Finland is a country of innovation, also raising global interest.
Digitalisation is proceeding at full speed in every field – also in sports. Finnish SportIQ develops motion sensors to help track the movement of players and sports equipment, for example, on a basketball court. The sensors are attached to the ball and players' gear. They wirelessly transfer data to a system, in which this data can be utilised in real time, for example, in TV broadcasts. This analysed data helps players to review their performance and coaches to improve the tactics of the team.
The SportIQ application has already been successfully tested in the Finnish basketball and ice hockey leagues, but the company is looking for bigger arenas.
“Our main markets are in the US, because that is where the big bucks are,” says Harri Hohteri, CEO of SportIQ.
A smart ball keeps the score
SportIQ applications are also making their way to consumer markets. The company, together with sports equipment manufacturer Wilson, has developed a smart basketball equipped with a small motion sensor which is able to keep the score and identify shooting distances.
Data is transferred via Bluetooth from the ball to a mobile phone, where an app analyses the performance of individual players.
“For example, players can instantly see at what distances they can score and what they need to do better.
The app's features have been designed especially for younger players. Our aim is to lure them from computer games towards sports.”
A major partner required for success
The sports equipment business is dominated by major global corporations. According to Harri Hohteri, it is difficult for small startups to break through on their own.
“For example, it wouldn't have been profitable for us to make a smart basketball on our own, but we needed to find a partner which already has a strong brand and a good relationship with consumers.”
Wilson, owned by Amer, is the first major international partner of SportIQ. Hohteri believes in the strength of partnerships as the Finnish company is looking for opportunities for growth from other sports in addition to basketball.
Business ideas, based on data connections
In addition to SportIQ, business ideas of many other promising startups are based on data connections. A good example of this is Naturvention Oyj, a Jyväskylä-based company which manufactures indoor green walls. The roots of plants based on a culture medium contain microbes that disintegrate any adverse compounds in air. Green walls are monitored and adjusted remotely via the mobile network.
The Naava technology is the only air purification method in the world which adapts to the indoor climate. The smart green wall generates exactly the correct types of microbes to use the chemicals contained by air as nutrition. According to the company, the innovation purifies indoor air more than a hundred times more effectively than regular plants.
Furthermore, Roadscanners from Rovaniemi uses data connections in its tools. They are used to control the condition of roads, railways, streets and airports.
For example, the company has developed sensor technology which helps to predict any need for road maintenance. What is unique about this invention is that it helps to build an accurate digital image of road structures.
Preventive maintenance based on sensor data produces significant annual savings in paving costs. It also improves road safety and comfort.
Photo: Ville Lehvonen