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Heidelberg United FC implements interactive training system, SmartGoals

While physical performance has always been gauged using GPS monitoring, time trials and strength testing, technical attributes have traditionally been challenging to tangibly measure.

It was in his search to bridge this gap that Chris Theodorou, Football Program Manager at Heidelberg United FC discovered SmartGoals.

“It is manufactured by a Dutch company. I first came across it online where I saw the Ajax first team using it during training. It was awesome, I was totally blown away and thought we have to try and get this equipment to Australia.” Theodorou said.

The interactive training system uses a set of targets which are imbued with light signals. Once a player physically passes the goal, or kicks a ball through the goal, another SmartGoal lights up, making it the new target.

This makes the system extremely useful for physical training such as sprint tests and agility tests, but also for driving technical improvement through drills that focus on passing, shooting, or dribbling.

“It’s an interactive system that works with light signals. A smart goal lights up and becomes a target. Whether you want to run through them, shoot the ball through them or something else you do that and once that’s complete the next smart goal lights up.”

Having targets that dynamically change forces players to adjust in a split second, replicating the intensity they experience during an in-game situation.

“Basically, it trains awareness, reaction time, team play and technical skills. The target changes instantly every time a successful SmartGoal has been executed,” Theodorou said.

“It’s challenging and fun for players at all levels. Whether you are a beginner or professional you can use it, there are exercises for people of all abilities and even for people playing with disabilities. The accessibility SmartGoals provides is a huge benefit.”

All of the data gathered is recorded for coaches and players, making it enormously beneficial for identifying development opportunities as well as making it more mentally engaging for players.

“Data collection is so important in sport these days. You can keep track of how fast an individual is, how many goals they’ve scored, and determine their accuracy. The beauty of SmartGoals is that you can now measure their technical ability and watch them grow,” Theodorou said.

The App which comes with SmartGoals also includes a database that contains more than 100 filmed exercises. While originally built for football, the goals have expanded to other sports including hockey and athletics.

The database means coaches can keep training fresh by tailoring their training program to their needs. The filmed videos further assist this, by providing an easy guide on how to setup the exercise and how the player should look when executing the drill.

“The database has exercises that allow you to train individuals, or the whole team. There’s technique training, positional training, possession and more,” Theodorou said.

“They were purposely built for football and since we started implementing them at training, the feedback we have received has been absolutely fabulous.”

With SmartGoals proving a success at Heidelberg United FC, Theodorou believes it is important for more Australian football clubs to invest in burgeoning technology.

In additional to SmartGoals, he has implemented SoccerPLAY into Heidelberg FC’s football program and is a strong advocate of keeping up to date with international trends.

“Clubs must view technology like SmartGoals as an investment, not an expense,” he said.

“Australian football has been a little behind on trends and reluctant to invest. The trends are slowly changing though, we have started tapping into the types of things the leading countries have been using over the last three or four years,” he said.

For more information on SmartGoals, visit HERE.

Blink Identity: Walk straight into an event 

Blink Identity offers the latest solution for quick and easy access to events, as face recognition software can be used as a ticket.

Recently, we’ve seen QR codes become as prominent as ever with Covid-19 protocols in mind – particularly for checking in to venues. 

Blink Identity offers the latest solution for quick and easy access to events, as face recognition software can be used as a ticket – rather than having a physical or digital copy on hand. 

Backed by decades of experience, they have been developing identity systems for enterprises in high-risk environments. The biometric matching system has utilised military-grade technology to accurately identify people walking at a typical pace, adaptable to any lighting conditions. 

The basis of Blink Identity is simple – when a sports club or venue is partnered up with the company and has the camera software in place, visitors are required to enrol in the service by taking a ‘selfie’ photograph on their phone. 

Face recognition like a barcode

By taking a photograph in a matter of seconds, this leads to enormous time saved when the visitor has arrived to enter a stadium or venue, where this eliminates the risk of waiting in lines. Blink Identity collects an image of a person’s face to then be converted into a special unique code known as a mathematical template for identification purposes (like a barcode). Basic contact details involving full name and email address are used for a personalised greeting and if Blink Identity needs to contact the person respectively, with this information to ensure that a spectator can be identified at a venue and if any problems arise with the account. 

With a Blink Identity lane in operation, all the visitor needs to do is walk through and the sensor takes another photograph – to be converted into a template – which is then immediately deleted and is not saved on the sensor. This process is simply to compare the initial template (selfie) with the latest version from when the person enters a venue. 

