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French Handball Team Trains With Wearable RFID Sensors

Chambéry Savoie Handball is using an ultra-wideband RTLS solution from BeSpoon to learn not only each player's metabolic status, but also how quickly he runs, how high he jumps and how close he is to other players.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 11, 2015

European handball is a fast-paced indoor sport in which a team of seven players use their hands to dribble and pass a ball (similar to the one used for soccer games, but smaller) with the aim of throwing it into the opposing team's goal. Chambéry Savoie Handball, a professional team based in Chambéry, France, is using an ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) to analyze its players' performance during practice, with a goal of better training those individuals and managing who is on the handball court during tournaments, as well as when and in what position. Ultimately, the team hopes to increase its performance against those of other teams in its league. The solution, known as BeSpoon Sport Edition, consists of BeSpoon RFID tags and receivers, as well as Mac-lloyd's Sport-Tracking Fusion software, to record each player's movements and heart rates and then forward that data to a server accessible by team managers.

Chambéry Savoie Handball is a men's professional team within the International Handball Federation. Until it began using the BeSpoon Sport Edition solution, Chambéry Savoie Handball supplied heart-rate monitors to athletes. Physical trainers could then review the collected data in order to determine how hard players are working and how tired they are, says Laurent Munier, Chambéry Savoie Handball's general manager. But there was no effort underway to track players' movements. "Accurately tracking players that are moving quickly was inconceivable," Munier says.

To track performance, a Chambéry handball player wears a BeSpoon tag integrated in the back of a special tank-top-shaped garment.
Without any technology, managers and coaches of any sports team must simply watch a player to determine his or her performance and provide training recommendations appropriate to that athlete's needs. Camera-based tracking systems require a clear line of sight to an individual, which is impossible at times when one player is in front of another, and typically require some manual interaction to ensure that the camera is tracking the correct individual.

Jean-Marie André, BeSpoon's CEO (photo: MC David)
French technology company BeSpoon has been developing UWB technology for the past five years to provide a system capable of tracking player movements for a variety of sports. "We realized there was a big trend in wearables," says BeSpoon's CEO, Jean-Marie André, including sensors that can capture and then transmit data regarding an individual's health. This could provide coaches with the information they required in order to predict, for instance, when a player needs to leave the court due to fatigue that could lead to team performance problems or that individual hurting himself. Although there are other UWB solutions on the market—such as the MotionWorks Sports Solution from Zebra Technologies, which has been used by the U.S. National Football League (see RFID Drafted to Track NFL Players' Every Move During Games and Best New Product: Zebra's Next-Gen Technology Powers Next-Gen Stats)—that kind of technology had traditionally been too expensive for smaller teams with less funding.

BeSpoon teamed with French research center CEA-LETI to develop a small sensor worn by players that could be priced lower than many other UWB-based sports tracking systems, according to André. BeSpoon and CEA-LETI have set up a joint laboratory to develop UWB technology that the company could then market commercially.

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