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: Outdoor sporting navigation systems.

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

Outdoor sporting navigation systems is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

A satellite navigation device (satnav device) is a user equipment that uses one or more global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) to calculate the device's geographical position and provide navigational advice. Depending on the software used, the satnav device may display the position on a map, as geographic coordinates, or may offer routing directions. Satellite navigation has played an increasingly important role in tracking professional sport performance. Positional data of players and athletes is extensively used in sports performance analysis for designing fitness programmes for specific game sports, positional roles, evaluations of physiological responses, analysis of tactical behaviour and in many other sport analytics domains.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of outdoor sporting navigation systems.

Key players in outdoor sporting navigation systems – 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 outdoor sporting navigation systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
adidas 129 Unlock company profile
NIKE 97 Unlock company profile
Technikka Conexion 31 Unlock company profile
Skyhawke Technologies 29 Unlock company profile
Topgolf Callaway Brands 23 Unlock company profile
Blast Motion 18 Unlock company profile
Casio Computer 16 Unlock company profile
GolfzonDeca 16 Unlock company profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 14 Unlock company profile
RADAR 14 Unlock company profile
Turtle Beach 11 Unlock company profile
INNOVATIVE TIMING SYSTEMS 11 Unlock company profile
Intel 11 Unlock company profile
Arccos Golf 9 Unlock company profile
AlpineReplay 9 Unlock company profile
Project X 8 Unlock company profile
Spotify Technology 7 Unlock company profile
Physical Apps 7 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 6 Unlock company profile
Centre National d'Étudestiales (CNES) 6 Unlock company profile
Garmin 6 Unlock company profile
Swatch Group 5 Unlock company profile
Apple 5 Unlock company profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung 5 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Adidas is one of the leading patent filers in outdoor sporting navigation systems. Some other key patent filers in the outdoor sporting navigation systems industry include NIKE, Technikka Conexion, Skyhawke Technologies, and Topgolf Callaway Brands.

In terms of application diversity, Spotify Technology leads the pack. AlpineReplay and Turtle Beach stand in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Project X holds the top position, followed by NIKE and RADAR.

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.