Melbourne-based Catapult Sports is poised to become a key innovator in the rapidly growing sports technology industry. Building on their considerable success in Australia, they are now rapidly penetrating international markets with meticulously fine-tuned devices and software, engineered to monitor athletic performance.
The company manufactures the tiny wearable GPS trackers that have become an indispensable part of Australian sports, like AFL and rugby union. They contain miniaturised sensors and transmitters that measure player metrics such as run yards or metres, which are used by to coaching staff and broadcasters to analyse performance.
But Catapult Chief Operating Officer Barry McNeill says they have progressed far beyond that since the company's birth in 2006, and he describes the Catapult of today as an 'intelligence company'.
"Our athlete tracking monitors are, of course, central to our business model,'' says McNeill.
"But the exciting part looking ahead is how we are moving from wearable tech into the realm of 'how does all the information available help decision-makers?'
"The software play is the bit we are focusing on now.''
Catapult's products and services have certainly hit the mark with their target market. From a small Australian firm, it has grown rapidly into an international operation with offices in the US and UK, working with over 900 elite teams worldwide in over 30 different sports ranging from ice hockey to surfing and bull riding.
"Two years ago, 85 per cent of our customer base was Australian, but today that is less than 20 per cent,'' says McNeill.
Nonetheless he says the Australian connection is a distinct advantage in world markets, where Australian sport scientists enjoy a reputation for excellence and hold many key positions with world-leading teams.
"The company's brain is in Melbourne, our head office is here, and all products are tested, assembled and shipped from here,'' he says.
"But in terms of markets our main focus is now Europe, the UK, the Middle East and the US.''
This international success has caught the eye of investors, and Catapult's Australian listed shares have doubled in price in 2016.
Slew of data
The reason Catapult is increasingly focusing on sports data management becomes obvious when the scale of the challenge is understood.
Apart from a GPS, Catapult's athlete monitors now also contain accelerometers and gyroscopes which provide data on events such as impacts, jumps and falls.
And with their recent A$80 million acquisition of US firm XOS Digital, a world leader in video-based sports analysis, Catapult has now added another layer of data on player activity such as kicks, throws and goals to the mix, taking their total number of monitored performance metrics to over 250.
"The capture of all this data is all very well, but it is meaningless unless one can contextualise it,'' says McNeill.
"Our challenge today is to help clients make the most of all the data available.''
Catapult has clearly only scratched the surface of its current markets, yet when asked about future plans McNeill rattles off a long list of new projects waiting to be tackled.
Catapult recently acquired Irish firm Playertek, which manufactures a plug-and-play GPS device that enables individual athletes to monitor their performances and compare their data with that of professional players.
"There is a lot of potential for us to take halo effect over from elite to the sub-elite partner category, for example semi-pro teams and US high schools,'' says McNeill. "This is where Playertek fits in.''
"In our work with broadcasters there is a lot yet to be done to maximise the story of the game using emergent applications, and we are looking for example at tactical animation and virtual reality.''
Catapult is clearly intending to stay one step ahead of the game in their mission to set the global standard for monitoring athletic performance.