Binance Has Deal to Become Crypto Sponsor of Africa Cup of Nations Soccer Tournament

By Dominic Massimino

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has partnered with the Confederation of African Football to sponsor the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The men’s tournament began Jan. 9 in Cameroon and is the first major soccer event sponsored by Binance, the world’s largest crypto market by daily trading volume. 

 The Assist of the Day, Assist of the Week and Assist of the Tournament promotions will be sponsored by Binance and appear across the CAF’s social media channels throughout the tournament. Binance notably signed a strategic partnership in 2020 with Chiliz, the Malta-based blockchain firm behind the Socios crypto fan tokens used by top soccer clubs across the world.  

 TikTok is also sponsoring this year’s AFCON, which ends Feb. 6 in Cameroon. Last year, the IRS and Department of Justice launched an investigation into Cayman Islands-based Binance over concerns of potential money laundering and tax evasion, according to Bloomberg

Australian Open NFTs to Include Match Data From Hawk-Eye’s Electronic Line-Calling Camera

By Andrew Cohen

Non-fungible tokens issued at the upcoming Australian Open will be integrated with match data captured by Hawk-Eye, the tennis tournament’s electronic line-calling provider. The AO Art Ball collection will consist of 6,776 NFTs minted on the Ethereum blockchain.

 Each tennis ball NFT will be randomly assigned to a specific 19×19-centimeter plot of on-court surface. For every winning shot made during the event’s 400+ matches, Hawk-Eye’s ball-tracking data and video footage will be added to the metadata of the NFT tied to that shot’s on-court location. 

 “By utilising the same line-calling technology and data used in the game, we’ll select holders from all AO matches, based on where the match winning shot lands in the court, and update that data to your NFT,” the Australian Open tweeted

 Physical tennis balls used from the tournament’s 11 finals matches will also be given to NFT holders whose tokens correspond with the winning shot’s location of each match. Each NFT will be sold for 0.067 ETH (currently about $200) starting Jan. 13 ahead of the tournament’s start on Jan. 17 in Melbourne.

 Ethereum-based virtual reality platform Decentraland has also partnered with the Australian Open to create a “metaverse” version of the event’s Melbourne Park. The online platform will stream the tournament’s live broadcast and share archived footage of past Australian Open matches.

HitTrax Ball-Tracking Simulator to Add MLB Team Logos

By Andrew Cohen

MLB has agreed to a licensing deal with InMotion Systems to add league logos and trademarks into the company’s HitTrax baseball simulator platform. HitTrax’s new MLB package will target baseball and softball training academies, high school and college programs, retail stores and entertainment venues. 

The HitTrax device uses computer vision cameras placed inside batting cages or outdoors to track ball fight metrics such as launch angle, exit velocity and projected distance. The company’s connected gaming platform will now display MLB team logos inside MLB ballparks that were already available in the game.  

HitTrax-enabled facilities can set up screens to display head-to-head simulations between users. Base running of the game’s on-screen players corresponds with projected outcomes of batted balls inside batting cages. In June 2020, HitTrax held an online esports tournament that awarded $20,000 in prizes. 

PGA Tour to Deploy TendedBar’s Automated Bar Service at Farmers Insurance Open

By Dominic Massimino

Automated alcoholic beverage dispenser TendedBar will make its PGA Tour debut at this month’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. The course at Torrey Pines Golf Club will feature one private TendedBar station and four public stations for ticketed fans at the event. 

TendedBar’s machines scan a patron’s driver’s license and credit card before leveraging facial recognition to confirm their identity. The device’s touch screens will let fans at the golf tournament pick from 100 mixed drink and cocktail options to be poured by TendedBar, which can serve 14 drinks per minute.

TendedBar was used this NFL season inside the Jacksonville Jaguars’ home stadium, where the machine’s average transaction took 34 seconds and average bar check was 15% higher than normal bar checks, according to data shared with Sports Business Journal in November. 

