Q&A: Waterloo-made training broom helps curling Olympians up their game

Curling Olympians worldwide have purchased training brooms developed in Waterloo, Ont. The SmartBroom is a device that tracks an athlete's sweeps in terms of force and frequency.

A training broom developed in Waterloo is being used by Olympians from eight countries

Will Hamilton is one of three co-founders of SmartBroom, a Waterloo-based company that developed a training broom for curlers. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Unsure if you should really hurry hard?

As he watched a curling team he was coaching on the ice in 2012, Will Hamilton of Waterloo, Ont., said it was difficult for him to evaluate his players.

Now, six years later, Hamilton and two business partners had developed a training broom that can track a player's sweeping performance and they've sold it to eight of 13 countries at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games.

Curlers can track how hard they've swept the ice using the broom. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Hamilton co-founded SmartBroom, along with Andrew Flemming and Geoffrey Fowler.

Watch the broom in action below:

To learn more about the development of the broom, read the Q&A below. It has been edited for length and clarity.

What sparked this idea?

I was coaching the junior ladies team. And one summer, I said to Andrew, 'How do we know what players are doing to the ice? I want to know if their sweeping is effective or not.'

So I proposed an idea to him. Let's take apart a bathroom scale, and a pedometer and mash them and fuse them into a curling broom. And he sort of sat back in his chair and chuckled and said, 'You'd use force sensors and an accelerometer to get that data.'

How long did it take from concept to finish?

It was in the summer of 2012 when we first started working on it. And we sold brooms to Curling Canada, which was the CCA at the time in the summer of 2013, which was right before the Sochi Olympics. And so they had first access to the SmartBroom.

And then from there, other countries jumped on board. Scotland, China, Japan, Denmark, the U.S., you name them. So at this Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, eight of 13 countries have their sport organizations or their high performance teams purchase a SmartBroom from us.

Are there new developments coming for the broom?

We're always working on improving the device. Now my engineering partners will obviously raise their eyebrows, but obviously we're working on a new SmartBroom. But we're still in the evaluation and discovery phase.

The other piece that we think will be super interesting is leveraging the data from the SmartBroom and showcasing it on TV.

So imagine that you're watching TV and you could see how hard Brent Laing and Marc Kennedy or Ben Hebert are sweeping Kevin Koe's rock down the ice. And you'd be able to see what they're doing from the force and the stroke rate perspective as it happens. And I think that's where the game is going.