Innovation in the sports industry is constantly evolving, with activity driven by digital advancements, high-level of social media interactions, broad appeal for immersive sports experience, and fan engagement as well as the growing importance of technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, cloud, data analytics, wearable tech and many more. In the last three years alone, there have been over 48,000 patents filed and granted in the sports industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in Sports: Athletic monitoring sensors

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

20+ innovations will shape the sports industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the sports industry using innovation intensity models built on over 101,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, neurostimulation exercisers is a disruptive technology that is in the early stage of application and should be tracked closely. Environmental sensors, performance monitoring sports equipment, and vitals monitoring exercisers are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are outdoor sporting navigation systems and remote athletic performance monitoring, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the sports industry 

Athletic monitoring sensors is a key innovation area in Internet of Things 

Smart evaluation based on the constructive insights of athlete data is made possible with athletic monitoring sensors. All the major sports organisations are uncovering the unprecedented capabilities of these monitoring sensors with the aim of optimising athlete’s performance with real-time information access, monitoring the physical conditions of players, reducing the risk of injury, and intensifying collaboration at all levels.  

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 60 companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of athletic monitoring sensors. 

Key players in athletic monitoring sensors – a disruptive innovation in the sports industry  

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to athletic monitoring sensors

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NIKE 204 Unlock company profile
adidas 81 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 78 Unlock company profile
iFIT Health & Fitness 62 Unlock company profile
FitStar Labs 41 Unlock company profile
Tonal Systems 35 Unlock company profile
Brunswick 33 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 31 Unlock company profile
Technikka Conexion 31 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 27 Unlock company profile
Polar Electro 22 Unlock company profile
LG 19 Unlock company profile
Wattbike 19 Unlock company profile
Casio Computer 18 Unlock company profile
Wahoo Fitness 17 Unlock company profile
CEA 17 Unlock company profile
Interactive Strength 16 Unlock company profile
NuStep 16 Unlock company profile
Garmin 16 Unlock company profile
Technogym 16 Unlock company profile
Huawei Investment & Holding 15 Unlock company profile
FOUNDATION FITNESS 15 Unlock company profile
TDK 15 Unlock company profile
Seiko Epson 15 Unlock company profile
Dyaco International 15 Unlock company profile
Omron 15 Unlock company profile
InfoMotion Sports Technologies 15 Unlock company profile
Apple 14 Unlock company profile
Nautilus 13 Unlock company profile
Cleveland Clinic Foundation 13 Unlock company profile
Icon Ip 12 Unlock company profile
Swatch Group 11 Unlock company profile
Turtle Beach 11 Unlock company profile
Pentland Group Holdings 11 Unlock company profile
Intel 11 Unlock company profile
Hydrow 10 Unlock company profile
MAD Apparel 10 Unlock company profile
Kyocera 9 Unlock company profile
EW Healthcare Partners 8 Unlock company profile
eGym 8 Unlock company profile
MindMaze 7 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 7 Unlock company profile
Muoverti 7 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 7 Unlock company profile
Inventus Engineering 7 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Electric 6 Unlock company profile
Peloton Interactive 6 Unlock company profile
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare 6 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 6 Unlock company profile
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne 6 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

NIKE is one of the leading patent filers in athletic monitoring sensors. Some other key patent filers in the retailing industry include adidas and Nautilus. Athletic monitoring sensors is one of the maturing innovation spheres of the Internet of Things. 

In terms of application diversity, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare leads the pack. FitStar Labs and Alphabet stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Wattbike held the top position, followed by NIKE and Huawei Investment & Holding. 

Athletic monitoring sensors are well established in sports industry and potentially continue to become the approach favoured by many future retailing companies. Wearable tech is the latest crucial innovation altering the style of training in sports for management of training load and avoiding fatigue, overtraining and other undesirable health effects on an athlete. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the sports industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Thematic Research: Internet of Things in Sport


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.