Here’s a question that I can throw at you today. Will YouBeRu (#YouBetterRun) be the next Instagram or Uber? Perhaps not for everyone, but if this one takes off athletes, race directors, live sports event producers and spectators may one day follow athletes in a whole new way.
If you follow my writings on my Event Futurist blog, you’ll know that I believe that technology has the power to transform live events, connecting people and enhancing their experiences. This is true of many new technologies that help share content among event participants and that help connect participants with one another. In the sports event production space, there have been many great advances in athlete tracking and monitoring as well. Way back in 2005 I worked on a project to bring live video feeds to the courses on Ironman triathlons and things have gotten progressively better from there. Spectating at Marathons and Ironman Triathlons is tricky, because athletes don’t always move at constant speeds — and even when they do it’s hard to figure out where they are with complicated wave starts and only best guess estimates for their pace on race day.
Systems that track participants for the most part still rely on timing mats along courses, which means that data about an athlete’s progress only happens when (and after) an athlete has crossed a mat, generating a time “split” or event for the system to track. Yes there are some more exotic methods of tracking athletes such as placing small cellular transmitters on bikes as they have done at times in a races like the Tour de France or extrapolating performance like the Boston Marathon did in its app this year. But the field is still open for an app or system that collects live data on athletes to help spectators know exactly where they are or will be on a race course so that they can see them, cheer for them and be there to give high-fives and hugs.
Enter a new start-up from Denmark called YouBeRu, which operates under the very poignant hashtag #YouBetterRun. The idea behind this new technology is to harness the power of smartphones to act as the timing mats. Participants wear a wrist band that sends out a signal and people with the app on their phones become the receivers along the course. This means that each time an athlete wearing a band goes by someone on the course, the data is collected and shared with users of the app. The idea here is to create a grid of timing locations that is much more dense than the number of mats that you can put out on a race course.
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