Batter up! Zepp unveils new baseball bat and other connected sports equipment

Zepp Golf Gloves
Zepp Labs made a splash in the wearable world with the Golf Swing analyzer, a Bluetooth-enabled dongle that records and analyzes your golf stroke. The company also sells sensors for tracking baseball and tennis swings, a companion app that recommends drills to improve, and tutorials made with the Major League and the PGA Tour. After selling hundreds of thousands of sensors and crossing the 500,000 active user mark in four years, Zepp’s now going beyond an app and dongles to collaborate with a logical group of partners: sports equipment makers.

Zepp is building more than a single product or even family of products, though. Instead, the company’s working to establish an industry standard for integrated athletic and sports equipment sensors that competitors, such as Diamond Kinetics and Blast Motion, are free to adopt and use.

“By working together we can not only develop amazing experiences for athletes and fans, but also grow all of our businesses,” said Zepp chairman Jason Fass in a statement. “Our goal is to help develop a unified ecosystem through a set of industry standards that paves the way for … the next generation of sports equipment.”

One fruit of its preliminary efforts is the Smart Bat, a baseball bat mounting blueprint for embedding motion trackers in a traditional wooden bat design. An improvement over Zepp’s current solution, which involves clipping or adhering a dongle to a bat, it calls for a retention sleeve that fits snugly into a hollowed-out knob at the bottom of the bat. At CES 2016, Zepp will show all kinds of equipment from tennis racquets to cricket bats with similar, open-architecture sensor designs.

Zepp Inside.86

The ultimate goal is to drive innovation through software, Fass said. “We started Zepp with the fundamental belief that it was only a matter of time before every field, stadium, piece of equipment and athlete were digitally connected in some way,” he said. “We have always believed that the future of sports will be steered by robust software, elegant user experiences and truly actionable data.”

The big question, of course, is whether Zepp can get the movers and shakers in the sports space to bite. The company said it’s working with “companies and organizational bodies across professional and amateur sports” to foster adoption of its proposals. Later this week, it’s pitching its so-called open smart bat to attendees at the American Baseball Coaches Association conference in Nashville, TN. Whether Zepp’s motion-tracking competitors, one of which filed suit against the company earlier this year, decide to jump on board is another matter.

That’s somewhat inconsequential, of course. Zepp will no doubt adopt the designs for its own range of future products, and the company’s own sensor and software tech is undoubtedly great. In our testing, its ARM-powered dongle accurately recorded thousands of data points per second and translated them to actionable, swing-improving tips.

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