“Data driven” are not the first words that come to mind when you think about hockey. But when Olivier Munger looks at the future of the game, he sees analytics – and in his opinion that’s where his product comes in.
Mr. Munger is president of Quattriuum, a Quebec City startup behind the PowerShot FWD, a Bluetooth-enabled insert that slides into the hollow shaft of a composite hockey stick and uses motion detectors to keep track of the stick’s movements throughout a game.
“From the moment it’s on, it’s listening to every motion you make with your stick,” Mr. Munger says. “When there’s a motion that has the signature of a slapshot or a pass, it computes and stores six variables.”
Among other things, the device tracks the stick’s speed at ice level, how long it takes to complete a passing or shooting motion, the angles at which a stick is held, the stick’s angular velocity and its acceleration. From these data points, it computes the speed that the puck ends up travelling.
The PowerShot wirelessly transfers data to a mobile app that produces analytics about how the player performed over the past three periods, and it shares that data with a social network the player’s friends, parents or coaches can keep track of. (The device is charged through a standard USB port at the end of the device – presumably, children will now need to be reminded to charge their hockey sticks before practice.)
Data on passing and shooting is useful for more than just honing technique. Over the course of a game, it can predict how stamina is holding up. It might reveal that a player made more passes in the first period, with short, sharp, powerful shots, only to take longer backswings in the third, giving a defenceman an extra 0.8 seconds to steal the puck.
Mr. Munger suggests these kinds of findings will be of interest to players and coaches, who can now offer parents and players quantified progress reports, but also to recruiters looking for better data to help make decisions. “If a recruiter is looking at two or three players who have the same records in terms of goals and assists, he can look at which of these players has the better average speed, or is making less distance on the ice.”
Despite the novelty of the device, the PowerShot’s technology is more a feat of software. Detecting the movements that indicate a pass or a shot is no small feat when the stick is being bumped and jostled every which way from the moment it hits the ice. Hockey is an unchoreographed contact sport, which means the algorithm has to parse through much more noise to find a signal than if it were analyzing a more tranquil outing, such as golf.
(On the flip side, the smartphone industry has driven the price of sensors down, so the PowerShot can use the same affordable mass-market accelerometers that phones do. “If we could tape your iPhone to your stick, we could run our algorithm on it,” Mr. Munger says.)
Nine-person Quattriuum is self-funded, with grant help from the government of Quebec. The PowerShot will retail for about $150, launching before the holidays at specialized sports and hockey stores, before moving on to bigger chains.