Tennisbold. Foto: Hanne Kokkegård, DTU Compute

The passion for tennis gave Emil an idea

Monday 25 Oct 21

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Emil Hovad
DTU Compute

Startup at DTU

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Hundreds of hours on the tennis court, studies at DTU, and support from DTU’s startup program have formed a tracker app for tennis players.

When Emil Hovad started playing tennis at the age of 10, video recordings of the training were only something that the coaches of the big clubs used in the training of the best players. If the clubs used such technological inputs. Since then, technology has taken a quantum leap. Today most of us run around with smartphones that, in addition to amazing cameras, have as much computing power as computers and use only a little energy.

In a new startup, Emil Hovad takes advantage of the improved technology and his enthusiasm for tennis to help ambitious exercisers and tournament players up to a certain level get better. His company ‘I Tracket Aps’ has developed an app that makes it easy to record tennis with the smartphone’s camera, review it and learn from it.

“To become a good tennis player, it is crucial that you train a lot and have a good coach. Our app can help the players themselves or their coaches to review the material in relation to the technique in training and in matches so that the training becomes more effective,” says Emil Hovad.

Chasing the perfect forehand, backhand, and serve
The startup fulfills a long-standing dream for Emil Hovad to do something with tennis and technology. He first tried GoPro action cameras when they came out. But now the dream has been realized in an app.

Emil Hovad's knowledge comes from many years at DTU Compute, first as a bachelor's student, then a master's student, then a PhD student, and most recently as a data scientist. His work with mathematics, statistics, and artificial intelligence such as deep learning and computer vision has helped him develop the algorithms that build on the smartphone's camera functions. It can follow a player and find balls and punches (forehand, backhand, and server) to analyze what is happening on the tennis court.

The algorithms are trained on many hours of video recordings of tennis, which Emil Hovad and a couple of friends have recorded in collaboration with various tennis clubs.

"The work here is interdisciplinary interesting and challenging because I combine my research and knowledge of how different technologies can play together with my interest in tennis."
Emil Hovad, Chief Executive Officer at I Tracket ApS

The concept is simple for the user who puts the mobile on a stand in a suitable place on the tennis court and starts the video recorder in the app. After the recording is over, the player immediately gets feedback on results, statistics, and an overview of short video clips to easily review especially interesting video sequences from the training section, zoom into the picture and play in slow motion.

"We hope our app will be able to motivate tennis players to train more and contribute to a more social tennis community because the players can compare themselves with each other," says Emil Hovad.

Entrepreneurial help has been crucial
Emil Hovad's small company is newly established, and he is still finding his feet as an entrepreneur.

“One thing is my own knowledge of tennis and my knowledge gathered at DTU, but it is at least as much the funding that I have received at DTU that has made it possible. Because otherwise, I would not have come this far, had enough time to code myself, etc.,” says Emil Hovad.

In parallel with his job at DTU, Emil Hovad has followed the entrepreneurial program DTU Link on Risø Campus, where participants go through various elements in relation to starting their own company. He has received money from DTU Discovery Grants, which supports DTU employees' work with early technical and commercial maturation and the risk of technology. That grant was followed by DTU PoC Grants, which provides grants to e.g. development of prototypes for user validation and demonstration of scalability, but also for salaries, external consultants, reports, and more.

Right now, a grant from the Innovation Fund Denmark's InnoBooster program makes it possible to have an employee help the company until January 2022 to refine the app.

Interdisciplinary entrepreneurial dream
The next step will be to build more functionality into the app to analyze the speed of the tennis ball and where the ball ends, whether the player runs right to the ball, hit too high or low, etc.

The possibilities are many and the market is large e.g. in Germany with 1.8 million tennis players. And the dreams go on, says Emil Hovad:

“It is very fun to work as an entrepreneur and be in control of what I do. The work here is interdisciplinary interesting and challenging because I combine my research and knowledge of how different technologies can play together with my interest in tennis. It could be interesting to build a large company or more companies, but we have to start somewhere.”

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