Keeping an Eye on Impacts: i1 Biometrics

Client i1 Biometrics

In 2014 we helped i1 Biometrics prove out their concept to investors and acquire Series B funding. With the means to continue development, we partnered with i1 to deliver an end-to-end software experience and a platform for conducting market research and testing with users.

Funding a larger vision

Unless you follow sports tech fairly closely, you may not be aware of i1 Biometrics. Founded in 2012, the Kirkland-based startup makes devices that help coaches and athletic directors measure the severity of on-field impacts. They approached our studio with an ambitious goal: in order to secure Series B funding and continue development, they needed a demo to share with potential investors. And they needed it in four weeks.

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Luckily, we weren’t starting from scratch. i1 had already prototyped a battery-powered mouth guard, and could send data, from its built-in accelerometer and gyroscope through their proprietary radio technology, to a receiver placed on the sidelines. What they didn’t have was a means of retrieving and displaying impact data for coaches to interpret.

Responding to change

It’s worth noting that the science behind sports-related head injuries has continued to evolve significantly over the years. As we worked against our four-week deadline there was continued debate about which types of data were more important in determining the severity of impacts. Among these were things like the importance of linear versus rotational acceleration, measurements like the Head Injury Criterion (HIC), and the science behind Second-impact Syndrome

Through rapid prototyping and close collaboration with the client, we were able to understand the trade-offs between data density and concise communication, and establish what information was essential for those monitoring from the sidelines. Once integrated with i1’s hardware and firmware, our native Windows WPF app could read directly from the off-field receiver in real-time and, as updates about player impacts came in, they would be recorded and stored for more historical reporting.

Our demo did the trick. The pitch was well-received and, with another round of funding in hand, we moved to productize the experience for an initial rollout to local teams.

Building the customer experience

What our 4-week demo didn’t cover was any sort of management or admin. Sure, it covered the core use cases, but what good would the data be if players got assigned to the wrong mouth guards? There were a number of UX-related questions that came up during development that would need to be addressed before the product could be brought to market.

Over the next six months, working in weeklong sprints, we refined the end-to-end experience: from initial order and setup, player assignment, device inventory and battery life management, all the way up to and beyond the first game day. We designed, built, and streamlined product workflows so that coaches were in the loop without being bombarded with information; so that mouth guards found their way to the right players; so that batteries didn’t die halfway through a game, resulting in a loss of player monitoring.

With the fundamental systems in place, i1 had a test platform they could use to run field trials with teams, allowing them to work with potential customers to further refine their product.

The aftermath

i1 Biometrics (now Athlete Intelligence) has continued to evolve and expand their business and its offerings. Since working with them, they have been written up by outlets like GeekWire and 425 Business Magazine. More recently, in Spring 2017, they were shortlisted for the Sports Technology Awards.