Tuesday, September 11, 2012

(BN) Nike Obtains Patent for Data Collecting Clubs and Shoes

Nike Inc. (NKE) wants to make improving your golf game easier.

The world's largest producer of sporting goods obtained a patent Sept. 4 to put data-collecting sensors on golf clubs to improve personalization. In one scenario, the analysis of a swing is shown on a display screen embedded on the back of the club's head. That would make getting fit for golf clubs faster and more precise, the company said.

"Custom fitting is outdated, and can be inaccurate," Nike said in documents posted on the website of the U.S. Patent and and Trademark Office. While most fitting is done indoors on a hard surface, the new club would allow golfers to measure a swing out on a course, which would garner more accurate data, Nike said.

Nike has been integrating digital technology into sports equipment as a way for users to measure and improve results. It also increases the time consumers spend with the brand, which can increase loyalty and sales. The company this year introduced a wristband that tracks daily activity and shoes equipped with sensors that can record such metrics as how high a basketball player jumps during a dunk.

Mary Remuzzi, a spokeswoman for Nike, declined to comment on the patent and when such products might come to market.

The Beaverton, Oregon-based company also received a patent last week for a data collection system that places sensors and transmitters in shoes that automatically track the distance and time of a run or walk. The data would then be shared with the user by sending it to a mobile device or computer.

Marketing Potential

Beyond measuring performance, there is also marketing potential. In one example, a person walks into a store and the shoe sensor tells the salesman the kind of sneaker, the shopper's identity and how long he or she has worn the shoe. Advertising based on that data is then shown to the person wearing the shoes through an in-store terminal or is sent to a mobile device.

The system may also allow Nike to offer promotions based on how much the shoes are used. In one scenario from the patent document, a person buys shoes and registers for a contest that offers a prize if they run 100 miles in a month.

Revenue from Nike's running category surged 32 percent to $3.7 billion in its fiscal year ended May 31st, while golf rose 10 percent to $726 million. The company's total revenue was $24.1 billion.

While golf equipment has become more sophisticated, including balls designed to cater to a player's strengths, fitting is largely a trial-and-error process, Nike said.

Radar System

This patent would remove that uncertainty by using accelerometers and gyroscopes to measure as many as 100 data points to record such measurements as the angle of the club face, Nike said.

Nike obtained a patent last month for a computerized radar system that places sensors on soccer balls and other equipment as a way to offer data analysis for team sports. It may be able to track two soccer players at the same time with sensors on their shoes as well as the ball to measure how well they pass to each other.

Other products in Nike's digital sport unit include a watch that can track location, distance and heartbeat and a video game workout for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)'s Kinect for Xbox 360.

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