Staff at the Farmers Insurance Open will work as “Cocktail Caddies” to assist with ID validation and help fans navigate TendedBar‘s facial recognition process. Last month, TendedBar raised $5 million with plans to expand its product into several MLB stadiums ahead of the 2022 season.

ESPN Plans a Smorgasbord of Technology for the Georgia-Alabama College Football Championship Tonight

By Tom Friend

ESPN’s signature MegaCast returns for tonight’s College Football Championship game between No. 3 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama, with 100 cameras, 100 microphones and 13 separate alternative broadcasts. 

The network claims it will litter the main broadcast from Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium with the following technology:

*An AllCam that “captures the entire field, allowing isolated shots on any player and activity on the field at all times.”

*PylonCams “at each corner of the end zone with the back line pylons now having ability to pan, tilt and zoom – covering more of the end zone than ever before.”

*Multiple Skycams that “include traditional and hi-sky, showcasing the action from various heights above the field.”

*On-the-field views “via cameras that are attached atop the caps of the officials.”

*Line-to-Gain angles that “will feature the pylon cam at the first down line (low angle).”

*Virtual reality graphics “that span across the entire field and appear via multiple cameras at the same time.”

Outside of the main telecast on ESPN, the alternative broadcasts include a film room with Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher on ESPN2; a Command Center on ESPNU that “features a multi-angle presentation, which includes up to four different vantage points at any one time, with statistics and real-time drive charts supplementing the game action”; an A T& T 5G Skycast on ESPNews featuring sounds of the game; a Spanish language telecast; Georgia and Alabama hometown radio calls on the SEC Network; a national audio broadcast on ESPN Radio; a 4K Skycam on DirecTV, YouTube TV and Verizon and five different streaming telecasts, including the two bands performing at halftime.

PoliMOVE Wins the Indy Car Autonomous Challenge at CES in Las Vegas With a Max Speed of 173 MPH

By Joe Lemire

An autonomous race car whose control systems were developed by PoliMOVE—a team comprised of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Milan and the University of Alabama—won the first head-to-head autonomous racecar competition. CES staged the event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday. 

The Indy Autonomous Challenge at CES featured nine teams spanning eight countries and drawing participants from 19 universities. The field included, among others, MIT, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the University of Virginia and Technische Universität München, the latter of which won a previous competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October.  

 All teams raced with the same model of autonomous race car, the Dallara AV-21. That prior event was a time trial in which the winning TUM team averaged roughly 80 mph per lap, although PoliMOVE recorded the top speed of 100 mph in Indy. In Las Vegas, however, PoliMOVE maxed out at 173 mph. 

 Energy Systems Network, which seeks to innovate more renewable and efficient energy solutions, sponsored the IAC in hopes of catalyzing further innovation of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems. 

Apple’s Fitness+ to Target Goal-Oriented Runners by Launching ‘Time to Run’ and ‘Collections’

By Dominic Massimino

Fitness+, Apple’s fitness service tailored to the company’s Apple Watch product, is introducing two new features to users Jan. 10: “Time to Run’’ and “Collections.’’ The service’s newest update will also include new Artist Spotlight workouts with Ed Sheeran, Shakira, Pharell Williams and The Beatles. 

Time to Run, a spin-off of the company’s Time to Walk feature which debuted in January of 2021, will release popular running routes every Monday for users in specific cities, with the goal of helping participants “become more consistent and better runners.’’ This Monday’s locations are Miami Beach, Brooklyn and London. Users will have access to notable sights and landmarks from those three cities throughout their run, including a music playlist specific to each locale. 

In addition, wheelchair user will be able to access a similar alternative program, called ”Time to Push.”

The second new activation for Fitness+ is Collections, a portfolio of workouts and meditations across Fitness+ which are tailored to achieving specific goals, like running your first 5K or improving posture. 

In September, United Healthcare became the first health insurance company to provide a free year-long subscription to Apple Fitness+, citing its benefits for physical and mental wellness.

