EPFL x Datasport
EPFL x Datasport is a collaboration combining sport, innovation and education. Datasport is working on a comprehensive app intended for athletes and sports events organizers. Number one in Switzerland today, this tool has already been tested twice at EPFL as part of the cross-country race organized on the campus by the SSU, Agepoly and the Vice-Presidency for Innovation (VPI) with the support of AVP-SAO.
This event provides not only a forum for participating in and promoting sport and well-being for all, but also a technological, collaborative and educational testing ground. The opportunity to show students that the sports sector can be seen from a different standpoint from that of pure performance, with a vision focusing more on “health”, the development of which requires a whole range of skills. That is also the aim of EPFL’s Sport Tech innovation initiative, which takes shape here through this successful collaboration between DataSport and EPFL. A collaboration which continues to grow as the potential synergies emerge.
DataSport: innovation serving sport and the sporting environment
In the world of sport, trends come and go as quickly as the athletes run! To stay the course, the constant need for innovation can be seen as a brake or, in contrast, as a driving force. This is how Thomas Bachofner, CEO of Datasport, sees it. For unlike other individual results monitoring or course mapping apps already on the market, Datasport doesn’t stop there. The tool combines several levels of technology, from time-keeping through AI to an IT platform connected to the field to collect data. But there’s more.
“On the one hand, we want to provide athletes with a genuine platform that meets their needs both while they are doing their sporting activity and in all their related activities, in particular through advice, a community, training, registration for races, access to times run and, of course, the presentation of results. What really makes us special, however, is that we also reach out to race organizers, offering them a 360° service from registration management to timing and participant management before, during and after the races through the precise times that we record. In summary, Datasport endeavors to incorporate the entire environment of the athlete... and the sport itself!” continues Thomas Bachofner.
Cross-country: a joint testing ground for DataSport and EPFL
The ties between DataSport and EPFL were initially formed during two events organized with the support of the school: “The Spot”, a sort of large-scale event dedicated to all the stakeholders of the sport and bringing together several key players, and the “Sport Tech Forum”, a meeting designed to identify and develop collaborations between industry and the academic world with a view to accelerating the launch of innovative projects, as is the case with DataSport. These two opportunities for contact between EPFL and DataSport provided food for thought on how best to work together. This gave rise to the idea of using the app to calculate participants’ race times as part of a cross-country race organized on the university campus by SSU (Lausanne university sports), Agepoly (EPFL students’ association) and the VPI (Vice-Presidency for Innovation), which oversees the Sport Tech initiative.
According to Hugo Cappelaere, Sport Service Manager at DataSport, these two races with the EPFL were a genuine success, both in terms of the results obtained by the technology used and for the athletes: “We are delighted that our technology could be used for this race and the almost 200 runners taking part, twice as many as in the first edition in 2021. We were involved as if it were a professional race, implementing our mileage, athlete management and results services, etc. – which were greatly appreciated by those taking part. It is great to be able to work with EPFL on this event, in particular as a testing ground, and to see the commitment of the school and the volunteer students to make this cross-country race a true bi-annual event.”
“For us, the CROSS offers an unprecedented opportunity to test our tool in framework conditions which provides us with the unique possibility of making mistakes. It is full-scale “test & learn” operation which is extremely valuable!” adds Thomas Bachofner enthusiastically.
These events are also excellent opportunities to test the way in which collaboration can be launched and to identify how subsequently to develop it. “The CROSS event is a joint testing ground. In addition to the purely technological test, it offers us the chance to get to know one another and to see how to work together. We can then better identify the topics that are of interest to DataSport, see what their requirements are or would be and, finally, identify possible avenues for developing synergies with the EPFL ecosystem in order to materialize these needs, for example which laboratories to call on and which researcher(s) and students to work with, etc. In the case at hand, the cross-country race as a testing ground is also the "kick off" for the collaboration,” explains Pascal Vuilliomenet, Innovation Project Manager responsible for the SportTech initiative at the VPI.
And as EPFL is the organizer of this event, this provides companies such as DataSport with an excellent opportunity to continue testing and improving their innovations during future editions. And in the meantime, the collaboration will continue to be strengthened, in particular by working with the laboratories on campus with a view to developing the tool further.
And that is when the winning trio of sport – innovation – education is formed.
Sport, innovation... and education!
At EPFL, technology and sport are linked beyond the question of performance. It is with this in mind that the school created a dedicated innovation initiative entitled Sport Tech , bringing together no fewer than 44 laboratories active in the field of sport. It perceives sport beyond simple results and physical exercise to adopt a holistic vision incorporating health and thus the field of medicine.
By participating in major events such as the America’s Cup, the school has made a place for itself in the sporting ecosystem, which is particularly rich in Lausanne. This national and international visibility is accompanied by an additional requirement: that of making the EPFL researchers aware of the school’s ties with the sports industry while informing the students of these professions linked to the world of sport, many of which call on engineers.
“We felt that the cross-country event was an excellent vector for this. By inviting companies such as DataSport, we provide our students with tangible proof that their profiles are extremely useful today in the world of sport. This furthermore enables us show our researchers the developments that can be made with our laboratories and the particularities of this field, which offers the possibility of conducting quick tests,” explains Emilie Michel, Business Developer responsible for the SportTech initiative at the VPI of EPFL. “Showing them professional opportunities and avenues for research work, stimulating their interest in working in the campus laboratories on sports technologies – these are the aims of events such as the cross-country and the collaboration with companies such as DataSport,” she adds.
And that certainly proved a success as Hugo Cappelaere, Sport Service Manager at DataSport, emphasizes. “Several students asked us questions about how the app works about DataSport as a company and about the profiles of the people in our team.”
Today, the DataSport team is working on new developments scheduled for the short and medium term, such as mileage with no physical infrastructure or tests in different training and preparation contexts while expanding sport wherever technology can be applied. The EPFL ecosystem will most certainly play a part in this!
The CROSS event: promoting a healthy sports activity
The CROSS event is one of the actions supported by the Vice-Presidency of EPFL for student affairs and outreach (AVP-SAO) and by the UNIL/EPFL University Sports Service (SSU) with a view to creating a balanced environment for both the staff and students at EPFL while encouraging physical exercise and well-being. Creating a course at the very heart of the campus is an ideal means of promoting physical activity for all in a fun and convivial atmosphere.
One thing is certain: October 2022 is already in the diary for the start-of-year edition of the CROSS!