By Mackenzie Scott, The Australian
July 24, 2020
The long-awaited return of America’s NBA season next week received some of its bounce from a small tech company in Queensland.
A simple questionnaire and a couple of physical tests are fed into software developed by Brisbane-based company Fusion Sport to determine whether a player may have contracted the coronavirus before confirmation from a swab test is available.
It is these algorithms that convinced the NBA that it could go ahead with the season in the bubble of Disney World, in Florida where the players, coaches, officials and media are locked down.
Originally designed as a human performance tracking app, the technology is already widely used by Australia’s sporting community – including the Australian Institute of Sport, NRL, AFL and Hockey Australia – to optimise athletes’ form.
Founder of the technology, Markus Deutsch, said the move to include coronavirus risk management was a “natural extension” of the business.
“It‘s really about collecting as many risk factor data points as you can,” Deutsch said. “You can never entirely eliminate risk, (but) it‘s about getting as many measurements as we can to have the best chance of eliminating risk.
“It is really just a natural extension of what we do. Everyday, we have an athlete fill out a questionnaire … it was simply a matter of adding a couple of questions. It was really a very small pivot. We certainly didn‘t want to run out there and say we are experts in COVID.”
AFL and Super Netball, competitions that both use the technology, have each announced a move to Queensland for the remainder of the 2020 season. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk welcomed the moves, which will see teams from around the country relocating to the Sunshine State under strict COVID-safe plans
“Due to the way Queenslanders have managed this health crisis, we can now focus on Queensland’s plan for economic recovery,” Palaszczuk said.
“Queensland is now the home of Australian sport. We’ve worked hard to make sure that Cairns gets a piece of the action.”
The Disney bubble comes with a strict set of guidelines which have been enforced since the beginning of July. Each morning, everyone in the quarantine zone must get their temperature checked and complete a 36-question survey through Fusion Sport’s Smartabase app. From the questions – which include queries on quality of sleep and general aches and pains like coughs, fever, sore throat- the algorithms alert medics to those at highest risk of having the illness.
In addition to the testing and surveys, players and officials must wear a Disney MagicBand on their wrist to track their movement through the complex and have been given the option of wearing a ring to track heart rate, sleep and oxygen levels.
The NBA says there‘s no opting out of the safety measures, with anyone who refuses banned from “engaging in group activities until the monitoring is accomplished and/or may be required to leave the campus permanently”.
The season will start July 30 local time.
COVID capabilities within the app were first requested by Queensland Rugby League several months ago. The sophisticated technology developed for the NBA is an extension of the relationship Fusion Sport already has with the US code, also providing the player stats and data which acts as backbone for the annual draft.
The US military will also implement the additional COVID-19 technology across its naval, air force and land based forces.
“The purpose of the software is to aggregate all of the different data on people, whether they are athletes, or soldiers or ballet dancers,” said Deutsch.
“What it comes down to is how do you stop people getting injured and sick and keep people as available as possible and able to perform at their best. It’s always a real balancing act.”
The Queensland Government provided Fusion Sport an $85,000 development funding grant in 2018.