Kiwi technology improves sports performance

A tool designed in New Zealand is recording the performance of elite sports players.

A tool designed in New Zealand is recording the performance of elite sports players on video, for on-the-spot analysis anywhere in the world.

Kiwi ingenuity

Siliconcoach has been developed by Dunedin based company The Tarn Group, and is just one of its four leading-edge technology brands. The Siliconcoach Live smartphone app allows coaches to film an athlete’s technique, study it by breaking it down to a swimming stroke, running stride, or a cricket shot, and share the information online.

The group’s general manager, Graeme Burborough, says it’s the first video analysis software tool to use the cloud so effectively.

“We wanted to take the desktop version and make it available on the sports ground,” Burborough says.

“It’s unique in that coaches and athletes can share the video and analysis information on the spot with a specialist or medic who may be on the other side of the world. It allows for live feedback, which is so crucial in professional sports.”

Powerful tool

Burborough says the video analysis tool is a powerful tool for improving sports technique, with quick results.

He says the company has had huge success with its software overseas – Siliconcoach is used in 40 countries around the world. It is used by every test cricket playing nation, and many of the world’s leading Rugby Unions.

The video analysis software is also used by sports retailers and manufacturers such as Mizuno, Asics and New Balance.

The retail giant Nike uses Siliconcoach to analyse customers’ gait in its stores around Europe, filming them on a treadmill before deciding which pair of shoes would be the best fit. 

The group’s team of programmers, biomechanists, physical educators and marketing executives all share a passion for sport, and a desire to provide simple to use products that make a difference.

The company’s visionary founder, Joe Morrison, developed the Siliconcoach software 18 years ago when he spotted a gap in the market for video analysis in sports.

Morrison, who spent six years training in the army and has a Masters in Biomechanics, saw how video could help improve and assess an athlete’s physical performance and rehabilitation. He learnt programming and built the software, which soon attracted a close group of investors who were keen to be involved in the company.

Family affair

And like many entrepreneurial Kiwi companies, some of these investors were family members – Burborough, Morrison’s brother in law, was one of the initial investors and has a background in the finance industry.

For The Tarn Group, this mix of innovation and business nous has been a winning combination. It now provides its innovative technology across a range of markets including education and health.

“Our technology has proven to be a dynamic learning tool that leads to a greater understanding for both teachers and students, coaches and athletes, clinicians and patients,” says Burborough.

Despite providing its software as a service to clients around the world, he says the group is firmly based in the lower South Island where the team can make the most of the outdoors lifestyle.

As a keen runner and mountain biker, Burborough’s a keen supporter of the company’s software. 

He and others in the team often cycle into work, and he says on any given day there will be half a dozen bikes parked in the office – these are no ordinary bikes, as they’ve been fitted to each rider using a specialist bike fitting software tool the company helped develop for the US bike manufacturer Specialized.

And before competing in a triathlon recently, Joe Morrison filmed his swimming underwater and sent the footage and data off to a colleague in the US who analysed it and offered areas of improvement.

“We really believe in the power of video to help share knowledge and improve physical performance,” he says.