The versatility and reliability of this technology has not only been tested with lighting conditions, but also to adjust for slight changes to a person’s appearance from one photo to the next. For instance, anyone wearing hats, glasses, colored contacts, head scarves or has a beard does not affect Blink Identity’s system. The vast majority of sunglasses, face paint schemes and sequins have also been proven to not change how the sensors operate. The system, which can identify identical twins better than the human eye, caters for any changes to a person’s appearance. In addition, customers wearing face masks are matched using periocular recognition. This is a special type of face matching that focuses on the area of the face around the eye. 

The Blink Identity Sensor

Likened to walking in like a red carpet, Blink Identity is virtually a replica with that same VIP-type feel for successful entry. Once inside the venue, the use of Blink Identity’s sensors can expand towards purchasing food and merchandise, where customer experience is advanced. For instance, if an ID check is required from a customer, a simple face recognition check can be completed, rather than sifting through pockets trying to find a driver’s license or similar.

The ease of this technology is not only positive for visitors, but for companies as well who hold events. Blink Identity integrates with standard frameworks and workflows to handle everything from implementation and enrollment to privacy compliance. By switching to Blink Identity’s system, it connects to existing ticketing, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), point of sale (POS), time & attendance and security systems. This will allow organisations to get a better insight of fan data, promoting increased revenues and analytics. 

As countries start to welcome back more fans on the other side of Covid-19 outbreaks, Blink Identity can help manage the reintroduction of these fans through seamless entry. It’s an extra piece of technology that can certainly speed up the process at popular crowded events.  

For everything you need to know about Blink Identity, you can find it here. 

Manchester United and TeamViewer partnership drives unique opportunities

A five-year agreement between Manchester United and TeamViewer brings one of the world’s most popular and successful sports teams with one of Europe’s fastest-growing software companies. 

The collaboration sees the two organisations join forces from the 2021/22 season, where TeamViewer has recently been unveiled as the new principal shirt partner for the Red Devils.

With TeamViewer presented on the front of Manchester United’s shirt, it will capitalise on the English Premier League club’s global audience to share TeamViewer’s qualities and features towards connecting the world virtually. It brings greater awareness of how they can be of use to any organisation seeking improved collaboration software. 

Manchester United boast 1.1 billion fans and followers around the world, who will now be introduced to new technology related to TeamViewer’s expertise at providing remote connectivity services.  

TeamViewer have all bases covered for getting supporters of Manchester United closer to the action, focusing on three key areas – fans, football and business. 

Fan: 

  • Virtual stadium experiences. 
  • Unique behind-the-scenes content. 
  • Augmented Reality (AR) at Old Trafford and at home. 
  • Enhanced museum experiences. 

Football: 

  • Enhanced training and performance through AR. 
  • Remote access to players for scheduling and training. 
  • Remote access and AR for medical examinations. 
  • Enabled scouts through remote access technology. 

Business: 

  • Enhanced accessibility and IT support for offices. 
  • Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for stadium controls to optimize safety and security. 
  • Upgraded sustainability at the stadium and all club locations through remote work and IoT solutions. 

Similarly to Manchester United, TeamViewer are a widely known platform who are based in Germany – they have been installed on over 2.5 billion devices, have nearly 600,000 subscribers, and operates in almost every country. TeamViewer matches Manchester United’s ambition for growth, where their technology addresses the barriers for people and businesses to achieve what they thought could not be possible. TeamViewer is the ideal fit in a football club setting, where they can collaborate with a global community and an array of culture. 

A new Thought Leadership series saw Manchester United head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speak for the first time with TeamViewer CEO Oliver Steil to discuss the essence of what makes a great team, how Manchester United and TeamViewer will drive technological advancement, and how to foster a culture of diversity and inclusivity. The TeamViewer meeting highlights the values that both parties share, ensuring that Manchester United supporters will have more access to their club than ever before.

TeamViewer CEO Oliver Steil: 

“We are very excited to see our brand on the front of the most iconic shirt in global sports. The partnership with Manchester United is a key pillar to further shape TeamViewer’s perception as a global tech brand.”

“We will support the club in its digitalization efforts and show these use cases to all our users and customers worldwide. This will reinforce the breadth of our solutions portfolio and explain how we are creating a world that works better. We can’t wait for the new season to begin and to see the team in action in their new shirt at the legendary Theatre of Dreams.” 

Group Managing Director and Director of Manchester United, Richard Arnold: 

“The launch of our new home kit is an exciting moment before the start of every season and especially so this year as we welcome TeamViewer as our new principal shirt partner.”

“While the shirt will be the most visible symbol of our partnership, we are looking forward to using TeamViewer’s technology to drive digitalization of the club and open new ways for us to connect with our fans. This will bring huge benefits to both of our organisations and, most importantly, to our fans around the world.” 

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