The quantified All Star: Wearable tech disrupts professional sports

Wearable sensors and data analytics hold promise — and raise points of conflict — for teams, athletes, broadcasters and consumers alike


Two days before a faceoff with the Seattle Sounders at Silicon Valley’s brand new Levi’s Stadium, San Jose Earthquakes star forward Chris Wondolowski is hard at work in a scrimmage, sprinting down the sideline looking for a pass he can score on.

The setup pass sails a few feet over his head, failing to yield a goal — but the miscue could still prove valuable for Silicon Valley’s pro soccer team.

Over on the sideline, the Quakes’ athletic training staff is monitoring an iPad that shows how players’ physical workloads are fluctuating in the dry, 85-degree heat at the team’s San Jose practice facility. Coaches wander over to peek at the data gleaned from a small Adidas sensor tucked into Wondolowski’s undershirt, conscious that they don’t want to overwork athletes before the match.

“We structure the length of our sessions around that data,” said Earthquakes head coach Mark Watson. “If it’s Wednesday and we want a bigger work day, now we can actually put a number on that.”

Consumer wearable technology and the “quantified self” craze launched by products like the Fitbit and the Nike FuelBand have changed personal fitness and created a new class of gadgets for electronics makers to sell. But Joe Blow’s daily step counting pales in comparison to the stakes for pro sports teams that are gathering biometric data on athletes who collect million-dollar salaries.

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