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Why Ultra-Wide Band Technology Has Been Scoring Points in Basketball for Years

One of the world’s largest tech companies is relying on Ultra Wide Band and obviously has big plans with the technology. In the US, the NBA has been flying high for years with UWB and the college teams are following suit — for good reason.

Basketball game duel with players and statistics
ChicagoNov 25, 2019

Ever since Apple introduced its new iPhones with built-in UWB chips this autumn, ultra-wideband technology (UWB) has been on everyone’s lips. On the product side, Apple hints at UWB’s greatest strengths: Movements and positions can be tracked within centimeter precision. And the product presentation ends with the words: And this is just the beginning.”

The truth is: This isn’t the beginning as UWB has been utilized in sports for few years now, most notably in Professional Basketball. It was 4 years ago when the first NBA club, the Philadelphia 76ers, purchased an UWB-based live tracking system from KINEXON Sports and started to analyze their training sessions utilizing Kinexon’s precise position data.

70% of all NBA teams and a rapidly growing number college teams are utilizing UWB-based tracking systems

From that moment on, coaches were able to follow every movement their players made on court — in real time, from clear angles and with processed performance data visualized within a software platform. A big plus: In contrast to other tracking technologies, UWB records movements in all directions, including height.

4 years later, more than 70 % of NBA teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and others track their training sessions with KINEXON Sports and rely on the accuracy UWB provides. And the technology has arrived in college basketball, too! In the 2019/2020 season alone, 15 NCAA teams (these include University of Tennessee, Stanford University, University of Iowa, West Virginia University and others) have come onboard and are using the system of the multiple award-winning full-stack provider from Germany.

For Mehdi Bentanfous (Managing Director, KINEXON Inc.), the demand for UWB-based performance tracking in college basketball is remarkable:

We are excited about the increasing demand for our product at the collegiate level. One reason for this development is for sure that NCAA teams train more and more similar to NBA conditions. Nevertheless, they have a much smaller budget and staff. We are therefore particularly proud that they are also convinced of the value proposition our product delivers.”

Mehdi Bentanfous (Managing Director, KINEXON Inc.)

NBA and college teams primarily pursue four objectives

UWB tracking data gives coaches access to more than 180 metrics that document performance and load seamlessly. And with these, four goals are being strategically pursued:

  • Measure, control and increase the physical performance of players 
  • Prevent injuries that are caused by overloading
  • Ensure comebacks and prevent too early return-to-play of injured players
  • Monitoring and forecasting development curves of younger players

In a sport that thrives on numerous jumps and fast changes of direction on a small court, the accuracy, speed and validity of the data are of extreme importance. The UWB sensor technology has been unrivalled here for years. It records movements in all directions and also includes information about the number of jumps, jump height or short/​fast changes of direction.

Independent research institution commissioned with validation study

The rise of UWB technology by KINEXON Sports even prompted the NBA to commission a validation study from an independent research institution. The result was positive. Both the reliability and the validity of the data were convincing.

Coaches across collegiate and professional basketball keep on integrating live tracking data into their daily training routine and are very quickly developing their own strategies:

KINEXON performance insights give us the opportunity to adjust and improve our practice program for the whole season. We simply have a better understanding of intensity and performance levels for all players. Therefore, we can compete playing physical, tough, and smart basketball.”

Al Caronia, strength and endurance trainer for the St. John's women's team

The demand has been rising for two to three years now“

Mehdi Bentanfous, who is in charge of the US market for KINEXON Sports, does not believe that UWB technology is experiencing an upswing in sports only due to its use in modern smartphones: It’s not only US professional basketball where UWB tracking is already accepted and established. In European top sports and other US pro leagues such as NHL, NFL and NCAA, the demand has been rising rapidly for two to three years now.” 

Nevertheless, Bentanfous expects a boost: The interest in the mobile system from KINEXON Sports, which runs without permanently installed anchors and can be used everywhere, is enormous. It opens opportunities for us across all levels of collegiate sports, not just in Power 5 conferences. While the mobile system does not provide the same depth of data as our wired solution yet, our technological progress is currently being driven very quickly by the great demand. There is definitely still a lot of growth potential!” 

UWB-based live tracking – a technology without limits?

The development of UWB tracking technology remains exciting because localization and processing motion data does not stop at translating numbers into performance metrics. New features emerge almost monthly and collaboration is key in this business. KINEXON Sports relies on an open interface and 360-degree connectivity right from the start. This builds the basis for collaborations with other sports technology providers and integrating new functions into the running system. 

For example, information such as performance data or distances between players can be displayed live on video views as an augmented reality feature, live data can be synchronized directly with other analysis systems, performance tracking can be enhanced by shot tracking or load data such as heart rate or heart rate variability can be integrated. At the moment there do not seem to be any limits on how far the technology can go. 

So, yes: This is (probably still) just the beginning. 

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