The man in black could always do with a helping hand controlling the players on the pitch and keeping the baying crowd off their back. That's why startup doublesix has developed the refsix smartwatch and mobile app.
The British based outfit hasn't actually made the smartwatch. As you'll probably notice from the image above, it's actually a Sony SmartWatch 3, but it is selling the all-in-one solution that's aimed at grassroots referees to be able to keep a better record of the games they officiate over during the season.
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Currently only available for Android users (an iPhone/Apple Watch app is in the works), the £180 refsix will let refs see how many yellow cards they've dished out for the season and even how many times they've refereed a certain player. You'll also be able to record key match incidents, see upcoming fixtures and review previous results all in the one app.
Future updates will add the ability to see performance stats such as distance covered, top speed and heat maps to show positioning.
We spoke to Hassan Rajwani, CEO of doublesix who gave us some background on how the idea came to life. "The app has been six months in development but it was initially built as an app eight years ago as part of my dissertation for university," Rajwani told us. "Then I got a job, got bored, and decided to return to the idea and now we've just had the beta version go live."
So why a smartwatch for referees? Rajwani, who dabbles in some refereeing himself explains why. "We looked at referees and noticed nobody was actually wearing a smartwatch, he said. "In next year's Premier League, referees will have to wear three watches - the Polar one, a watch for Hawk-Eye and the Tag Heuer Connected Watch. We wanted to build something where could fit everything into one smartwatch."
Premier League referees to wear Tag Heuer Connected watches next season
While it sounds like the Tag partnership with the MLS and the Premier League looks to be nothing more than a good piece of product placement from the Swiss watchmaker, Rajwani tells me that the refsix app could work on Tag's Android Wear smartwatch if it was ever approved.
But Rajwani's ambition is not to get leading referees like Mark Clattenburg or Martin Atkinson to wear this smartwatch. At least, not yet. "The long term plan is to work with grassroots," he says. "There's 140,000 refs in the States and just 100 in the MLS. The long term model was never about being in the Premier League. We are focusing on grassroots where there are a significant number of referees."
Rajwani also explains how he and his team managed to strike a deal with Sony to offer the software and hardware in one package. "It came some time after we were nominated for Best New Concept at the Sports Technology Awards," he tells me. "We had some nice emails come through after that and we were able to a deal with Sony. We'd love to get to a position where we could go to Motorola or Samsung and offer something similar."
The reception for the refsix smartwatch has been pretty positive so far with officials from across the world showing an interest in using it. "We've had FIFA referees come out and saying we'd quite like to use this," he says. "They also keen to see at how we can use the GPS and the accelerometers built into this smartwatch more effectively. There's been big interest in the Netherlands, Finland and the US. We've had contact from people in Brazil and a referee in Costa Rica even emailed me. That's the wonder of social media!"
So what's next for refsix? Rajwani tells me that he is currently in talks to get the smartwatch used in a very prestigious youth tournament and if all goes well with the football version, he'd like look further afield to other sports like hockey and netball.
If you're a budding ref and you want to try it out, you can grab one now from the refsix website.
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