How did Continental, a Fortune 500 Company and technology leader within the automotive industry come up with a smart training tool for golf?
In 2018, Continental launched a global business model challenge called “Let’s cook!” with the goal to drive innovation and explore possibilities that existing technologies could offer outside its traditional industries. Around 800 innovators applied to participate in the competition of whom only the best 100 were selected to join.
In teams of five, they began their quest and what was later to become BAL.ON, started in a united passion for sports and the drive to create the best data-driven coaching product in the world.
Golf provided the best of all worlds: a complex motion a global popularity with core markets in Europe and the Americas and a trending drive for tech products amongst consumers and coaches.
BAL.ON would become the one idea from “Let’s cook!” making it into a valid product and business for Continental.
Why did BAL.ON choose to develop an insole that measures pressure in golfers’ feet?
While the golf club is the only point of contact with the ball, a player’s feet build the groundwork for every effective and efficient golf swing. Foot action determines legwork and pelvis movement, which is influencing how the upper body, arms, hands and ultimately the club are moving.
While ground reaction forces can act in three dimensions, the BAL.ON Smart Kit currently only measures vertical force. More precisely, the vertical force that is acting on the areas where sensors are positioned and therefore equaling pressure (force per area). The measured pressure of both feet is visualized in a heatmap graphic along with the combined center of pressure (CoP) in a coordinate system.
Relying on analyzed data from elite amateurs and tour professionals, BAL.ON found out the timing and amount of pressure a player is able to generate, as well as the CoP velocity in transition, correlate with clubhead speed. On the other hand, the timing of pressure shift towards the target, so called recentering, as well as a consistency in a player’s pressure pattern in general lead to better contact quality.
Tackling two of the most sought-after things in golf, BAL.ON helps golfers move and play better than ever before in an intuitive way.
How do the BAL.ON Smart Insoles and Pods work?
Each BAL.ON Smart Insole is equipped with nine pressure-sensitive pads made of printed nanoparticle-infused polymers that change conductivity under pressure. These pads or sensors are arranged around the heel, forefoot and outside of arch to measure every bit of pressure during a golf swing – a layout that was designed in collaboration with Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.
BAL.ON Smart Insoles are designed to be imperceivable in a player’s shoe, regardless of model. Its sensors show activity from a force equivalent of 200g and up to 50kg. For reference: a still standing average human is generating a force equal to 6.5kg per sensor, meaning the BAL.ON Smart Kit can be used by players of all ages and shapes, from junior golfers to long drive athletes.
The bottom layer underneath the sensors is made of silicone, keeping the insole in place, while the top layer is made of fabric, ensuring best-in-class hygiene levels. BAL.ON Smart Insoles are water resistant and can easily be disinfected and cleaned. Enabling an insole-thickness of less than 2mm, all electronic components other than the sensors themselves are put inside the Smart Pods. Those feature a battery with a capacity to sustain more than 24 hours of non- stop golfing, as well as wireless communication components and a fast microcontroller for real- time sensor readout.
BAL.ON Smart Insoles are perfectly balancing sensitivity and accuracy with comfort and longevity.
What is inside the BAL.ON smartphone app?
The BAL.ON smartphone app features two key modes – a swing analysis mode and a live training mode.
For swing analysis, the smartphone camera is being used as a secondary data source, performing best sitting on a tripod at hip-height. Pressure data from the Smart Insoles is wirelessly transmitted to the smartphone and synchronized with the video data to the millisecond. Machine learning algorithms detect the swing and segment it into its key positions to present the most important information to the user at first glance. For every swing, users are presented with a pressure heatmap also featuring CoP visualization and a pressure distribution graph. Yet, BAL.ON goes one step further and gives immediate feedback on every shot, based on seven metrics:
o Basic metrics evaluate setup, top of backswing and impact positions, compared to average values for elite golfers.
o Advanced metrics give feedback on a player’s rhythm, transition timing, max vertical, and vertical timing.
Should a player not already work with a coach, they can get help from BAL.ON’s very own AI coach, individually recommending a drill to improve their swing.
• For live training with the app, whether with a coach or on his own, users can design own heatmap drills and targets within the live training mode. A tool already heavily used by PGA professionals who work with the BAL.ON Smart Kit.
How does the BAL.ON Smart Kit help, playing better golf?
Having just a good-looking swing, won’t necessarily help shooting lower scores. BAL.ON enables golfers to intuitively develop an efficient swing and to measure how they swing it on the course versus in practice. This will help players to consistently strike it better and to identify individual tendencies under pressure, so they can deliver the shot when it matters most.
The BAL.ON Smart Kit is the first affordable and fully mobile high-class solution in the category of pressure measurement systems, enabling players and coaches to precisely analyze every shot-type in every situation.
Whom is the BAL.ON Smart Kit made for?
The BAL.ON Smart Kit is made for golf coaches and all dedicated golfers, regardless of playing level. From beginners who want to sharpen their sensitivity and from the start on build a solid groundwork to their golf swing to tour professionals desiring a measurement system to provide them with crucial biomechanics data during their practice and warm-up routines.
What unites the BAL.ON users is the dedication to the game and the work they put in to find and form their very own perfect swing.
How can the BAL.ON Smart Kit be purchased?
Starting 15th August, the BAL.ON Smart Kit can be purchased via the company’s own web shop at www.bal-on.golf (in selected European countries) as well as from selected retailers and PGA professionals at an RRP of £549 / €549. The Smart Kit is available in four different sizes, from S to XL, covering EU shoe sizes 36-47 (UK 3-12). Each Smart Kit includes one pair of insoles, a pair of smart pods and a charger, all packed up in a handy training case. The BAL.ON smartphone app is available for all recent iOS and Android devices.
For more information, please contact Hendrik Stoffel at: