Blog Sports Sports Technology

How SafeZone Can Help Sports in North America Adapt to the ‘New Normal’

As leagues in North America begin to formalize and execute return-to-play procedures, the health & safety of players and team personnel remains top priority. One way leagues and teams in Europe are staying protected is through the adoption of innovative digital technology.

green sport stadium seats with green hooks
ChicagoJun 12, 2020

The unprecedented interruption to sports across the world has led to extraordinary challenges for players, coaches, staff and league officials. Similarly to other industries, sports has taken an unavoidable back seat to public health. In Europe, leagues such as Italy’s Serie A tried the spectator-less approach before ultimately suspending its season. In the United States, the NCAA outright cancelled March Madness, which generates more than $800 million each year.

The goal of flattening the curve has been met by most countries, which has allowed for a phased reopening of the economy. However, with no vaccine available, COVID-19 still remains a concern. Thankfully, through combined efforts and initiatives, innovators around the world have introduced ways to help slow the spread, as the general public attempts to acclimate to the new normal.’

How sports is adapting

It’s easy to implement physical distancing guidelines when standing in line for a cup of coffee, but how might it be possible to keep essential personnel safe as they prep arenas and training facilities? How do players remain safe while in a hotel? Masks have proven somewhat effective, but alone, cannot assure the safety of a sports team, let alone an entire league.

Leagues in Europe have begun working with local health departments to identify comprehensive safety protocols to either wrap-up seasons in progress or prepare for new seasons. Fortunately, these plans revolve around utilizing technology vs. relying on antiquated methods of protection.

Pivoting from athlete monitoring to health & safety

Enter KINEXON SafeZone, the most efficient digital solution to combat the spread of COVID-19. In just a few weeks, the same sensor technology that is used by 23 NBA teams to track performance, was repurposed to create the most accurate physical distancing and contact tracing solution on the market.

What was thought of as a solution that would be geared toward large-scale manufacturing facilities, quickly garnered interest from almost every conceivable type of business — from food & beverage to sports.

Teams and leagues are facing challenges that are not only new, but need to be solved rather quickly in order to keep players and staff safe, as well as salvage seasons, revenue and interest. It’s up to us as pioneers in this space to provide technology that can resolve these problems and ultimately help sports entities transition and adapt to the new normal.”

Mehdi Bentanfous, CEO KINEXON North America

The core element is a lightweight wearable sensor, the KINEXON SafeTag, which uses highly-accurate ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. The SafeTag, which can be worn as a wristband, clipped onto clothing, or displayed in a badge holder, emits a visual warning (red light) when there is a contact made (less than 6 feet of separation). If the contact happens for longer than 5 seconds (standard time, but can be configurable for a different duration), the contact becomes​“critical” and an audible warning (alarm-like sound) is emitted.

No infrastructure is needed, making it a scalable plug-and-play solution.

With optional software, SafeZone is also able to trace chains of infection. Due to the precision of the sensors, only realistic cases of infection are recorded and the number of people that need to be quarantined is reduced to a minimum. This is particularly important for leagues who are looking to maintain operations, even if a positive infection occurs.

A solution that helped sports restart

On May 16th, the Bundesliga became the first major professional sports league in Europe to resume its season. Widely regarded as a trailblazer in sports innovation, Eintracht Frankfurt successfully adopted KINEXON SafeZone to keep all gameday personnel safe inside Commerzbank-Arena. The implementation of the smart wearables served as an important part of Eintracht Frankfurt’s gameday safety protocol and was supplemented by additional safety and hygiene measures.

We wanted to create trust for all parties involved by fulfilling the necessary distance requirements and document the implementation and compliance. Ideally, these technological solutions serve as a confidence-building impulse for sports, industry or event organizers even beyond football.”

Sebastian Zelichowski, Eintracht Frankfurt Executive Officer

As a further protective measure, Eintracht Frankfurt introduced a zoning concept. SafeZone enabled the team to check zone accesses, which are crucial for the safe conduct of game operations. The wearable sensors interacted with reference points that are representative of the respective zones, thus ensuring the zone capacity remained at a safe level.

German Basketball Bundesliga

On June 6th, the German Basketball Bundesliga resumed play with a 10-team, 36-game tournament that spans across three weeks. One of the precautions the league is using to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is SafeZone contact tracing.

The robust contact tracing program implemented was established to prove which individuals come in contact with a positive player. This will allow the tournament to continue while impacted individuals are quarantined.

When entering the quarantined hotel, all players were asked to wear a KINEXON sensor. Player participation was completely optional, however, organizers explained to anyone choosing not to wear the sensor that if any positive test occurred within the hotel they would have to be quarantined, as it could not be proven they were not at-risk. With this information, the players quickly recognized the value in a solution that could keep them on the court if another participant tested positive.

