Intelligent Apparel

by: Jon Levey | June 04, 2014

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Like it or not, the tech world is catching up with tennis. Just as wood racquets with small heads gave way to bigger, more powerful metal and graphite frames, and new string materials forever altered how much spin could be put on the ball, easily accessible performance data will soon be as much a part of the sport as the tiebreaker.

To some traditionalists this only adds clutter and minutia (do I really care how many forehands I hit in a match?) to an already complicated mental game. Plus, they doubt the accuracy of the technology. To them a racquet is for striking a ball, just as a cell phone is best used to make phone calls. Unlike a wood racquet, however, if they choose to skip this innovation, their games will get along just fine.

But those excited by the possibilities these new gadgets offer see them as an advancing step, not a lateral one. And those creating them must believe there is an appetite to buy them, because there’s no shortage of options in the works. In the past several months we’ve discussed courts (SmartCourt), racquets (Babolat Play), and vibration dampeners (Shot Stat Challenger) that all record various forms of performance metrics.

Now comes something for you to wear. Smash is a lightweight (15g) flexible wristband that provides technique analysis and offers personalized coaching recommendations. The onboard sensors measure things such as: Number and type of shots, racquet-head speed, spin generation, and impact point consistency. The numbers can be tracked over time to measure a player’s progress. There’s also an accompanying app that allows for community interaction.

The band has three available sizes (S, M, L) and is 27 mm wide, and 6.5 mm thick. It is designed to get 6-8 hours of play before needing a charge. Developed by Australian tech start-up Smash Wearables, and partially financed by the Victorian government through a technology development program, Smash recently went live on Kickstarter to raise additional funds. A $129 pledge will get you one of the first Smash wristbands, which should be available around February 2015.

If successfully launched, Smash will join the growing global market for wearable technology that, according to the 2012 Gartner Symposium ITxpo, is expected to value $10 billion by 2016. So even if it does fall short, something similar won't be far behind. The old-school wristband will never go the way of the wood racquet—players will always need to mop their sweat—but someday soon it will probably be able to do so much more.

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