Sports has the unique ability to transcend cultural and social barriers making it an excellent platform for fostering strategies of inclusion and adaptation. Inclusion encompasses all populations across race, culture, gender, religion, and disability. Sport for inclusion matters because it promotes the values, ideals and vision for acceptance, human rights, and non-discrimination.
Global sports was on a healthy growth trajectory, reporting a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8% per annum according to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). However, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on the sports industry as many sporting events were cancelled and entire leagues were suspended or postponed. Immediate shocks caused by the health crisis derailed global sports, such as the major leagues with a global audience. Revenue streams were impacted as matches and live broadcasting came to a grinding halt and sponsorships vanished.
With people seeing participation figures return towards pre-pandemic levels as facilities began to reopen, there is a growing concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has widened the existing inequalities in grassroots sport. People with a disability are more at risk of experiencing inequalities in relation to sporting and physical activity opportunities. It is well known that sports sector has already started adopting leading edge technologies to enhance the performance of the athletes, digital experience, and sports equipment. Innovative space enabled products and services is also making an impact in sports
Those needs, which were already high before the pandemic, have gained urgency and further challenges have emerged that opens new opportunities for the utilisation of space technologies in this market. In particular, the full potential of space applications is still underutilised in addressing some business opportunities related to inclusivity and accessibility in sports.
TOPICS OF RELEVANCE
According to recent research, seventy-one (67.6%) athletes reported a decrease in the level of motivation to train compared to pre-COVID-19 times. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled people and sport activity has also been enormous. There has been lack of physical activity, weight gain or other conditions from lessened/halted activity and widening gap between privileged and lower income families. Could this gap be bridged by the following?:
- virtual reality (VR) technology platforms for training, rehabilitation and game analysis which has received a surge in popularity during lockdown
- satellite-based tracking devices to keep track of activity history and performance data allowing all types of athletes to upload their recorded workouts with any satellite navigation enabled device, and to connect online with their friends and followers
- tailored training programmes with data retrieved from body sensors, cameras and IoT devices to support in the identification and selection of appropriate locations considering local circumstances and conditions
- tracking of capabilities for the movements and performance of athletes in combination with connected sensor technologies integrated into the garments
Although the physical health risks of COVID-19 are clear, many individuals may experience significant mental health challenges due to the impact of social isolation and lack of ability to directly engage. Mental health challenges may often be “invisible” to others, and athletes may have difficultly to talk about it due to concern for stigma or adverse impact on their standing in the sport. Topics of interest could include:
- online sports community platforms to connect sports enthusiasts and professional athletes. Formulate challenges to encourage users of all abilities to stay active with different kinds of rewards such as digital trophies, shopping vouchers, or charity sponsoring
- fitness trainers who are specifically certified to work with people who have different types of physical disabilities
- integrated satellite-terrestrial communication networks to offer remote training sporting experience with integrated AR/VR environment
- identifying the location of relevant training for athletes with various abilities and encourage communities to deliver inclusive activities so everyone can join in
Digital engagement for all
Sports sector have turned to innovative set-ups to recreate the audio, visual and social experience similar to on-premises viewing. Digital engagement initiatives adopted by sports during COVID-19 have been proven highly effective and has grown rapidly. According to the PwC’s Global Sports Survey 2020, sports industry leaders expect simulated e-sports to experience the highest revenue growth potential. Topics of potential application could be to:
- facilitate sports fans to engage with each other online, watch instant replays, or check in on other games during game down times. With additional data on player and team stats, sports-viewing technology to further improve the at-home digital experience
- digital AR/VR fan experience to virtually appear alongside their favourite players and watch the games with no or minimum interruption
- direct-to-consumer platform using artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to tailor experiences to individuals’ preferences
- continuous real-time transmission of sport events in remote places and automatic data communication through combination of 5G networks, cloud services and intelligent data analytics
Inclusive and accessible sports equipment
In many sports, equipment is needed to carry out the sport activities. Not all sports equipment has the right adaptations required for inclusiveness and accessibility. Improvement of the equipment to achieve better results is ongoing competition between equipment manufacturers:
- Near real-time analysis and improvement in the performance of the equipment for use by players from various background and abilities.
- Virtual affordable training equipment for online training and recording performance which can be accessed even in remote locations.
- Platform to identify, locate and connect providers of adaptive sports equipment with end users.
- Support in operations, maintenance, and disposal of adaptive sports equipment.
VALUE OF SPACE
Space technology can add value to the sport business and increase its capability. Listed below are the primary value-adding space technologies and services:
Satellite Communications: enables the provision of connectivity, e.g. enabling live transmission of sport events and communication in remote and sparsely inhabited places. Satellite communication could be utilised in offering remote training and digital engagement with integrated Earth Observation data in AR/VR environment. Satellite connectivity can enable the retrieval of data from body sensors, cameras and IoT devices deployed in the field to collect and analyse data of the players and help formulate tailored training for the athletes. It can also be used to transmit information on the performance of sports equipment from the field. Satellite Communication enabled connected sports equipment with embedded sensors which can collect the data of shot and pass accuracy and strength of the players to help them analyse and track progress throughout the game.
Satellite Navigation, Positioning and Timing: provides additional input information for data collection on sport activities in combination with wearables. It allows to track individual’s activity level, as well as supports geo-localisation of and routing to sports and training facilities. Satellite Navigation is also integrated as standard for smartphone applications related to running, cycling, or similar activities. Any innovation in this area would lie in novel analytics solutions integrating additional data e.g. from new wearable sensors (e.g. muscle tension, body posture) or data from Earth Observation related to environmental (e.g. weather, air quality, temperature) or geographical parameters (e.g. elevation, route conditions).
Satellite Earth Observation: allows to collect information on geographical and environmental parameters relevant for sport activities and creating virtual environment for training and digital engagement. Satellite Navigation and Satellite Earth Observation along with data analytics/modelling can contribute to input data for the analysis, improvement, operations, and maintenance of the performance in sports.
Cutting-Edge digital technologies such as Edge computing, AI, AR/VR could play an essential role in developing an inclusive and accessible sports. Space data together with new cloud-based High-Performance Computing (HPC) and related technologies will enable the creation of a digital twin of the training environment or sports equipment.
WHAT WE LOOK FOR
Kick-Start activities explore the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space assets (e.g., Satellite Communications, Satellite Navigation, Earth Observation, Human Spaceflight Technology).
This call for Kick-Start activities is dedicated to the theme ‘Inclusive and Accessible Sport’, which means that the call is open to companies that intend to develop space-enabled applications and services relating to the themes in this domain.
HOW TO APPLY
- Register by completing the online questionnaire on esa-star (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’)
- Visit esa-star publications and search for this opportunity to download the official tender documentation. Official documents will include proposal templates, a draft contract, and additional information about this opportunity.
- Use the official documents to prepare your proposal.
- Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below).
- Submit your proposal via esa-star Tendering by the deadline.
AUTHORISATION OF FUNDING
ESA Space Solutions can provide funding to perform Kick-Start activities to any company (economic operator) residing in the following Member States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Germany, Luxembourg and Norway have pre-approved funding for this kick-start activity. Applicants from these countries do not need to obtain a letter of authorisation from their National Delegation.
And currently, Austria, Greece, and Switzerland are not supporting Kick-Start activities.
Applicants of other Member States must inform the National Delegation of the country they are residing in to obtain a letter of authorisation allowing the funding of the proposed activity. Contact details of each national delegate can be found here.
Kick-Start activities are funded at 75% by the European Space Agency for a maximum of €60K per contract.