Monday, February 13th, 2012
It was my 4th year at ISPO Munich and I must say that it is definitely the place to be if you are in the sporting goods industry. Although the focus is always snowsports, it is great to see such a variety of ideas, concepts and brands popping up every year. For me, the most exciting part is talking to the new brands who were awarded prizes in the ISPO Brand New award. This year the judges chose 50 new brands to showcase, all with great novel ideas. For me the highlights were Douchebags.com, Dual Snowboard, Smovetec, Rebreather and 4iiis. Each of these brands had great people behind them, and I look forward to future articles with interviews of the owners.
Again, there were a plethora of “barefoot” shoe brands. Unfortunately none hit the mark for me, the same concepts were recycled time and time again – ones that have been developed by “experts” but little substance when questioned. There is a lot of room in the market for barefoot brands, but its time to be innovative and different. Another disappointing product was a new football boot claiming increased speed because of a new stud configuration. If this is true then they are magicians, but when questioned there was no evidence behind the claims. Also, the mechanism which was described to me as being the reason for the increase in propulsion was also misguided. However, I will gladly apologise should this research come to fruition.
Onto, the big brands. A great showing – almost all had a large stand which promoted integration with the crowds, many of the staff were glad to talk to the consumers, and new innovations were showcased beautifully with clear marketing messages. Believe me it is fun playing with new toys and gadgets that are aimed at improving sports.
Sourcing is another interesting area. I spent around 5 hours trawling through factory stands from China, India, Taiwan, Pakistan and much more. I am always pleased by how friendly, open and honest they all are. We have so much to learn from the Asian manufacturers. In the factories I visited on this trip, they were more than helpful even to the point of wanting to travel over to the UK just to talk about business.
Finally, the most exhilarating part is always the new sports shown around the peripheries of the halls. This year the major talking point was the inaugural URBANLINING open. A mixture between tight-rope walking, trampolining and gymnastics. This sport is crazy but, becoming popular, being shown at half-time in Madonna’s show during the SuperBowl. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to wait around to see the eventual winner, but whoever they are, they are extreme in my mind.
Love ISPO, just wish there could be an alternative for less extreme sports. Looking forward to next year already,
Article by Bryan Roberts
Monday, February 13th, 2012
A huge 10m inflatable wall and a double decker bus plastered with extreme sports photography were a few of the advertising mediums manufacturers used to showcase their flagship products for the 2012-2013 season. Once inside, it was clear this was the place to be if you had a passion for sport and sports equipment. An eclectic mix of people, some in suits, some in board shorts on skateboards, but somehow it just seemed to work. Looking around you could see people meeting up with old acquaintances or making a new contact. The passion and energy in the room was contagious. Picking up the map of the conference layout was when it really hit home how massive ISPO was. There were 15 separate units split into sport specific categories. To put the scale into context, each unit could probably hold 2, or even 3, football pitches.
The exciting element of the conference for me was visiting the smaller brands, who were trying to increase their market presence and potential catch the eye of a big game player. Three products stood out to me and I have highlighted them below. I will be writing more detailed reviews of each product shortly.
It was my first visit to ISPO and personally I found it had a great buzz and energy about it. If you are involved in this industry, or aspire to be, ISPO is a must attend event in 2013.
1) Go Pro (Hero 2) – Extreme Sports Video
Their core product is a video/camera that in essence is capable of capturing extreme sports from unique perspectives. The Hero 2 can capture footage in HD at 120 fps and comes with a protection case that is suitable for underwater filming. This is a company for the future, look out for them – Be a HERO.
2) Recon Instruments – Head up displays
Velocity, distance, height of jump, friend finder, are just a small selection of tools available to the wearer. A head up display located in a pair of ski goggles that uses accelerometers and GPS technology to provide the wear with more information than they could hope for – Knowledge is power.
3) Kali Protective Helmets – Protect your assets
Quality looking helmets with the added benefit of improved protection. This is achieved through a patented manufacturing technique to improve the energy absorption characteristics – Use your head.
Article by David Rogers
Friday, February 10th, 2012
Nike revealed a new addition to the Nike+ family this month, the Fuelband. In essence it’s a wristband that measures movement. That in its self is nothing novel, however the marketing guys at Nike have established a clever USP. Movements are measured using a new metric called NikeFuel. The more active you are the more NikeFuel you earn. A normal day of activity, for instance, would provide 2,500 points of NikeFuel, while a high-energy day would provide 5,500.
The technology used in the system and the conversion from movement to Fuel is a mystery, however, it is likely they use tri-axis accelerometer to track the intensity of active to be able to convert this to NikeFuel. Four pre-sets are available: time, steps, calories and NikeFuel. Users can set targets of how active they want to be throughout the day with the 20 LED light display transitioning from red-to-green based on how close they are to achieving their target. Data can be transferred to a computer through the USB function or wirelessly to a free iPhone app.
Some of Nikes top sponsored athletes including Lance Armstrong, Kevin Durant and Carmelita Jeter endorse the product.
Armstrong said, “What’s great about the idea of NikeFuel and the FuelBand is the way it provides real information and numbers to show how much people are doing all day, every day. That’s what will get people challenging themselves to do more and better their own scores. It’s a tool to get people more active.”
“NikeFuel means everyone can get recognition for activities they do,” said Durant. “It provides a scoreboard for your day and gets everyone moving.”
Jeter said, “You don’t have to be an elite athlete to appreciate how NikeFuel can motivate you. It’s an easy way to get credit for activities and compare how you do with others, even if you take part in different sports.
The Nike Fuelband hits the US on the 22nd February, the UK on the 1st May and the rest of the world in the summer, with an expected price tag around £100.
