Sports-tech group Catapult to launch 'smart football' at CES in Las Vegas

Sports-tech group Catapult to launch 'smart football' at CES in Las Vegas

A Melbourne-founded elite sports wearable performance technology company is playing the field with new product development as it prepares to launch a 'smart football' at the world's biggest technology trade show in the world later this week.

Software as a Service (SaaS) outfit Catapult Group International, which like so many tech small-caps has seen its share price hammered over the past year despite record revenues, has built the first smart American football for sports teams in partnership with Energous Corporation (NASDAQ: WATT), a leading developer of RF-based charging for intelligent wireless power networks.

The football, to be on display in the Venetian Expo Hall at CES in Las Vegas, has an embedded tracker that can charge wirelessly, providing the data precision that Catapult customers have come to expect from its wearables and video solutions.

This innovation reports the football’s movements in real-time to the cloud, allowing coaches to track and analyse not only an athlete’s every move but the ball itself, giving a more complete picture of practice and game time activities. 

Similar to Catapult’s athlete monitoring technology, the ball tracking uses an LPS (Local Positioning System) chip that is so small and lightweight that it can be sealed inside the football during the manufacturing process, making it completely undetectable to athletes.

The instrumentation in the chip includes a triaxial accelerometer, gyroscopes, magnometer, and LPS antenna which are used to create more than 1,000 metrics in Catapult’s player devices. This technology allows coaching staff to not only understand how the ball moves, but the demand a player is under when they are interacting with the ball - two metrics that to date have been reported in isolation.

"Catapult is redefining the future of sports performance, and this innovation is yet another example of how we continue to disrupt the sports industry with solutions that truly enhance the game for coaches and athletes,” said Catapult CEO Will Lopes.

"Just as Catapult has revolutionized elite athlete monitoring since its formation in 2006, we are yet again putting a new lens on the performance of the best teams in the world while creating the most robust performance ecosystem in football."

Catapult's solutions are used by leading US sports teams including all 32 NFL teams, reigning College Football Playoff Champions, University of Georgia, and 95 per cent of the country's Power 5 programs. Elsewhere, its technology is used by basketball teams in the NBA as well as in Australia and Argentina, soccer teams such as Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Real Madrid, and closer to home Cricket Australia, some of the biggest teams in the AFL, and the Wallabies, as well as many more customers.

"We were excited to partner with Catapult when they approached us about creating the football of the future,” said Energous CEO Cesar Johnston.

"Our WattUp solution is the only technology that supports both contact and distance charging through a fully compatible ecosystem, and the sports industry was the perfect frontier for showcasing its power."

During its two-year development, the football was tested by a select number of football teams, including division-1 teams Boston College and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Catapult was founded by Shaun Holthouse and Igor van de Griendt in 2006, leading up to a listing on the ASX in 2014. The stock started traded at 54cps on its opening day and rose to $4 in less than two years, but is now currently trading at 73cps.

In the first half ending 30 September, Catapult reported an 11 per cent increase in revenue to US$41.6 million ($59.6 million), as subscription revenue rose 20 per cent and contributed 89 per cent of total revenue.

In September the group also received a credit-approved unconditional offer from its existing debt provider, Western Alliance Bank, for an upsized US$20 million ($31 million) revolving debt facility, which the company said meant it would be fully funded through to free cashflow positivity in FY24 with no additional equity funding requirements anticipated.

"I am pleased how well we continue to build a great subscription business with long term revenue-generating capabilities," Lopes said on the release of these results in November 2022.

"I couldn’t be more excited of our recent launches and our product innovation pipeline for the coming 12 months. Additional balance sheet strength highlights our strong operational cashflows, underpinned by our high margins and growing SaaS business.

"Access to additional funding further widens our balance sheet buffer as we streamline our focus on the elite sport market and return to positive free cashflow in FY24.

"Catapult has previously elected to fund its seasonal working capital needs with equity. However, our plan to return to positive free cashflow has enabled the business to now fund this seasonality with debt."

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