Krakul, an Estonian Internet of Things (IoT) startup, completed a pre-production prototype of a tech layer that helps top athletes prevent injuries. Now it’s on track to revolutionise football.
Stepping on innovations
Performance is a big thing in the game, with various tech companies vying to one-up each other in providing the best AI-powered tools to help coaches train their players and scout opponents. But this Estonian company is differentiating itself by going beyond the pitch.
The tech layer, which is still in the development stage, is equipped with sensors that track a player’s every move, from how hard they run to how they change direction. The data is then transmitted and analysed through web and mobile applications developed by Devtailor Software, another Tallinn-based company.
According to Aare Aruniit, Krakul’s development manager, the first tests took place in Estonia, and football turf was even bought for the tests in Krakul’s office. “We needed to create a suitable environment for testing, so we got artificial grass for the office”.
The product has improved dramatically since then. The tech layers have just been successfully tested at the World Cup football centre in Qatar. Several high-profile elite clubs from the UK, Europe, and Asia Pacific have already signed up to receive the tech layers in Q1 2023.
Tackling half a billion opportunity
There’s a clear economic incentive to invest in next-gen tech to increase performance and prevent damage. International insurance brokers Howden say that throughout the five biggest European football leagues in the 2021-22 season, injury costs for clubs reached £513.23 million. That’s a 29% yearly rise compared.
Krakul is developing the tech layers for their client, a company called SportScientia, a Singapore-based health tech company. According to the company’s CEO and founding partner, Peter Lazou, their non-invasive research-grade tech layer makes high-quality biomechanical data capture accessible to physiotherapists, medical and sports practitioners. This is the first time in the world that this kind of technology is being used outside of the high-tech labs of universities and research institutions,” says Lazou.
It took a lot of effort to achieve such results. “Soccer players literally trample on the printed circuit board, it’s a very difficult environment for electronics. In addition, the electronics must not interfere with the athlete, they must be very small and ergonomically designed,” explains Aruniit.
Krakul is used to work on things that are designed for harsh environments. The company was founded in 2013 by engineers from one of the most successful Estonian satellite project called ESTCube.
The engineers had to develop an onboard computer for a CubeSat, a type of miniaturized satellite used for space research, that would be durable enough to withstand the rigours of a rocket launch and the vacuum of space. They succeeded, and now the company specializes in developing IoT solutions, autonomous robots and unmanned platforms. Bercman Technologies, a Nasdaq First North listed deep-tech company developing traffic safety solutions, acquired Krakul in 2021.
As the world is glued to the TVs watching the World Cup, Krakul is making the final touches on its new gadget. “We plan to hand over the product to SportScientia by the end of the year so that their customers can start using them”, says Aruniit.
The demand will only increase as the sport becomes more intense and puts a higher emphasis on physical performance. For example, the Champions League is set to expand from 2024-25 from 32 to 36 teams competing in the competition. This means that more fixtures will have to be played and therefore increases the risk of injuries to players, reports The Athletic.