John McGuire had never golfed before, but he had a background in sports psychology and big data. And it was that combination that eventually drove him to start Active Mind Technology, a sports technology company that first launched with a golf shot-tracking product.
Now Active Mind Technology is coming out today with an updated live-tracking golf shot device that attaches to golf clubs and sits on a player’s belt called GAME Golf. It tracks shots and feeds that data back to an application that shows a player’s performance, giving them feedback that helps them improve their gameplay. The goal behind all of this, however, is to make sure the data is presented in such a way that it is actually useful to players without just being a big data set that’s hard to parse.
The first version of the product allowed users to review their shots after the fact, but the new version is focused on viewing performance live through an app. GAME has a database of golf courses that help show the exact metrics for a golfer for on-course play. The company also has sought out partnerships with professional golf players and organizations to boost its presence in the overall industry.
“The bottom line was, if you can collect data and make it easy to get the data, and then visualize the data, in an engaging way, you can create stories from the data,” McGuire said. “Data on its own is dry. That isn’t what we did back then.”
The whole product consists of a wearable, which serves as an intermediary between small devices that screw into golf clubs and a person’s smartphone, which gathers all the data. There are specific devices that correspond to each club, so there’s granular data for players all the way to the point of determining whether they are using the right club or not.
Part of the reason behind McGuire’s focus on golf is that it is an international sport that has wide appeal, he said. The technology the company has built for golf can also be re-applied to other sports, McGuire said, where the team can use NFC to identify the kind of equipment is in use — like a snowboard or surfboard in other outdoor active sports categories.
“Where Fitbit is in the fitness tracking-space, sport is probably a couple years behind, so there’s a real opportunity to grab market in this whole sports data space,” McGuire said. “If somebody can cut through and say, if you do that, you’re gonna get good results, that’s where the value is. We’re trying to do that in sport using data.”
There’s also an opportunity for fan engagement, McGuire said, which is why the company works with professional athletes to apply its technology. Those athletes can share their data with their fans, who can then use that data to improve their own games — or just view it for fun. Users can vote on features they want to see added to GAME. The service will track something around 700,000 rounds of golf this year, McGuire said.The big point of all of this is building technology on the back-end that can actually present the data in a useful way. McGuire says that 80% of the company’s time is spent working on the software. “Where all our smarts reside is in the cloud, that’s where all the algorithms, the logic, all the data crunching is done. That’s where all the geospatial technology happens, this merely collects the data.”
I’m not a golf player myself, but the implications of something like this are obvious to other sports. One example could be analyzing tennis swings, and to be sure, Active Mind Technology isn’t the only company eyeing the sports tracking space. Babolot, for example, has a sensor-based tennis racquet, McGuire said, but the point is that the technology should be replicable across multiple different kinds of sports.
“This was never really about golf, this was about about sports and technology and how you bring them together, and how you use technology as a platform to get out to the masses, so sports data,” McGuire said.
Active Mind Technology is based in San Francisco and has raised $10 million in financing.
Update: GAME Golf tracks shots, not swings. The story has been updated to reflect that information.