Bitso, Latin America’s Top Crypto Exchange, to Sponsor Brazil’s São Paulo Futebol Clube

By Dominic Massimino

Leading Latin American cryptocurrency exchange Bitso has become the newest sponsor of Brazil’s São Paulo Futebol Clube (SPFC). Bitso, which boasts a user base of more than 3.5 million, will have its logo featured on SPFC official team jerseys as part of its three-year deal with the club. 

“This partnership kicks off Bitso’s support for Brazilian sports, aligned with our growth goals in Brazil as we work to demonstrate that the crypto market is reliable, secure and simple,” Bitso Head of Marketing for Latin America Beatriz Oliveira said in a statement.

SPFC is the only Brazilian club to have captured three world titles and also is the first three-time winners of the Libertadores Cup of America. Its fans will have exclusive benefits at Morumbi stadium as a part of the new partnership, including a section of the stadium reserved for Bitso users. The club and cryptocurrency exchange also have plans to make it possible to pay for tickets with cryptocurrency in the future. 

Formula 1 Partnering With Tech Consultant Digital Catapult to Enhance Fan Experience Thru 5G

By Joe Lemire

 Formula 1 is working with technology consultancy Digital Catapult on ways to leverage 5G as part of as part of 5PRING, the UK’s first 5G-focused commercial application accelerator.  

 Through this initiative, Formula 1 will seek new ways to innovate fan engagement experiences through 5G, primarily by working with startups and small- and medium-sized companies. 5PRING launched a year ago in Birmingham, England, and added a liveevents program this month. 

 The overall 5PRING accelerator curriculum taps into the experience and insights of its board member companies—Virgin Media O2, Deloitte, Wayra, West Midlands 5G and Digital Catapult—and includes access to private 5G networks. 

NBA Launchpad Chooses Five Companies to Help Target Ankle Injuries, Youth Development, Ref Training and Wellness

By Joe Lemire

NBA Launchpad, the league’s new in-house accelerator, announced its first cohort of technology companies to assist and pilot. 

Announced last June, the R&D-focused NBA Launchpad sifted through hundreds of applications from 25 countries to target four areas of focus: ankle injury innovation, elite youth player performance, referee training and development and youth health and wellness. The five selected companies to work with the league for the next six months are:  

*BetterGuards, a Berlin-based ankle support device that seeks to offer high protection and national range of motion.

Breathwrk, out of L.A., which created an app with guided breathing exercises to help athletes wake, focus and sleep.

*Nextiles, from Brooklyn, which makes sensor-woven fabric to track human movement such as the new KineticPro Sleeve for pitchers. 

  *Rezzil, which is headquartered in Manchester, U.K. and backed by several soccer superstars like Thierry Henry, Gary Neville and Vincent Kompany, created VR programs for cognitive training, rehabilitation and post-match analysis. 

 *Uplift Labs, whose home is in Palo Alto, Calif., does AI motion capture and biomechanical analysis using only two smartphone cameras, with adoption in MLB, golf and by soccer’s LAFC. 

KineticPro Performance Teams With Nextiles to Unveil Elbow Monitor KineticPro Sleeve

By Joe Lemire

Baseball training company KineticPro Performance and smart fabric maker Nextiles have released the KineticPro Sleeve, a workload monitor and measure of elbow torque and force for pitchers, as part of a new product suite for biomechanical analysis. This is the first true competitor to Pulse, the Driveline Baseball-owned wearable formerly known as Motus. 

The KineticPro Sleeve uses Nextiles’ thread-based sensors that measure movement by the way the fabric bends, stretches and twists while also using some more traditional inertial measurement units (IMUs) such as accelerometers and gyroscopes. This 3D motion capture and force data is fed into the Kinnect app, an athlete management system developed by KPP that focuses on pitchers. 

KineticPro Performance, which was founded by former minor league pitcher Casey Mulholland, also integrated ProPlayAI’s smartphone camera-based biomechanical analysis into the Kinnect app. The company, based out of a Tampa training facility, previously created the KP Bands, which are resistance bands with force sensors.