The challenge

It's hard to track athletes indoors

Athlete tracking systems are valuable for many aspects of sports allowing coaches and trainers to develop game tactics, fitness analysis and help perfect athlete movements during training and live competition.

Tracking athletes indoors or in large stadiums accurately using GPS has been a challenge for the sports industry for many years. The interference caused by the reflection of GPS signals off the walls of these structures can cause inaccuracies in the readings from these devices.

Our response

Applying WASP to sports

We have developed a highly flexible tracking device called WASP or Wireless Ad-hoc System for Positioning to allow coaches to monitor their athletes more accurately in indoor and GPS poor environments.

The system was originally developed for tracking safety and automation in the mining industry and is designed specifically to work well in closed environments.

WASP uses low cost, portable radio devices and wireless signals rather than GPS and satellites for tracking. This means the tracking devices can be manufactured reasonably cheaply; it has high refresh rates and performs well with high accuracy outperforming GPS based sports tracking systems.

[Music plays and the Catapult and CSIRO logo appears on screen]

[Title page: Introduce Clearsky]

[Image changes to Shaun Holthouse, CEO CatapultSports]

Shaun Holthouse: Catapult and the CSIRO have got together to create an athlete tracking system called Clearsky.

[Image changes to Dr Mark Hedley, Project Leader – Wireless Localisation, CSIRO]

Dr Hedley: There are current systems for tracking players based on GPS. [Images of a sports stadium, both the grounds and seated areas, flash by on the screen] Unfortunately in indoor environments or in covered venues like this one here GPS doesn't work because the satellite signals don't get through the structures of the building.

[Image changes back to Shaun Holthouse]

[Image changes to people playing on a basketball court and someone mounting an anchor node in the stadium]

Shaun Holthouse: What we've done with CSIRO is essentially take that satellite end of the system and turn it into local what we call anchor nodes that are installed around the stadium and they communicate with the devices that the players are wearing and they use the time of flight of the radio signals to work out what your position is on the field and what your velocity is.

[Image changes to a player being fitted with the device]

[Image changes to players kicking a football]

Dr Hedley: Not only does our system work indoors it also works outdoors with an accuracy of about 20 centimetres. That's about ten times better than what you can get with GPS. [Image changes back to Shaun Holthouse]

Shaun Holthouse: CSIRO have really provided the fundamental enabling technology platform and then what Catapult are especially good at is productising that. [Image changes to three people in discussion around a screen and then to a game of gridiron]

These devices are used in an incredibly demanding environment, they get pummelled in tackles and they're treated roughly by athletes and they get wet. They need to be small and lightweight and unobtrusive.

[Image changes to someone holding the Clearsky tracking device and placing it on top of a sports bag]

Dr Hedley: The tracking system has two types of nodes. We have small nodes that we typically call tags that are worn by the players.

[Camera zooms in on the device attached to a player]

And we have other larger nodes that are placed around the venue that are reference points for the tracking system.

[Camera zooms in on the node attached to part of the stadium overlooking a playing field]

[Image changes back to Shaun Holthouse]

Shaun Holthouse: What we do in elite sport requires a high level of positional precision.

[Image changes to players on a basketball court and then to the computer generated image of their positions]

And it also requires a high update rate because sport's about split second activities. So we looked all over the world for a technology partner. Without a doubt the CSIRO solution came out on top.

[Image changes back to Dr Hedley]

Dr Hedley: We understand the technology and we understand the challenges.

[Image changes back to Shaun Holthouse]

Shaun Holthouse: What the CSIRO platform provides us is this raw data set of played position with precision.

[Image changes to show computer generated databases and positions of players on a football field] [Image changes to Dr Hedley positioning the nodes around a stadium]

Dr Hedley: One of the features of our system is that we have wireless communications between all of the nodes. We don't have to have the expensive installation procedure of cabling up all the nodes. We can just place them and use them.

[Image changes to players on a football field]

[Image changes back to Shaun Holthouse]

Shaun Holthouse: Most football coaches are using it not just infrequently, they use it for every training session and every game and it's really a bread and butter part of their approach.

[Image changes back to Dr Hedley]

Dr Hedley: The CSIRO technology has a number of features. It can provide accurate tracking with a high update rate with easy installation.

[Image changes to a computer generated picture of different game statistics]

This makes it ideal for a number of other applications as well. [Image changes back to Dr Hedley]

[Image changes back to Shaun Holthouse]

Shaun Holthouse: It turns out that pretty much everything you want to measure on an elite athlete is also the sorts of things you're interested in measuring for Special Forces or soldiers or emergency response guys like fire fighters.

[Image changes to show pictures of Special Forces troops and then to fire fighters and then to a computer generated graph]

A lot of this information has sort of been subjectively available in the past but what we do is make it all objective. It's also provided a fantastic competitive edge for Australian sport.

[Image changes to the Clearsky devices and the Catapult and CSIRO logos appear]

Catapult and the CSIRO :  Using WASP technology Catapult has improved the accuracy of their tracking devices when atheletes are indoors.

The results

Bringing indoor tracking to the world

Melbourne based company Catapult Sports, a world leader in athlete tracking devices, has licensed our WASP technology and is integrating it into its tracking systems in order to improve their accuracy, particularly for indoor sports applications.

Catapult Sports already has some of the world’s best sports teams using their devices, including almost all English Premier League teams, NRL, AFL, American football and basketball and international hockey, rowing and sailing teams.

Catapult’s reach and continued commercial success in the sports market is helping us deliver significant impact to the world’s leading athletes and sports teams.

The technology will also enable significant sports science improvements in elite sports such as basketball and ice hockey that were previously unable to use tracking technologies due to being played indoors.

Do business with us to help your organisation thrive

We partner with small and large companies, government and industry in Australia and around the world.

Contact us now to start doing business

Contact Data61

How can we help you create your data-driven future? Use the form below to send us a message.
Your contact details

First name must be filled in

Your enquiry*

We'll need to know what you want to contact us about so we can give you an answer.