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Australian firm to debut smart cricket ball

With the cloud-connected ball and machine learning, amateur cricket players will soon be able to analyse their bowls and improve their game

A smart cricket ball powered by the internet of things (IoT) and machine learning smarts of Amazon Web Services (AWS) will soon be able to help amateur players improve their game.

Developed by Sportcor and Kookaburra, which makes cricket balls, the smart ball has an in-built gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer and a Bluetooth chip.

Ben Tattersfield, founder of Sportcor, the consumer-facing arm of Jetson Industries, said the smart ball owes its existence to golf.

“I’m a really bad golfer and I keep losing balls, so I thought about putting a chip in the balls – like there are in your car keys – to find them,” he said.

But when Tattersfield took the idea to a golf ball manufacturer, he hit a snag as most of the manufacturer’s revenues came from people who had lost golf balls, and hence were not interested in his innovation. He then pivoted his efforts and started to explore how his idea could be used to support smart sports.

The data from the cricket ball is transferred to a smartphone before it is uploaded to the AWS cloud.

“We use a lot of the AWS IoT infrastructure,” said Tattersfield, adding that this reduces computing load on the smartphone, which simply acts as a data gateway between the cricket ball and the cloud.

Specially developed algorithms are then run against the data to calculate the spin and speed of the ball at various stages of its trajectory – as it leaves the hand, as it bounces on the ground, and even the post-bounce spin rate.

Sportcor is also looking to develop an algorithm that can measure swing, with the possibility of distinguishing a throw from a proper bowling action.

The smart cricket ball comes on the back of growing efforts to tap artificial intelligence and IoT to transform sports in Australia.

Earlier this year, Fox Sports rolled out a machine learning system based on Google’s cloud to predict when wickets might fall in a live cricket match.

However, Sportcor’s efforts are focused on grassroots sports. Although similar measurements around cricket ball spin and speed can be collected using technologies such as high-end radar, Tattersfield said those are often aimed at helping elite athletes.

His intent is to build a solution that can be used at the grassroots player level as a measurement and coaching tool, made possible through advancements in machine learning and cloud computing that have made the technologies more affordable in recent years.

Sportcor is also focused on the global market since its inception, and the reach of the AWS has been essential to that ambition, Tattersfield said.

With a series of approvals required before the ball can be released for sale, Tattersfield is hopeful that it will be commercially available in six to 12 months. He also plans to work with other manufacturers of balls used in hockey and lawn bowling.

“We have worked with AWS on a framework so that we can take the same electronics and put them in a ball to collect similar data,” Tattersfield said, adding that the only challenge is to develop the right algorithms to interpret data for a different sport.

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