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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

The BeSpoon Sport Edition solution consists of a battery-powered tag using UWB to send the short radio pulses centered at 4 GHz multiple times a second. In the case of Chambéry Savoie Handball, the button-sized tag, which measures 20 cubic centimeters (1.2 cubic inches), is integrated in the back of a special tank-top-shaped garment that players wear over or under their uniforms. The tag contains a UWB chip designed by BeSpoon, as well as a heart-rate sensor provided by Sport Tracking to determine the health of the athlete wearing that tag. The UWB chip transmits data to receivers at a distance of up to 300 meters (984 feet), and receivers can approximate tag location within several inches.

BeSpoon receivers, which are about the same size as a Wi-Fi router, are installed on walls surrounding the playing court. The receivers can be connected to a computer network either by wire or wirelessly. Chambéry Savoie Handball has been using the wireless functionality with a Wi-Fi connection to a server during training at its Le Phare 4,500-seat indoor arena, but it could employ the USB-cabled option during games to avoid compromising the Wi-Fi network onsite, which is used for a variety of other purposes, such as media coverage. Currently, however, the team does not intend to utilize the technology during games.

The Sport-Tracking Fusion software displays a map of the court with each player represented as a small bubble moving around in real time.
Chambéry Savoie Handball has installed approximately a dozen receivers around the arena. The team can link a particular player's name and any health data with the unique ID number of the tag he has worn over or under his team shirt (capturing the heart rate, however, requires that the tag be located under the shirt and in contact with his skin). The sensor captures the athlete's heart-rate level, while the UWB chip transmits that data, along with its own identifier, to the receivers. The Sport-Tracking Fusion software, hosted on a server by BeSpoon, then analyzes each transmission's data and determines the tag's location. The software, accessed by the team's managers via the Internet, can provide information such as the speed at which the player is moving or turning, when and how high he jumps, how close players are to each other, and when a player may not be in his assigned area on the floor during a practice game. It also displays a map of the court, with each player represented as a small bubble moving around in real time.

Team managers and coaches can sign into the system and view real-time data, as well as historic information to learn more about each player's condition and movements.

"We have followed with interest the measures taken by the large NFL clubs, but our budget is not comparable," Munier explains. "Before meeting BeSpoon, we thought that this type of technology would not be affordable for many years. The chip from BeSpoon was a real catalyst," he says, since it is less expensive, although BeSpoon declines to provide a specific price.

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