The British and Lions rugby team is trialling a performance dashboard that uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to revolutionise how player data is evaluated, which will enhance its performance on the field as it prepares to face the Springboks in a much-anticipated series of three tests starting this weekend.

A first-of-its kind performance dashboard, Vodafone PLAYER.Connect, collects data from players’ existing wearable devices and collates into one aggregated dashboard, in real-time.

“This a unique application using an IoT solution and is a world first in sport. Vodafone PLAYER.Connect makes player data easy to view and analyse, allowing coaches and coaching staff to make fully informed decisions, optimising player performance and improving welfare on and off the pitch. This includes 24/7 monitoring of players’ physical and mental wellbeing, so action can be taken to improve physical recovery and better prepare for the next match. It also means live adjustments can be made both in the game and during training. The application was created by Vodafone and supported with our technology,” says Shane Cooper, CEO of IoT.nxt.

Vodafone is the sponsor of the British and Irish Lions team and majority shareholder in IoT.nxt parent company Vodacom.

“This technology could go on to elevate sports performance across any number of sporting codes, not only rugby, and can be used for teams and individuals. Data collected via Vodafone PLAYER.Connect, which uses IoT.nxt’s technology, is presented in a single dashboard that combines short term ‘acute’ GPS, heart rate and impact data, and is delivered live, with additional ‘chronic’ data on off-field recovery, which is transferred before and after each session. This data helps provide a holistic view of the wellbeing of both the team and the individual athletes. The IoT.nxt technology is hardware agnostic, which makes it possible to extract data from the different devices players use,” Cooper says.

The platform solves several long-standing issues in sport performance analysis. At the moment, data is transmitted via Bluetooth from each individual’s wearable separately, after the event, and must be collated manually by an analyst. Across a whole squad, this means the full data set may not be available until two days later, and is difficult to analyse in context, placing significant limitations on how player data can be evaluated and the speed at which it is acted upon.

According to Paul Stridgeon, Lions Head of Strength & Conditioning, the Vodafone PLAYER.Connect platform is a step forward in performance monitoring. ‘Vodafone’s innovation is supporting our aim to achieve consistently high levels of performance. “The dashboard lets us maximise the output of our current monitoring and is helping us provide detailed analysis of all wellness, training, and match data throughout the 2021 Tour. We are already starting to see the benefits.”

Vodafone Consumer Director, Max Taylor, notes that Vodafone PLAYER.Connect is a perfect example of how a commitment to innovation can make a real difference – on the biggest stage, under the most pressure.

IoT.nxt and Vodafone started working on this solution in March this year, following an ideas exchange which started in late in 2020. The companies independently worked on possible advanced uses of technology in sport and through their collaboration, following extensive consultations with sport scientists, were able to utilise the key strengths of each of their specialist expertise to develop PLAYER.Connect.