Showing Canada’s Appetite for Sports Tech, Former Dragon Bruce Croxon Crowns Winner at SportsHack

Former Dragons’ Den investor Bruce Croxon announced the winning hacker team among 19 different challengers Sunday afternoon at Toronto’s SportsHack event.

Teams at the hackathon were given access to wearable devices and mentors from InteraXon, makers of the brain-sensing headband Muse; Thalmic Labs, the creators of the gesture-control armband, Myo; wearable LED panels from MeU and tech from Kiwi Wearables and Freescale.

The event, held at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, was an extension of sorts to WEST: Wearable Entertainment and Sports Toronto. WEST was a first-of-its-kind conference in October that showed how wearable tech is changing music, movies and sports. Tom Emrich, founder of WeAreWearables, put on both WEST and Sunday’s SportsHack.

Ultimately it was a team called “Team Raisins” that took first prize, as judged by Croxon.

All 19 teams worked all weekend creating modern athletic solutions using wearable and smartphone technology. The solutions ranged from collision sensors for hockey and football, to wearable technology jackets for cyclists, to training accessories for fitness and other sports and so much more.

Team Raisins won with a solution that uses heat maps to monitor players on the field, rink or court. The resulting marketable data can show statistically what the teams are succeeding and failing at. Broadcasters as well as coaches and players can use the data to improve performance.

The solution uses the Moto 360smartwatch and three Onyx beacons to show where players are during the game. The resulting data can show behavioural patterns at both macro and mico levels, whether players are playing more cautious or aggressive.

“You’ve picked a very interesting space. Most if not all professional sports teams are now looking for a competitive edge in terms of data and measurement, so I think it s a rising tide,” Croxon told Team Raisins.

A veteran investor who’s seen hundreds, if not thousands of pitches, Croxon was patient and encouraging with all three semi-finalist teams, finding the positives in each team’s pitch.

Team Raisins was quick to point out that while heat mapping is something sports franchises are employing with the use of high-end technology including video, their solution is cheaper and more precise for tracking player positioning.

A group of judges—including Dr. Hossein Rahnama, CEO of Flybits, James Gibbons, CEO of Spabbit, Graham Churchill, IBM’s IoT Solutions Leader and John MacRichie, Senior Director, Business Development and Strategic Planning at Ryerson University—judged the initial 19 pitches.

The hack featured prizing worth over $15,000 in cash, hardware and support including $7,500 for the winning team and a potential spot in Ryerson’s Fashion Zone accelerator to further the idea.

The runner-up was Team KANU, which used a sensor-equipped Exoglove, developed by BreqLabs to track the performance of rowers in action. The solution looked at datasets collected by the glove including hand position and grip.

 The second runner up was team CaliberOne, a group of high school students who created MYOwnTrainer, which used the Myo gesture-control armband from Thalmic Labs to track exercise progress. Users can compare this to others in their social circle in a leaderboard style.

Croxon concluded the event by giving professional advice to the teams about why gaining subscription revenue can trump simply selling their hardware. “Forget about the margin on the hardware,” he said. “The money is in the subscription and the ongoing revenue for charging customers and users.”

Croxon added that teams could simply give the hardware away for free, charging for the service immediately. “Don’t be worried about making a one time margin on the hardware because the money is in the data,” he said.