In the event of a positive infection, you can effectively narrow down the group of people who might have been infected. You don’t have to send everyone home.”

Maximilian Schmidt, Co-Founder & Managing Director KINEXON

Protection of personal privacy

SafeZone has been deliberately designed to collect the minimum amount of data in order to respect the privacy of its users, while at the same time providing a valuable service. 

The KINEXON SafeTag logs the following data during a contact event:

  • Its own SafeTag manufacturer ID
  • The SafeTag ID of the other SafeTag that it comes into contact with
  • The distance between the two SafeTags
  • The timestamp of the event.

The SafeTags do not collect absolute location data. Only the relative distances between two tags is stored. In other words, it does not track user movement. It tracks contacts.

When the SafeTags are returned to the charging tray, all information is transferred to a database controlled by the organization. An assigned member of the organization, such as a doctor, can access the information if an infection occurs. In the case of the German Basketball Bundesliga, only two medical professionals assigned by the BBL have access to identity data, and even those individuals can only view limited data if a positive test occurs. 

Upon a positive test, the designated doctors are authorized to request all critical contacts for the positive player within a recent period. The software supplies them with all such contacts, tallied cumulatively in terms of time spent in contact with the positive individual. From there, they can consult with the local health department regarding which players need to be isolated. 

What teams and leagues in North America can learn

The idea of bubble tournaments’ is not unique to the BBL or leagues in Europe. Leagues such as the NBA, NHL, MLS, WNBA and others have all established plans to execute some kind of isolated season restart or playoff tournament. With the experience of rolling out SafeZone for an entire league, KINEXON is ready to take what its learned in Europe and apply it to sports in North America. 

  1. Physical distancing cannot be estimated, it needs to be done digitally in order to be effective. Estimating physical distance to another person is just not accurate enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Asking players and team personnel to adhere to the CDC guidelines without providing them with the proper tools is not only unreasonable, it’s unsafe. A commitment to sustainable digital technology such as KINEXON SafeZone assures that your organization is at the forefront of modern health & safety methods that will become standard in sports’​‘new normal.’
  2. Communication is key. Without the proper introduction to physical distancing or contact tracing technology, athletes and team personnel may immediately dismiss the idea. Often times it is difficult to see the bigger picture of a public health crisis when you are not personally impacted. In order to overcome this hurdle, be transparent with the benefits of opting-in and the consequences of opting-out. Allow your players and team personnel to come to the decision on their own. In the case of the German Basketball Bundesliga, players were not informed ahead of time about SafeZone. This caused an understandable temporary panic. However, once the organizers had an opportunity to explain the functionality of the wearable, it became an easy decision to use it.
  3. The choice not to invest in a reliable solution could be devastating. Opting out of using a digital contact tracing system could be a literal game-changer. If for example, the star player on a BBL team decides not to wear the SafeTag the night before a knockout game and another athlete in the tournament tests positive for COVID-19, he would be forced to quarantine for 14 days because he would have no way of proving he hadn’t come in contact with the infected athlete. That is why having technology that can properly digitally document contacts could be the most important safeguard a team could invest in. The reality of the new normal’ is that proper nutrition, preparation and game-planning could all be for nothing if your players aren’t able to participate.

More stories

STILL Automatiklager Danfoss EXV Navigation rotierende Laserscanner 2021
STILL's automation solutions integrate with KINEXON to bolster VDA 5050 compliant fleet management.

We drive automated vehicles – under this slogan STILL offers the iGo portfolio: different vehicle-based expansion stages for the automation of intralogistics, which can be individually adapted to individual requirements. iGo systems implement the automated interaction of one or multiple different industrial trucks in order to perform transport tasks in the warehouse without a driver. 

SAFELOGs automation solutions as part of the VDA 5050 fleet management.

Welcome to this blog post about the SAFELOG AGV X1 1200 tt, the latest addition to the fleet of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from SAFELOG. This advanced AGV is equipped with unique features, that increase its flexibility on unknown levels. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of the AGV X1 1200 tt and its ability to create value in various intralogistics use cases and applications, including material handling, and in manufacturing and warehousing. Furthermore, we will elaborate how the AGV X1 1200 tt is especially beneficial for brownfield projects and how it can be customized to suit specific process requirements.

March Madness NCAA College Basketball Player Tracking
Coaching Guide for March Madness: How to Get Ready for the Hottest Time of the Year

March Madness: You lose, you go home – You win, the dream lives on. The most important question for coaches and athletes alike: how to get ready for the hottest time of the year? Philipp Lienemann, Sr. Customer Success Manager at KINEXON, introduces an integrated approach — get the exclusive guide here!

