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CaddieON Uses RFID to Help Golfers Improve Their Games

The Finnish startup has developed a wristband that includes sensors and an RFID reader to identify which club a player is using, and to determine each shot's distance and accuracy.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 07, 2014

Golfers can access a variety of technologies to help them assess how they're doing—measuring the distance of their shots, determining their location on a course and tallying up their score. However, each of these technologies can require a golfer to perform some manual operation, such as aiming a laser or inputting the number of strokes. Finnish technology startup CaddieON has now released a solution requiring minimal manual involvement to enable golfers to gauge their performance while on the course, and after they go home. According to Osmo Voutilainen, CaddieON's CTO, the solution—which combines radio frequency identification, Bluetooth and GPS technologies with CaddieON's own app—was developed to be more automated and hands-free: A wrist-worn device reads a passive high-frequency (HF) RFID tag attached to each golf club's hand grip, detects the individual's swing and hit of a ball, and transmits that data to the CaddieON app running on the user's smartphone, via a Bluetooth connection. The app then collects GPS data from the phone and sends the data package back to CaddieON's cloud-based server two times—before and after each round of golf.

The CaddieON solution consists of a smartphone app, passive RFID tags that attach to clubs, and a wrist-worn device containing sensors and an RFID reader.
Tuomo Lalli, a company co-founder, is a golfer himself, and was initially looking into existing technologies to measure the quality of his game. Golfers often use a laser pointer to measure the distance of a completed shot by aiming it at the ball, but those measurements require some manual effort. In addition, Lalli says, some other golf-tracking systems on the market employ high-frequency (HF) RFID tags, but require players to tap an RFID reader against a club's tag at every swing. CaddieON's system is intended to make this process easier and more automatic, and to collect and manage data for the golfer on a personal portal that he can access whether on or off the course.

The wristband itself contains an ST Microelectronics Micro ST CR95HF 13.56 MHz RFID reader IC, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, as well as an accelerometer to detect when a club is swinging and CaddieON's own patented algorithms designed to determine when the club hits the ball as part of the golfer's swing. Some other companies' swing-tracking systems, Voutilainen explains, use an impact sensor to determine whether, and when, the club has hit the ball. "We found that was not very reliable," he states, "so we developed our own sophisticated algorithms." The GPS data collected by the phone enables a golfer to identify where a ball was hit, and that location information can then be compared against that of the previous hit, thereby identifying the previous shot's length.

CaddieON's CTO, Osmo Voutilainen
The solution, which includes 15 tags for clubs, costs €299 ($378). The tag itself needed to be small, so CaddieON selected a Lab ID inlay measuring 14 millimeters (0.6 inch) in diameter. CaddieON embeds the inlay in a plastic casing with a threaded projection that can be screwed into the top of a golf club's grip.

The Caddie-On app is available for Android smartphones and iOS devices. A golfer downloads the app and creates a user account by inputting relevant data, such as his name. Once the account has been opened, that individual can select a favorite golf course, as well as register his clubs. To accomplish the latter, the player attaches an RFID tag to the top of each club's grip, enters that club's description—such as 9-iron—into the app, and taps the wristband against the club's tag in order to link the tag ID to that description.

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