The high-tech trends transforming Australia’s sporting scene

Jarrod Brown
Jarrod Brown

To celebrate National Science Week, 12 August – 20 August, EducationDaily is publishing a series of STEM-focused articles featuring inspiring Australians and innovative ideas.

Australia’s sportstech industry is booming, thanks to exciting high-tech innovations enhancing athletic performance – and for secondary students thinking of exploring the diverse array of career opportunities available, there is a dynamic range of domestic and international courses to consider.

At Victoria’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), for example, working towards the Master of Science (International Sports Technology) degree, offers courses such as Sports Biomechanics, Sports Analytics, Design and Mechanics of Sports Equipment, and Design and Technology of Sports Shoes and Apparel. The program also has a dual masters agreement with University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien in Vienna, Austria, and with German Sport University Cologne, in Cologne, Germany.

And why not?

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In May this year, the Australian Sports Technologies Network (ASTN) revealed that Australia’s sportstech sector is now worth a whopping $4.25 billion thanks to emerging fitness tech. 

Spread out over 758 major companies and 13,438 employees, ASTN found that Australia’s sports tech ecosystem had grown almost 12 per cent every year since 2012.

“Rapid growth in sportstech is reshaping the sports industry,” said Dr Martin Schlegal, Chair member at ASTN, in a statement. 

“The second edition of the ASTN Sports Innovation Report takes a deeper dive into the emerging sector – to help inform industry leaders and provide new growth opportunities for sportstech start-ups.”

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The Sports Innovation Report identified 115 companies as industry leaders, including well-known Australian brands, such as 2XU, SWEAT, VULY and PTP

“Australia continues to prove that it’s one of the world’s leaders and long-term pioneers in sports technology and innovation.”

Read more: The sports schools creating tomorrow’s athletes

Dr Schlegal predicts Australia’s sportstech sector will continue its successful trajectory and sustained growth, with a new wave of technologies emerging in preparation for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympic Games.

“We are building one of the world’s most advanced and integrated sportstech ecosystems in the lead-up to several major events in Australia’s sporting calendar over the next decade,” he said.

“We can expect to see new technologies – from AI, big data analytics, to mobile, non-invasive wearable sensors and smart materials – being deployed across the sportstech market

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“As a result, new companies will be formed providing opportunity for further growth of the sector.”

High-tech trends driving the sector

The report paints an exciting future for fitness tech in the coming decade, from the incorporation of AI to the rise of wearable fitness trackers.

“The emerging sportstech themes we’ve identified have accelerated digital transformation across leagues, teams and federations globally in recent years,” said Dr Schlegel. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

With everyone from coaches, sports scientists, commentators and punters using sporting data to analyse plays, strategies, techniques and tactics, the rise of AI means predictive sporting analytics can be simplified, automated and streamlined to enhance athlete performance and optimise team outcomes.

Sports fans are only beginning to scratch the surface of AI’s capabilities. Currently used to scout future players, assist in coaching, analyse game data and identify youth talent, the tech promises to transform the game at all levels of play – maybe even (eventually) replacing coaches altogether. 

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Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) are bringing sports fans and athletes closer to the action from the comfort of their own homes. 

Completely immersive VR headsets are already used by athletes to mimic real-world training experiences – without the danger. Allowing athletes to train without the risk of injury, ASTN expects VR to become a popular alternative for high-impact sports. 

Like VR, AR technology can instead display real-time stats and information on top of the live action, potentially providing athletes and fans with real-time performance data.

Virtual sporting equipment

Virtual sporting options, such as e-bikes, virtual arenas and digital gaming, offer safer and more consistent ways to train and track athletic progress and are becoming more popular with Australian athletes. 

By removing unpredictable variables, including weather changes, temperature spikes and uneven terrain, athletes can create a virtual environment optimised for their training conditions. 

Smart apparel

Once reserved for only elite high-performance athletes, today’s fitness trackers, advanced smartwatches and AI-assisted nutrition solutions have made their way into the mainstream. 

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As the availability and accuracy of non-invasive sensor devices increase, more elite athletes are also using consumer devices. Swim teams like The Australian Dolphins are already harnessing the sensors and activity-tracking features within Apple Watches. 

Looking beyond our current wearables, ASTN predicts the use of cutting-edge sports tech for paralympians – possibly testing the boundaries of human-machine interfaces using functional electrical stimulation or advanced robotic aids. 

Web 3.0, metaverse, gaming and BlockChain

Web 3.0 encompasses several digital innovations, like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the metaverse, cryptocurrency, smart contracts and community governance. While the crypto hype around Web 3.0 has cooled since early 2022, ASTN still believes BlockChain – a decentralised, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers,  so that the record cannot be altered retroactively – will play a massive role in shaping the future of sport. 

With some pro athletes taking their payment in Bitcoin, and collector cards now taking the form of NFTs, these technologies could drastically change how athletes and fans engage with the sports they love. 

Courses can help budding sports scientists compete in a growing global sector

Currently, across Australia and the international tertiary sector, courses that enable students to unlock their professional future within this dynamic sector offer many exciting options. And by combining science and technology-driven innovation with the potential of the human body, the possibilities truly are endless.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. Jarrod established his journalism career working on the education news and information site The Bursar. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.