Kinexon, the Savior of Sports in America

Look back to last March, before the pandemic… Life was good. Life was simple. And then, the coronavirus struck the Unites States. What was the first major event that caused pubic outcry? For me, and for many others that I’ve spoken with, it was when Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, and the NBA paused their season. In the ensuing days, all major American sports leagues followed their lead, including the NCAA tournament being all together cancelled. The NBA paused their season because they didn’t know what this virus was, or how to even track it. Fast forward a couple months and now we have new information. Now we know that this virus is mostly airborne, and that if we are within 6 feet of someone for 15 minutes or more, there is a greater likelihood of us contracting the virus. But like we all know, how is someone able to play basketball if this is the case? After all, basketball is a contact sport, where players are constantly near each other breathing heavily. The NBA’s solution was to create a bubble and quarantine everyone upon arrival. But, the NCAA could not afford this measure as it costs billions of dollars and their athletes are also students, who have to attend class during the season. In the summer, it seemed too risky to play an NCAA basketball season and there was talk of cancelling it all together, but luckily, a solution was found. And while there is definitely still risk involved with this solution, the NCAA was able to resume play due to Kinexon. Kinexon, a player tracking analytics tool, has been used by 75% of NBA teams in the past couple years, and has found a new functionality. In the past, it was used to improve performance, reduce injuries, and allow players to know when they are healthy enough to return to play. But now, it is marketed as the world’s most trusted digital solution to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Kinexon’s product is a small chip, called the SafeTag, which measures about 1 inch by 1 inch in size. The Kinexon SafeTag is worn by players, either in a sock, or in a pouch on their shorts, and it has the ability to track their movements, who they are near, and for how long they are near them. This way, if someone on the court tests positive, only those who were within 6 feet of that person for 15 minutes or more are contact traced and removed from play. Kinexon also claims that they are not only the first digital solution to tracking the spread of COVID-19, but also the solution with the biggest recorded impact.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, or ACC, just announced that they will equip all teams with Kinexon devices for the ACC basketball tournament. The ACC commissioner went on to say, “Having all of our teams use the Kinexon technology throughout the regular-season proved to be significantly effective in the continued efforts to keep our student-athletes, coaches and programs healthy and safe.” But the ACC is hardly the first to do this, as the MLB and the NFL both have every one of their teams using these devices on a daily basis.

As a member of the Boston College men’s basketball team, we have used Kinexon devices the entire season. We must put them on immediately when we enter the Conte Forum and wear them for the entirety of the day, until we leave to go home. And while these products are great in theory, they are only as great as their application. If guys don’t put them on immediately, then there is inaccurate data recorded at the end of each day. Furthermore, they are not worn while you are not in the building, so there is no way to know if someone has come in contact with COVID-19 on their own time. Overall, I believe they are an imperfect solution, but the best option we have at this stage in the pandemic.

To put things in perspective, and show just how big of an impact this device made, the Kinexon SafeZone was named the IoT Sensor Innovation of the Year, by IoT Breakthrough, a leading market intelligence organization that recognizes top companies, technologies, and products in the global Internet-of-Things (IoT) market. Managing Director at IoT Breakthrough, James Johnson stated, “Kinexon is delivering a true IoT ​‘breakthrough’ with their wearable technology that is transformational for organizations around the world as they look to keep their employees and customers safe and healthy. We extend our sincere congratulations to Kinexon for their well-deserved industry recognition and 2021 IoT Breakthrough Award.”

In the end, with the help of this technology, sports have been able to be played this year. Without Kinexon, or the use of a bubble setting, it would be been nearly impossible to play a season during a pandemic. On a micro scale, Kinexon has been able to keep individuals safe and allowed the seasons to be played. But on a macro scale, Kinexon has allowed people all over the world to enjoy sports and bring them happiness. That’s a pretty big impact for such a small chip.


  1. Really interesting post Rich. It was such a shame when the NBA got shut down last year however I enjoyed watching their resilience and ingenuity with Kinexon and the bubble. You mentioned some valid flaws with only wearing it in Conte Forum but as you mentioned it is much better than the alternative of not being able to have sports.

  2. shaneriley88 · ·

    Interesting post. This reminds me of the smart badges worn in nuclear facilities. They’re able to track radiation levels over exposure time. I dug into your attached articles and started reading about the ultra wideband radio frequency the devices rely on. Fascinating to think about similar devices or chips could be used to track say art or other devices without GPS or WiFi.

  3. abigailholler1 · ·

    Quite interesting and transformative technology, especially in a COVID environment. It seems like the biggest use case of the Kinexon wearable device is the ability to track contact between users of the device. I can imagine how this use case is just the beginning of such a technology – imagine if it could begin to track a collegiate athlete’s time spent in the gym lifting, at practice, in the dining hall, or even time spent in class. When you start to track movement of such athletes outside of the gym, there are tons of privacy concerns, but I wonder if there’s a happy medium to tracking the % of time spent doing each of these activities, and perhaps even correlate that data to the success of the athlete on the court or in the classroom.

  4. ritellryan · ·

    This was pretty cool to read about. I know one of the leagues (can’t remember if it was NBA or NFL) that it would actually beep if you were near someone for a lengthy period of time. I know the basketball team (both men’s and women’s) has had its challenges with the virus the season, but given how often the athletes are tested, and wearing these (which is basically digitized contact tracing) it shows how games and practices can happen without putting anyone at risk.

  5. I think it is interesting that this technology was essentially repurposed and found an even more important functionality than it was originally intended for. While I’m sure that the company will have success in the future using it for regular sports tracking and analytics, I’m not sure if it will ever have the same positive impact that it is having now. Its ability to act as a tool to try to keep people healthy and safe is a very noble application of the technology. This is a high standard to live up to going forward but maybe it offers the company ideas for how it can use the tool for more uses beyond sports as well.

  6. olivia_levy8 · ·

    Great post! I know the USC women’s lacrosse team is using wearable devices like this for contact tracing as well. I also tweeted last week about a technology wearable called Oura, which is being leveraged by the NBA, WNBA, and NASCAR that tracks breathing and sleeping patterns and has a decent success rate a predicting covid before symptoms are onset. Appreciate how you noted that they are imperfect, but the best we have so far. My presentation this week speaks about digital tech uses on the other end of sports and stadium fan engagement. In my research I found this great analysis from Deloitte on IoT in sports from players, to fans, to coaches. Might be interesting to take a look!

    Click to access pl-raport-internet-of-things-sports-eng.pdf

  7. I think it’s incredible that ACC is taking this type of measure to keep its players, coaches, and staff as safe as possible. From the beginning of the pandemic, I felt like it was very hasty of certain leagues not to have more measures to protect players at practice or at games. Now that Kinexion has been able to market and create its innovation I think you will see a better more informed way to handle this type of challenge for players moving forward. It’s something that I hope continues to spread across to other leagues and or other outdoor professions like construction for example.

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