JOHAN Sports set to go global

23 November 2017
JOHAN’s GNSS trackers – which are Galileo capable – can determine positioning up to 1.5 metres of a player’s location.

Last time we checked in with the JOHAN project, the team was finalising the final testing phase. Just a couple years later, they’re on the verge of going global.

Winner of the GSA Special Prize at the 2013 European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC), JOHAN Sports develops motion sensors for location determination and performance measurement of team athletes, especially football and hockey players.

“JOHAN Sports provides data-driven insights and advice to teams, trainers and players to improve performance and prevent injuries,” explains founder Robin van Kappel. “With JOHAN, you can see who is training too hard and who has a higher chance of injury, as well as who is strong in which performance aspects, such as endurance, sprint, agility and recovery.”

The wearable motion sensors are integrated with heart rate and recovery forms and an online platform based on data science, sports science and customer needs. The GNSS tracker – which is Galileo capable – can determine positioning up to 1.5 metres of a player’s location. By combining this data with measurements from inertial sensors, accuracy becomes even higher.

After each use, players and coaches can monitor workload, performance, tactical information and event analysis, allowing players to spot weaknesses and improve their game over time. Coaches can also use the analysis to better capitalise on certain players’ strengths to the team’s advantage. “The measured data is visualised online via a personalised analysis environment for coaches and players that is backed by live support,” adds van Kappel.

According to van Kappel, JOHAN stands apart from the competition in that it offers a user-friendly and affordable performance analysis system for mid-market sports teams. “Targeting professional and semi-professional teams with relatively small and non-specialised staff, our solution is easy to use and every level of trainer can understand it – which differentiates us from the competition,” he says. “By continuously investing in the research and development of the online platform, we are able to offer state-of-the-art but practical products.”

Growth mode

Since final testing was completed in 2015, the project has been busy. Its team has grown from two to 12. The GSA prize provided finance for JOHAN incubation at any incubation centre, and the project decided to cooperate with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Business Innovation Centre in Noordwijk. Working from this centre, the company has been ramping up development, adding customers and raising funds. For example, in April 2016 they raised EUR 150,000 in investment to start production work towards the product’s official commercial launch in the Netherlands. In May of this year, the company secured an additional EUR 650,000 in capital, which has been earmarked for scaling up sales, expanding the organisation and launching new hardware.

According to van Kappel, the sports market is growing rapidly (see table, below), making the potential market for JOHAN huge and largely untapped. “Sports are becoming more scientific, meaning that more scientific staff are involved and the approach and methodologies are becoming increasingly based on validated sports science,” he says. “Furthermore, broadcasting media are becoming more stats-based, which requires more and more technologies like JOHAN that can monitor players.” 

  Current Value
Value in 2020
Sports Wearable Tech1
 $3.8bln  20% (even 40% for the European market)  $6bln
 Sports Analytics2  $350mln  68%  $4.7bln

With team solutions starting from EUR 400 per month, today JOHAN is already used by 30 sports teams, including PEC Zwolle (Eredivisie), NEC (First division), Feyenoord Academy, SD Feirense (Primeira Liga Portugal) and the Royal Dutch Hockey Association. However, in order to grow, the company knows it must look further afield, both to the European and US markets. “The US market is important to us because the value of sports there is very high, with lots of colleges, universities and professional sport clubs having high revenues and budgets,” says van Kappel.

To serve this market, JOHAN’s current products are completely English based, scalable, ready for rapid growth and are usable by everybody on the team – including trainers, players, staff and even directors. “This technology is now easily adoptable by ambitious teams searching for a competitive edge,” adds van Kappel. “As technology and sports are very much embraced in the US, it is a very attractive market for JOHAN.”

To continue to capitalise on these market opportunities, this year JOHAN is launching its next generation system, which will feature real-time analysis, almost full autonomy and automatic data analysis provided by machine learning technology. Players and trainers can use dedicated mobile apps for continuous interaction with the system, both on the field, between training and matches and at home. Furthermore, the system’s compatibility with third party products makes integration with video, heart rate monitoring and tactical tools even richer.

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Updated: Nov 23, 2017