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Hamilton-bound company uses GPS and chips to track, train athletes

Hamilton and Niagara will become a "centre of excellence" in the growing sports analytics sector.

Tech companies Project1 and Nanolytix building new footprint in Hamilton

Ricardo Sodré's Brazil-based company, Project 1, makes devices that athletes wear to track and analyze how to improve movement and team coordination. The company will be moving to Hamilton as part of an investment in sports analytics. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Ricardo Sodré's tech company focuses on sports, especially soccer, using devices to gather data to help amateur and professional athletes improve their game. 

Sodré's company, Project 1, is relocating to Hamilton and hopes to expand its player-tracking technology into indoor team sports like hockey. For soccer, the company uses GPS technology to track players' movement, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction and jumps. For something indoor like hockey, Sodré uses a chip that a player wears to perform the tracking. 

'A trend that's gained a lot of traction'

Ricardo Sodré said sports analytics is a trend that has gained a lot of traction as devices get cheaper and lighter to produce and carry. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
It's part of a growing sector known as sports analytics, a sector that Hamilton and Niagara leaders said Wednesday  at a Pan Am games trade forum they want to see flourish here.

"It's a trend that's gained a lot of traction in the last 10 years," Sodré said. Part of the reason: Devices to track player movement have become lighter, cheaper and can have more capacity. 

Hamilton and Niagara wants to become a hub, or "centre of excellence," in the growing sports analytics sector, it was announced at Wednesday at the Pan Am Investment Playbook Bilateral Trade Forum downtown. A centre of excellence involves collaborations and applications between university researchers and businesses finding applications for innovations.

City marketing coordinator Michael Marini said the sports analytics sector is "largely untapped" in Canada.

"Hamilton will be working to be seen as a leader in this vastly expanding market," he said.

The sports analytics investment will include Sodré's tech company relocating its Canadian offices from Waterloo to Hamilton.  

'A fascinating field' 

Electrical engineering professor and startup founder Simarjeet Saini plans to move the sports analytics part of his Nanolytix Inc. startup from Waterloo to Hamilton to take advantage of Hamilton's health sciences network. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
One of the company's Waterloo colleagues is Nanolytix Inc, a startup co-founded by University of Waterloo electrical engineering and nanotechnology professor Simarjeet Saini.

Nanolytix started with developing sensors for inexpensive air and water testing — like a cell phone spectrometer than can be used in developing countries to test water quality. 

The company has expanded into sports, developing simple tests of, say, saliva that can be used on-field to test a player's potential dehydration or cramping. The hope would be to help individualize training and target an athlete's needs in almost real time.

That division will be moving to Hamilton, in part to continue working with Sodré and in part to take advantage of McMaster University and Hamilton's health science network. 

Saini estimated the sports division would employ about six people in Hamilton by year-end and 15 to 20 people next year. 

"It's a fascinating field to be in," he said.

He said the technology may one day be used for drug testing but there are already "gorilla companies" working on that. 

"As a sports startup you have to be focussed," he said. "Go into stealth mode — and then you expand." 

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett

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