The sports industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by several factors, including consumer demand, competitive pressures, performance enhancement, injury prevention, and tactical insights as well as the growing importance of technologies such as sensor technology, machine learning & artificial intelligence (AI), energy harvesting, material science, augmented reality (AR), 3D printing and biomechanics analysis. In the last three years alone, there have been over 76,000 patents filed and granted in the sports industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in sports: smart footwear. Buy the report here.
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 49,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the sports industry, there are 10+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Smart footwear is a key innovation area in Internet of Things
Smart footwear refers to shoes or sneakers that integrate electronic sensors, wireless connectivity features, and data processing technologies to collect, transmit and analyze information related to the wearer’s movement, activity, performance, and environmental conditions. These advanced features enable smart footwear to provide valuable insights such as steps taken, distance traveled, and gait analysis, and even enhance user experiences, and improve performance, safety, and comfort.
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 220+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart footwear.
Key players in smart footwear – a disruptive innovation in the sports industry
‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.
‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.
Patent volumes related to smart footwear
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
NIKE is one of the leading patent filers in smart footwear. It recently entered a partnership with Vibram to launch ultrafly trail shoes featuring an all-new sole design using Vibram’s Litebase technology. According to Vibram, Litebase saves energy by lowering weight by up to 30% and sole thickness by up to 50%, while maintaining grip and durability. The carbon Flyplate of the Ultrafly Trail is placed between the shoe's ZoomX foam and fabric-wrapped midsole, where it provides more energy output and forward momentum. Some other key patent filers in smart footwear include Samsung, Beijing Electronics, New Balance, Podimetrics, and adidas.
In terms of application diversity, Intellinium leads the pack, while Immersion and adidas stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Bandai Namco held the top position, followed by NIKE and Proterial.
IoT in smart footwear is driving significant changes and trends in sports industry such as performance optimization, injury prevention, training feedback, sports analytics, and fan engagement. It is revolutionizing the way athletes train, perform, and recover. The data and insights they provide help to enhance sports performance and safety at all levels of competition.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the sports industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Sport.