Wearables triumph in the sports industry

Wearables appeal to both professional and amateur sports: profits in the smart garments sector will exceed $25 billion by 2020, and more than half of the business will relate to sport-related devices

There was a time when news was not news until it was on TV. And for some years it has seemed that physical activity is not exercise if we do not know exactly the number of kilometers traveled, the calories burned and the heart rate reached during the training. In addition, we share with the rest of the world these parameters that will add value to our effort. Or, at least, it will make us feel more satisfied.

This need to be constantly connected with ourselves and with the outside world has caused the market for wearables or smart garments, and applications associated with these products, to become ever greater and more present in our daily lives. This industry has found an interesting niche business in the world of sport and health. According to consulting firm CCS Insight, profits in the wearables sector will exceed $25 billion by 2020, and more than half of the business will relate to sport-related items. Another fact that reflects the interesting moment that the sector is experiencing and that augurs a bright future: in 2016, 102 million smart garments were sold in the world and the forecast is that, in four years, the number of units sold will reach 213.6 million.

In the world of consumerism, and much more in technology, there seems to be the rule ‘who gives first, gives twice’. And in 2017, in terms of wearables for the general public, who has done their homework best, according to experts, has been Huawei. The large technology and telecommunications companies take advantage of the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to present their latest products in technology and connectivity, and the Chinese manufacturer had the honor of being distinguished as the best wearable of MWC 2017 for the launch of its new smart watch – a sporty looking watch with Bluetooth, wifi, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, heart rate sensor, nano SIM card slot, personal trainer monitoring, waterproof and a two-day battery life that does not need the presence of a mobile phone to make it work.

Wearables triumph in the sports industry - Johan Cruyff Institute

Huawei, distinguished as the best wearable of the MWC 2017 for its new smart watch – Photo: Huawei

Watches and wristbands that collect data linked to physical activity are the articles that are grabbing the largest market segment as they are becoming increasingly accessible to the general public, but wearables with a clear focus on professional sport have joined the race.

Coaches and professional athletes are increasingly open to letting technology lend a hand to optimize their performance and there are already some sports such as football, tennis or cricket, which allow the use of smart garments in competition. Others, such as the NBA, are still reluctant. The NBA Players Association (NBPA) has managed to put limitations on the League regarding the use of data extracted via wearables. Teams cannot, for example, use this information for the negotiation of contracts.

And there are no secrets from a device that can rigorously analyze all vitals and give exact data on the impact of exercise on our body.

Wearables triumph in the sports industry - Johan Cruyff Institute

Wearables stand out for their dual functionality in professional sport: performance analysis and injury prevention. Imagine a small device woven into clothing that hides a mini GPS, an accelerometer to measure stops and starts, a gyroscope that measures the body’s bending and twisting, and a microprocessor that collects and analyzes up to 1,000 data references per second, transmitting them to a display in real-time. Information that allows trainers and medical staff to monitor values such as muscle performance, heart response, breathing rate, endurance or stamina. Many injuries are directly related to fatigue, and data analysis allows professional teams to know at all times the fitness state of an athlete and the levels of physical load that could lead to injury if action is not taken in time.

There are already sport-specific wearables, from popular ‘running’ or ‘fitness’ models, to models designed for surfers or snowboarders, prepared to withstand 10 atmospheres of pressure or strong impacts in the snow.

The breakthrough in wearables is making the jump from smart watches and wristbands to the integration of that technology into the sport equipment itself. From tennis rackets capable of measuring the speed of the ball, the spin or the precision of the stroke, to socks that can improve athletes’ posture or shirts that monitor a golfer’s swing.

Wearables triumph in the sports industry - Johan Cruyff Institute

It is indisputable that technology contributes to the development of new products with almost no limitations. It should, in any case, be the users who put the limits on them. Professional sport is starting to wonder who should own all this data and to what extent teams can use all that information to enter into negotiations. And many of those who do sport for fun or just look after themselves a little, are starting to wonder if they are really prepared to absorb, understand and apply so much information. In a world where smart products are increasingly proliferating, consumers must also be smart and be guided by good sense.


Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam uses a rich learning environment that fosters educational tools based on a student interaction model. We aim for a mix of students from sports and business sectors, which also enables students to share their unique experiences and learn from each other. Through ‘Cruyffian’ teaching methods the students will engage actively in creative challenges that require effort, commitment and intuitive thinking. Visit the web pages to find out more about these programs, which we deliver in English:

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