In a partnership with the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), the 2015 International CES – commonly known as the Consumer Electronics Show – will see the debut of the Sports Tech Marketplace, a showcase highlighting the latest in sports technology.
Owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the 2015 International CES is scheduled to run Jan. 6-9, 2015, in Las Vegas.
The marketplace will feature the most recent products, services and trends in sports technology, placing a global spotlight on this fast-growing category. It will be located within the Sands Expo at CES Tech West.
In an interview with Sports Executive Weekly, Tom Cove, president and CEO, SFIA, said part of SFIA’s mission is to provide a vision of where the industry “is heading and where it needs to go.” With the ongoing convergence of sports/fitness and technology, sports technology has quickly turned into “one of the hottest trends in our industry.” The Sports Tech Marketplace is partly designed to position SFIA members to best participate in the still emerging opportunity. At the same time, the sports technology trend is attracting major consumer electronic companies, scores of upstarts and others outside the traditional sports industry on the product side. With their popularity, fitness monitors and other tech gear are also being widely sold outside traditional sporting goods channels.
As such, the Sports Tech Marketplace will help the industry take a “stronger leadership” role in guiding the sports technology category. With the industry’s understanding of “the importance and value of sports” and its required commitment to innovation, the industry “needs to lead the conversation about what these products are, what they do, and why they do it.”
Cove further added that it’s “absolutely positive” that Walmart, Best Buy and other major chains are embracing sports technology products because it supports SFIA’s goal of promoting sports participation and active lifestyles. But he said the industry should educate the non-traditional sports chains and new entrants on the vendor side about the “special characteristics” of the sports industry “to help them understand the sports and fitness lifestyle and that the sports and fitness industry has so much to offer.”
Finally, Cove noted that SFIA no longer runs trade shows. The Consumer Electronics Show is “enormous” and comparable to the heyday of the Supershow. The 2015 CES will feature more than 3,500 exhibitors across 2 million-square-feet of space. The January 2014 show attracted more than 150,000 attendees, including more than 35,000 from outside the U.S.
But the Sports Tech Marketplace’s obvious role is supporting and promoting the budding sports technology category. Cove cited several underlying factors he expects will continue to drive the category in the years ahead.
He noted that one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is play safety. While concussion concerns facing numerous sports receiving wide attention, over-use injuries are also impacting many sports, marked by the spike in Tommy John surgeries seen this year across Major League Baseball. Hit count and impact sensors have arrived to better gauge concussions but other technologies are expected to help manage or prevent many of the other diverse activity-driven injuries. Said Cove, “There's a whole world of technology that's going to address that.”
The second opportunity is using technology to improve performance, already evident with the popularity of monitoring devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike FuelBand. With further advances, many are expected to become more involved with the field of play. Cove suggests coaches may one day be able to use a GoPro-like device to get an instant read of their players on the field.
At the same time, other emerging technologies will address the less-serious athlete to make sports and fitness activities “more welcoming and friendly.” Said Cove, “There’s all kinds of things that will give them a comfort level to get them to come to us.”
Finally, sports technology products promise to reinvent the spectator experience to bring fans closer to the players and the game.
Beyond the trade show exhibits at Sports Tech Marketplace that will showcase hard as well as digital products such as apps, SFIA will host three one-hour sessions exploring a variety of topics around the convergences of technology and sport on the second day of the show. At the 2014 SFIA Industry Leaders Summit in Chicago being held in mid-September, an official from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) will be making a prominent presentation into how their members see the sports trends evolving.
“We see technology revolutionizing the current sports landscape and we’re only at the tip of the iceberg,” said Cove. “The combining of these two storied associations to produce the conference and marketplace ensures that it will be of the highest quality. We hope Vegas and the tech industry is ready for the sports industry, because we’re ready for them.”
“Technology is being used more and more in sports, and the 2015 CES will be the ‘can’t miss’, best place to experience the wide range of these products and solutions,” said Karen Chupka, senior vice president, International CES and corporate business strategy, CEA, in a statement. “Sensors, wearables and mobile technologies are revolutionizing sports by providing real-time information that enables us to better achieve our athletic goals. CES is at the forefront of this emerging category and we’re pleased to partner with SFIA to bring it to life.”
The Sports Tech Marketplace will be part of CES Tech West which includes the Sands Expo (Sands), The Venetian and Wynn/Encore exhibits. Tech West will also feature leading companies and the newest innovations in lifestyle technologies, including fitness and health tech, smart home, and the Internet of Things.