Sport

Digital athletics technology can replace the IMF

BY DR RACHEL IRVING

Sunday, August 24, 2014    

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MANUFACTURING contributed 8.6 per cent to Jamaica's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2012 and J$30.5 billion taxes to the Government.

Our Minister of Industry and Commerce Anthony Hylton recently reiterated that manufacturing as it exists presently in Jamaica is incapable of driving the growth that Jamaica requires.

I, however, go on further to say our legislators, too, are not embracing the technology and natural resources available to move us out of the economic rout. The sport/fitness field is one of the top three fields likely to propel mobile technology in the next two years.

By 2016, there will be a projected 10 billion mobile devices worldwide. Jamaica needs to promptly maximise its natural resources through mobile platforms to create economic benefits for the masses. All the other countries are way ahead of us and sadly they are using our resources to propel sales, while we borrow from the IMF to sustain a limping economy. One prime example was Usain Bolt running on August 17, 2014 on Copacabana beach in Brazil.

Three-dimensional (3D) shots were taken of Usain's feet with his beach slippers superimposed on a surface. Manufacturers around the world went into high gear, mass-producing 3D beach slippers in Jamaican colours. In less than a week millions in sales were amassed.

If we step back a few weeks, we would have noticed that the Jamaica team added value to a Commonwealth Games that many said would have been lacklustre without the participation of the Jamaican superstars. The headlines in Europe read "Usain Bolt lights up the Commonwealth Games." We should have taken 3D shots of our many 1-2-3 wins and mass-produce the jerseys they won in and ship these jerseys to consumers all over the world. 3D printing is advancing quickly on a global level and offers something that up until recently was impossible: On-demand, anytime, anywhere, by anyone manufacturing. Rather than trying on pre-made shoes and jerseys in standard sizes, fans can get photographs taken from various angles, anywhere, thus allowing the computer to create an accurate 3D model of the person. This information is then combined with details about the customer's height, weight, and activities they engage in. The data is used to create branded personalised pair of shoes and clothes tailored exactly for them. In some cases, such as with Feetz, shoes are printed and then shipped to the customer. In other cases, like with United Nude, the shoes are printed in the store, right before the customers' eyes. Athletic shoemaker Nike has even gone further by introducing its new Nike Vapor Ultimate Cleat American football boot, which combines 3D knitting (what Nike calls its proprietary flat knitted Flyknit technology) and 3D shoe printing to give players an athletic shoe that delivers both lightweight speed and strength. By integrating 3D knitting with 3D shoe printing, Nike is giving athletes shoes that have a second-skin, sock-like fit that adapt to each individual player's foot, as well as to style of play.

This helps athletes to perform at their highest level. For athletics, 3D shoe printing is definitely a game changer. Jamaica should try 3D printing of shoes and clothes branded off our superstars like Merlene Ottey, Chris Gayle, Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and upcoming young athletic stars like Jaheel Hyde and Javon Francis.

We are so behind in our ideas, we have such a wonderful sport brand that requires limited capital to market and yet we borrow money and get concessions to implement archaic practices. The police have recently closed a factory in the inner-city that was producing Clark's shoes. We can utilise these talented shoemakers in a legal way by allowing them to produce 3D on-demand shoes modelled off the feet of our athletes, that can be shipped to anywhere in the world.

Instead of Clark's it will be our Jamaican brand. It would be a win-win for all. We also need to be working with the universities and GC Foster College to produce fitness and sprint tracking mobile devices that can be sold worldwide.

Adidas recently came out with its Emobile tracker. Adidas has equipped teams in the United States and Europe with its elite health and sport tracking system. The United States team, which played in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, was equipped with this tracking device in order to monitor performance and health during the World Cup. The Elite system tracks heart rate and distance through a GPS accelerometer. Information is sent to a station and then uploaded into the cloud, coaches training the athletes on the field with an iPad can access the information from the cloud. Heart rate indicates fitness level and how hard an athlete is training. Adidas has also put in special sensors in the tracking systems to check how much effort the athlete is exerting in training. We should strategise and come up with a market plan for mobile sprint tracking.

Glen Mills and Stephen Francis are natural talents and have been coaching for years. We should have their legacy on tape to be used in a mobile cloud platform that can be downloaded anywhere in the world, on any sport training field. We can maximise our natural resources through mobile technology. It needs little cash but a great deal of marketing and manufacturing sense.

As Bill Gates and Steve Jobs demonstrated "Business and manufacturing must be at the thought of speed". Julian Robinson, over to you.

Editor's note: Dr Rachel Irving is the Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

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