Wilson Sporting Goods Co. is taking a shot at Bluetooth-connected sporting equipment.
The sports equipment manufacturer and brand touted its newly released connected basketball and previewed its connected football at the CES 2016 conference in Las Vegas this week.
The sporting balls have a Bluetooth chip in them that connects to a smartphone app. In the app consumers can track metrics about their performance, such as their shooting percentage or how many shots hit the rim, Amanda Lamb, global marketing director, football, at Wilson, told Mobile Strategies 360 at CES.
The basketball, priced at $199, debuted in September 2015. Sales have met Wilson’s expectations, said Alan Davenport, global commercial director for basketball, soccer and volleyball, at Wilson, although he declined to give specifics.
The basketball has an accelerometer and gyroscope in it to determine certain metrics, such as the speed of the ball and the angle at which it hits the rim. Because of interaction with outside objects, timing delays, and a machine learning algorithm, the ball can sense if it has hit the backboard, hit the rim or went right in. The data the ball provides is 96% accurate, Lamb said
Consumers have to download either the iOS or Android Wilson X Connected Basketball app in order to connect their smartphone to the basketball via Bluetooth. The ball is meant as a coaching tool for players who want to improve their shot, Lamb said. Since the ball can only tell when it is released, and not who released it, it’s not a good tracker for when playing with others competitively. The app also has several modes that have different games, such as a timed, Buzzer Beater event, that puts the pressure on a player to make as many shots as possible before a buzzer sounds.
While Wilson does not have any data to support that the ball will help improve a player’s performance, more practice and shooting under pressure situations, such as with a loud buzzer, will help improve a player’s game-time performance, Davenport said.
While Wilson usually creates separate indoor and outdoor basketballs, which have different textures to suit the needs of those courts, the connected ball is meant for use both indoors and outdoors. The Bluetooth chip will work in cold weather, said Davenport, who said Wilson tested the basketball outside in Chicago during the winter.
The basketball does not need to be charged and is good for 100,000 shots, or 300 shots every day of the year, before the Bluetooth chip wears out. This is about the average lifespan of a basketball, Davenport said.
The basketball took three years to develop, Lamb said. Some of the biggest development challenges included getting the balance of the ball just right after adding a chip and producing a Bluetooth chip small and thin enough for this purpose. However, the challenges that Wilson went through in developing the basketball gave it a leg up when starting to develop the connected football, Lamb said.
Wilson has been developing the football, which is now in final testing, for 18 months, Lamb said, and it will launch in September 2016.
Like the basketball, the football is a coaching tool that can give the player metrics such as the ball’s speed, the distance he threw it and the spiral efficiency. The football connects via Bluetooth to the player’s smartphone in the Wilson X Football app.