Article by David Rogers
Friday, January 27th, 2012
Eleven times ASP world surfing champion Kelly Slater is the first to try Quiksilver’s Xplosive prototype wetsuit during the pipeline maters in Hawaii. The R&D team at quicksilver have integrated POWER LINES into the suit design based on advice from leading physiotherapists and engineers. The principle of these power lines is to store and release elastic energy back to the athlete through activation of major muscle groups.
“The power lines have been designed to mimic the naturally-occurring stretch reflexes within the body, by adding these lines to the already established reflexes, we can amplify the body response of action and reaction”.
Quiksilver also claim their suit improves proprioception and has injury prevention properties.
“The athlete’s awareness of their body is both complemented and enhanced by the suit. The wetsuit aids the control of major muscles during explosive actions and also allows for smooth movement. This is highly important in injury prevention.’
Quiksilver are not the first to add an elastic material to sporting apparel, indeed adidas were the first to market with their TECHFIT™ PowerWEB™ boldly claiming figures of improvements in power of up to 5%.
Whether the Xplosive suit is assistive, or indeed resistive remains to be seen until or if scientific data is published, wetsuits are almost resistance suits in themselves due to the nature of neoprene wrapped around the joints. Whether it reduces injury may be a question for Mr Slater as a long term and large scale study would be required to properly get a handle on this.
Article by David Rogers
Friday, January 27th, 2012
Cambridge Design Partnership’s innovative design allows commuters to keep fit and look smart
The practice of cycling to work, whether for convenience or keep-fit, has risen sharply in recent years: Yet cycling is still impractical for many people who need to dress smart for their job. Commuters wanting to cycle often have to sacrifice either a sharp look or exercise in their struggle to find convenient ways to cycle to work and look slick. Cambridge Design Partnership today announces an innovative solution to this problem.
Suitpack is a prototype of a compact rucksack that, with an innovative yet simple patented roll-fold concept, combines convenience with a crease-free solution for clothes. It is designed to hang easily from locations wherever required allowing easy-access to the clothes, toiletry and shoe compartments. The Suitpack has been designed for speed of use with its novel folding system making it an all-round solution for the modern commuter.
Increased commuting time and the ever more common practice of working long hours often mean that there is little time outside of work to dedicate to exercise. The convenience of cycling as a form of exercise, the popularity of various government cycling initiatives, and financial and environmental concerns, have all resulted in a significant net increase in cycle-commuting. 1.3 million new UK cyclists joined the roads last year, there are now 783,000 cycle commuters and the increase in cycling levels is predicted to continue to grow another 20% by 2015.
Furthermore, cyclists clearly enjoy spending on their passion1: The bicycle market in the UK was worth £1.62 billion in 2010, (up 28% on the previous year), with the accessories market worth £853 million. The average cycle commuter spends, on average, £195/year, and ‘enthusiasts’ a whopping £1295/year, on accessories. And that’s just the UK market; the EU cycle market is 10 times the UK’s with 4 million frequent commuter cyclists.
As part of their ethos to think differently, Cambridge Design Partnership has ventured into new capabilities by combining their traditional engineering and innovation skills with ‘cut and stitch’ design. This is another example of flexibility and versatility in applying innovation to diverse market opportunities and technology areas with the ability to gather rich, in-depth research to discover unmet consumer needs and tackle them with creative solutions.
“We know the challenges faced by anyone who has to pack smart clothes for the journey to work,” commented Ben Strutt, Head of Design at Cambridge Design Partnership. “Most people who go to the gym early, cycle or jog to work, and commute regularly in ‘practical’ clothes understand the need to change into smart attire upon arrival. This can be annoyingly impractical: Current poor solutions result in disruption to personal routine; lack of exercise, or commuting via different methods. There is also the issue of office changing facilities which tend to be cramped, impersonal, with floors too wet to put clothes on.
“Very often the trick of good design is not to reinvent the wheel; but to identify and understand problems, give a fresh perspective, and address a burning gap in the market. Here, Cambridge Design Partnership has provided an innovative, graceful solution to what is, for many people, an everyday problem, and which addresses a huge market need.”
It’s not just cyclists who will benefit from Suitpack. Many commuters wish to go to the gym before or after work, or during their lunch break, and Suitpack also fits within the dimensions of ‘hand luggage’ allowed by European airports and in railway ceiling racks, allowing business commuters to travel in comfortable clothes with all of the convenience of the backpack form-factor. Also despite its compact size there is still space for a laptop and important daily accessories.
Graeme Henderson, business commuter and partner in the project, says: “Life in the city can be fast and days in the office are often long, so many people find they don’t have time to go to the gym or play any sport. Commuting by bike solves this problem by incorporating exercise into your daily routine, so a healthy lifestyle and a busy job are no longer incompatible. But the problem of what to wear means the only options seem to be turning up with crumpled trousers, keeping your wardrobe under your desk or taking transport and exercising later. The Suitpack is a smart solution to all this.”
CDP’s Head of Design continues “Cambridge Design Partnership’s most recent demonstrator has evolved during the application of our usual iterative design process; with rapid experimentation and critiquing of successive models and prototypes we quickly learn about problems and opportunities, while refining the design for cost and labour effective manufacture.”
Cambridge Design Partnership is now interested in speaking with potential partners about the future branding and development of the Suitpack backpack, or its core innovations into other luggage designs, and on to the manufacture and distribution phase.
1 Dr Alexander Grous; ‘The British Cycling Economy: (http://corporate.sky.com/documents/pdf/publications/the_british_cycling_economy)