Yannis Irid Strengt and Conditioning Coach FFBB
How the French Basketball Federation Uses KINEXON IMU & LPS to Identify Talent and Maximize Youth Development

At the Institut National du Sport, de l’Expertise et de la Performance (INSEP), the French Basketball Federation’s (FFBB) Performance Specialist Yannis Irid and his team use KINEXON’s PERFORM IMU und LPS to develop young players, prevent injuries and tailor training plans to their needs. Here, Irid, who is also conducting a PhD thesis in collaboration with the FFBB and the Institute of Biomedical Research and Sports Epidemiology, gives insights into the process and explains how KINEXON also helps in talent evaluation.

OMRONs automation solutions as part of the VDA 5050 fleet management.

The world of automation and robotics is rapidly evolving, and the latest innovation from OMRON is making waves in the industry. The Mobile Manipulator, a combination of Cobot and the Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR), is set to revolutionize the manufacturing and intralogistics processes. Seamlessly integrated into the KINEXON AMR & AGV Fleet Manager, this technology boasts a standard interface of VDA 5050, promising to boost productivity and efficiency for businesses across industries. 

Performance Tracking Volleyball Vakifbank
Bump-Set-Spike: Giovanni "Vanny" Miale Shares Insight into Performance Technology for Volleyball

Giovanni Vanny” Miale is a true expert who can draw from over 20 years of experience in professional volleyball. When it comes to performance tracking, the decorated performance coach for the Turkish volleyball club, VakıfBank Spor Kulübü, believes in the value technology can provide athletes on and off the court. KINEXON caught up with Vanny to share his thoughts — read the interview here! 

A Collection of Insights: 2022 State of Performance Tracking in College Basketball Report

While some collegiate programs utilize data to maximize performance on and off the court, others await their chance to take their skills to the next level. KINEXON surveyed more than 500 men’s and women’s college basketball student-athletes and interviewed coaches across the U.S. — get exclusive insights here! 

Player Tracking Youth Academy Insights
Load Management in FCBB Youth Academy - How to Improve Performance and Reduce Injury Risk

Injuries can be devastating. Especially if they put a next-gen player’s ascent on hold. The good news: if monitored and managed correctly, the impact of load can decrease tremendously. Sports Scientist Philipp Hartmannsgruber explains FC Bayern Basketball’s approach to managing load, reducing injury risk, and KINEXON’s role based on a four-month pilot project. 

KINEXON Furman University NCAA College Basketball
Behind the Scenes: How Player Tracking and Data-Driven Performance Evaluation is Transforming Basketball at Furman University

As an abundance of statistics and technology infiltrates the daily vernacular of the sports industry, it can be challenging to bridge the gap between analysis and impact. At KINEXON, we strive to collaborate with partners on both the professional and collegiate level to not only collect data but to transform numbers into actions that enable a sport’s most valuable asset: the players on the court.

Key-Performance Indicators in Football (Soccer) and How to Use Them

Using player tracking metrics has become almost mandatory in pro football. They may not guarantee success. Yet, knowing which key performance indicators to use and how to combine them helps evaluate athletes’ performances, prevent injuries, and lead them to peak performance.

5 Take-Aways Why Performance Tracking with IMU Is a Game-Changer in Volleyball

Player tracking is gaining ground in volleyball. Using key performance indicators (KPIs) helps coaches and players evaluate progress, work towards specific goals, and make informed decisions based on objective data. Chris White, Customer Success Manager at KINEXON and Exercise Physiology Expert, gives insights on how KINEXON’s PERFORM IMU helps transform the sport of volleyball through KPIs in five steps. 

Player Tracking Volleyball KINEXON
Volleyball Performance Tracking in Action: How Live Data Boosts Player Performance and Fan Engagement

Player tracking benefits volleyball as much as any other sport. The technology allows coaches to prepare their players on point while reducing the risk of injury. Through new insights, fans get a deeper understanding of the game. But which metrics matter most? Who benefits precisely, and how? Read about the boost live data provide players and fans with.

A New Chapter: Our Success Story with the HBL - Context is King

The LIQUI MOLY Handball-Bundesliga (HBL) and KINEXON have worked together closely since the 2019 – 20 season. Christian Günther, KINEXON expert for strategic partnerships, comprehensively introduces one of handball’s most exciting projects and takes stock.

How German Bundesliga Clubs Benefit from Player Tracking

The German Bundesliga has used player tracking to enhance the fan experience and support clubs with official match data for a long time. With all stadiums equipped with state-of-the-art camera setups and clubs implementing KINEXON tracking technologies in their practice facilities, the goal is clear: help teams obtain competitive insights, manage the risk of injury, and close the gap between training and match demands. Here is how it works.

European League of Football Player Tracking
Premiere in the European League of Football: Live-Tracking of Tackles, Sprints and More

Countless data insights have already become indispensable for coaches, players, media and fans in professional sports. American football goes one step further. In collaboration with KINEXON, the European League of Football also provided data on collisions and sprints to Staff and Fans live for the first time.