Ask most soccer supporters how Germany took home the 2014 FIFA World Cup title and the unanimous answer is likely: hard work—or dumb luck, depending on who you ask, given the winning goal wasn’t scored until the 113th minute.
What the bulk of those buffs don’t know, however, is that the current world champs had a lot of help from a little device.
In the lead up to and right through last year’s tournament, the German national team utilized Adidas miCoach Elite technology, a physiological monitoring service embedded in “smart” shirts, developed by the global sports giant to gather data directly from each player’s body while they trained—including heart rate, speed, distance, acceleration and power—and transformed those numbers into meaningful metrics to offer key insights to the team’s trainers.
Basically, German manager Joachim Low knew that bringing on super-sub Mario Gotze in the 88th minute of a scoreless game could—and did—make a difference.
“It’s training smarter as opposed to training harder,” explained Qaizar Hassonjee, vice president of innovation in the wearable sports electronics division at Adidas, speaking Tuesday in a seminar titled “Wearable Technology and its Evolution Into Broader Fashion” at the Product Innovation Apparel conference in New York.
Now Adidas is taking the technology mainstream, hoping tech-obsessed fitness fanatics will flock to smart apparel in much the same way they wholeheartedly embraced activity-tracking wristwear.
“It’s about using digital technology to enhance sports to make athletes better. Not just professional athletes, but all of us. Within that we want to make sure we have solutions for each one of us, all the way from a consumer who is at the initial stages of getting better through to the experts who want to make sure they remain the best,” Hassonjee clarified.
And Adidas is confident consumers will be receptive. In fact, tech analyst Gartner predicts that shipments of smart clothing will soar to more than 26 million units in 2016, compared to 10 million units this year and practically nonexistent sales in 2014.
“But how do you bring this miCoach technology—the textile sensors and electronic sensors—make it affordable at a consumer level and provide an experience?” Hassonjee asked, noting that people are different and need customized training.
That’s why the company wants to share its technology with likeminded partners. “For a long time it was just our devices working with our apps and it was all Adidas,” he said, adding, “We have our line of smart apparel, and we have these sensors available on the market right now. We’re looking at licensing opportunities, and we’re interested in bringing more experiences to the consumer.”