The Sensing Wall – How IEE and Walljam revolutionize ball sports and gaming

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Measuring up against professional players or simply checking individual performance when kicking the ball against a wall? Whether for personal improvement or just for fun, getting results in terms of speed, power or accuracy from a ball rebound, sharing the players’ scores with school friends or competing in a global online league – this is an old childhood dream come true.

What changes the game nowadays is an interactive wall powered by smart technology, something that kids born in the ‘80s who grew up hitting balls into brick walls and garage doors missed out on entirely. All it takes now is multiple intelligent target sensors integrated into a vertical structure. Throw in LED lights indicating what target to hit, an LED display, touchscreen, software, an app, and the “dumb wall” comes alive with visual, measurable, recordable and shareable information – welcome to the new sports revolution.

Every strike provides measurable data, and with this, the physical movements are brought into the digitalized world and connectivity of things, taking skills development and game playing to a more entertaining, inspiring as well as competitive dimension. It sounds simple, but someone had to think about it. Tim Worboys, founder of Walljam is the man who believed in the potential of the concept, so much so that he built it.

Empowering players through data collection with sensing solutions

Getting instant feedback from the sensor-packed responsive wall on how well you perform makes this a very popular interactive game for several reasons. Firstly, it is not a solitary experience, but one which easily becomes a challenge: competing against oneself or others is much easier when one is able to receive tangible results and compare them.

Secondly, this innovation brings a lot of joy to sports fans all over the world, who can entertain themselves by putting their performance data right next to their favourite player’s. Furthermore, it also acts as a powerful training tool. Game or sports? Why not both?

“The idea behind was to bring to the masses what is available for elite players, give confidence and provide practice opportunities,” says Worboys. “For brands and fans, collecting performance metrics on each player via the sensors brings a lot of value. The whole creates a socializing, competitive experience with access to scores on a digital leader board, so people can compete on a level playing field across the world. This is also a great way to leverage a better, closer relationship with the fans and the sponsors, as the wall is exhibited to famous sporting events, for instance.“

From inception to growing business

Durability being a key aspect for a wall structure that must withstand repeated, intense hitting, as well as frequent transportation to various locations on the Globe, Worboys investigated into matching his invention with the right set of impact pressure sensors. Several other parameters such as resistance to extreme temperatures and lightweight had to be considered.

“I first looked into what IEE was doing and, with my vision of collecting data from kids’ play from a ball strike in mind, I started to connect the dots and saw where the smart sensors could come in. We’ve gone through a lot of testing with IEE to understand the challenges and limitations and to make sure the project was up and running at the expected quality,” says Worboys, not only a true-born entrepreneur but also a fierce Marketeer.

Walljamsensor

At IEE, we were ready to take the challenge. The capabilities of our foil-based resistive sensing technology were not only appealing, but also convincing. The adventure was on. Worboys understood that our technology could be adapted to a 3-dimensinal offer whereby data could be collected from a ball strike based on where it hits within the sensing area and measure metrics such as power rating, etc. Together, the IEE and Walljam teams looked at how to effectively receive the impact of the ball and get the desired info to set up this unique and highly specific project. From there on, it was just a matter of time before the interactive wall became an attraction featured by Real Madrid or Adidas, making its way from Wimbledon, Wembley Stadium to the Japanese Rugby World Cup with DHL and the International Women’s Cricket Cup at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London with Nissan.  

“The communication with IEE has always been good,” appreciates Worboys. “It was all a very positive working experience. A lot of patience was required in this project due to the peculiarity and the uses of the product.”

Vision 2020 and beyond

Tim Worboys has every intention to make his “challenge” wall a global reference. Thus, the next decade will see him putting every effort into moving Walljam into a more stable position where they can create a permanent venue across various major cities in Europe where people can travel to and try out the experience, instead of using the product for temporary events. So that, regardless if you are a Tottenham or Arsenal, Standard Liège or Juventus fan, whether your superhero is Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eden Hazard or perhaps Lionel Messi, you can go and have a kick about, too! Moreover, Walljam is considering expanding the use of their wall beyond football, rugby or tennis, adding basketball and cricket as further options.

“There are a lot of smart technologies which currently accommodate our sensors. Being part of a smart wall and gamification proves that the possibilities of applications for our sensors are indeed limitless. Walljam took our advanced sensing solutions to a whole different level and we are proud to be a preferred partner in their success story,” says Tobias Meyer, System Engineer at IEE and originator of the development.

Up for a challenge? Check out the #BeatTheBest global competition and see how exciting the Challenge Wall really is!

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