurement of overall performance than actual goals and assists, which are more variable.
“This wearable will be the first of its kind to be able to give you advanced metrics such as expected goals, expected pass completion and expected assists,” says Comi.
Soccerment will formally launch the smart shin guards at the Web Summit in Lisbon.
Three Serie A clubs and one amateur team are already using them on a trial basis, and the company is now going to market.
It is using the current trials to refine the product further and Comi says a prototype that provides real-time data via 5G signal is in development.
For teams, Soccerment is offering its hardware and software platform for a monthly fee. In the pipeline is a direct-to-consumer product with different tiers of sophistication, which he hopes will encourage its adoption at all levels of the game.
“The big ambition is being able to provide data where it is not present at the moment,” Comi says. “It’s important to have more objective ways to evaluate players. We achieve our mission if the lowest of the teams have the shin guards and they are able to improve.”