March 2, 2016

Australian firm SMG Technologies is aiming to improve the health and performance of athletes through predictive software

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With more than a decade in the game, Brisbane based analytics company SMG Technologies is transforming the sports and fitness industries through software platforms that transcend athlete management systems.

One of the core products central to the company is their SportsMed Elite platform. Using predictive analysis, Sportsmed aims to help sporting organisations manage athletes better by aggregating new and pre-recorded medical, performance and behavioural data to build a complete ecosystem of an athlete or individual that can be recognised and read on one dashboard.

By having such information on hand, it assists clubs and athletes in their decision making and provides valuable insight and forecasting solutions which allows information to be used in a meaningful way. The goal is to ensure athletes are in better condition for competition, and organisations can seek better athletic outcomes and to offer a greater duty of care. Yet with such a platform, the company has scope to assist insurers, health practitioners and the corporate world.

Athlete data imported from multiple sources powers the SportsMed platform.

SportsMed Dashboard: Athlete data imported from multiple sources powers the SportsMed platform.

SMG Technologies CEO, Zane Hall, recognised injured ex-players are coming back to their professional clubs saying that there was no duty of care and there was no documentation to support the past. Injuries he says they’re either caring for at a cost or are not enabling them to lead a lifestyle that they should be, “there’s a lot of people, and it’s starting to happen now, that are looking back and realising they don’t have records and even team roles change frequently.”

Clubs that are actively partnering SMG Technologies is Super Rugby franchise Queensland Reds, National Rugby League clubs Manly Sea Eagles, Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans as well as West Ham United in the English Premier League.

With a need to find solutions to these sporting problems, Zane gave a glimpse into SMG Technologies and their moves to expand globally.

Could you please describe the business that SMG Technologies is in and a bit of background?

“SMG Technologies is a cloud-based, software-as-a-service business that provides licenced software to the elite sports market.

“The heritage for SMG Technologies was a client in New Zealand, New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU), which in 2004 adopted a technology platform to assist with injury management and rehabilitation programmes, and the cost of that for the entire rugby union set-up including NZRU national teams, the Super Rugby teams and the tier one ITM Cup teams.

“The drivers for them was to be able to better manage player availability and historical injury management so they can better manage the ‘return to player’ scenario. As we all know in elite sport having your best players available, fitter in terms of percentage and knowing exactly some of the historical information that’s there already helps improve players to recover from injury so they can be available so ultimately they can win cups, sell merchandise and sell-out crowds.

“That product was an exciting product for us, it’s called RugbyMed in New Zealand and it was an exclusive joint venture contract to the end of 2009. In 2010 it was an opportunity to revisit what had been previously successful in the New Zealand Rugby Union environment and to look into the northern hemisphere and how we could place our technology similar to this and what were the up and coming or newer technologies which would enhance a new product to go to market.”

What problems have you identified and the solutions that you are trying to solve?

“The first thing was being able to forecast what were going to be the key drivers digitally. We migrated the technology, or the blueprint we had, around the RugbyMed product and we built a completely new product.

“Whilst I was up in England I was trying to understand from much older, richer clubs in the English Premier League for example, what was some of their challenges and how were they actually reading information that was coming through. Certainly GPS has become a major driver in certain codes in certain countries and that does give some good technology data, but it’s fairly limited. I mean it will give you speed, collisions and it will give you distance, they’re key measures for high performance but a player just doesn’t live and perform just on those. So every time we looked at other technologies we had to make a decision on how would we be able to assist other third party technologies that we could import into a common system so that the correlations around technology will still be meaningful and purposeful from importation.

“It then extends of course to the mobility of smartphones, and what tools could we provide again to give better information for organisations such as providing wellness technology from a smartphone. We provide attributes but it’s administered by the club, and they ask athletes simple questions to score out of five such as, ‘how did you sleep,’ ‘what is your hamstring soreness like,’ ‘what is your hydration like.’ Very simple questions which become habitual at answering but you answer them quite truthfully because you know that will assist the planning for the day.”

Has it been an issue with athletes, elite or amateur, understanding data?

“I think technology, whether it’s enterprise or sports, has always been challenging because it’s somewhat new. And we’ve got people in organisations who have obviously been very successful without technology and you may refer to them as ‘old school,’ and you’ve got people coming onboard that are far more familiar with technology, their work around the capability and ease of use.

“The education process is absolutely key and that’s why we’ve hired people who have had professional experience in the field with professional franchises and not people who have graduated with a sports science or high performance degree. If you have not experienced what those organisations are like, and I refer to those organisations as ‘organised chaos,’ they are simply running from one week to another, to the next game or the next round. The environments are really pressured, the players, coaches, staff are under pressure and they don’t have a lot of time due to matchday turnarounds.”

With that, is it one of the reasons that the Super Rugby franchise Queensland Reds would partner with SMG Technologies?

“Absolutely. They understand that there is a lot of upside and learning. We’re an educational partner because we’re as motivated for them to succeed and we’re looking at ways that we can help them using our technology, to not just help the players who are making the starting lineups, or the reserves, but the player pathways. So what is happening at the secondary school levels and we can introduce technology very slowly given the resources around schooling and then through the higher age groups. Even by the time the players of high schools and universities progress to their final goal or objective of making the first team is that they’re also understanding the benefits of having technology measuring them and helping them make better decisions.”

So the objective is to create a smarter athlete, team, organisation?

“Software does not replace enterprising CEO’s or divisional managers but it has certainly helped and enhanced decision making.”

How do you intend to scale your business globally?

“Partnerships are one of the key things. It’s very hard to scale, capital is a challenge for any business of any size. We’re looking for partners that are either already in the digital sports space or there’s expertise in the high performance tech space for us that we can scale. Whether you refer to it as a reseller, distributor they’re certainly the partnerships that we need because we need that organisational partner to be able to run quite quickly for their own investment as well as for ours. Identifying that is not easy.”

And to conclude with a bit of advice, how do you remain competitive in such a global market?

“I think you’ve got to remain relevant. And you’ve still got to innovate but there’s a gap of what innovation means. I think our job, at the moment, we’ve got a very complex software, the best way to improve our relevance is continue to bring people across that learning curve of how we can make a difference, contribute to their role and the educational process of getting better cost management and improving productivity through that resource. And then I would say apply innovation around how you make that easier for people.”


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