CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 7

Smart products are beginning to design themselves.

When it comes to product development, Babolat
has always played the long game. The 140-year-old
company had been selling its tennis strings-popular
among top players-for more than a century before
introducing its first racket to the market, in 1994.
"We've been working on improving our products
forever," says Jean-Marc Zimmermann, CIO of the
Lyon, France-based company.
Twelve years ago, Babolat's research and development
group began experimenting with incorporating
sensors into their rackets to capture how the products
were performing and how customers were using them.
The first prototypes were unusable for tennis play.
The sensor technology had not advanced enough. But
over the years-as the technology grew smaller, more
affordable, and increasingly energy efficient-the idea
of a smart tennis racket became a reality.
Babolat started selling its smart racket, accompanied
by an app, in December 2013.

The Babolat Play Pure Drive racket looks like a regular
racket, but sensors integrated into the handle track
a number of data points, including power, impact
location, and type and number of strokes-information
that can help players improve their game. It took
more than a decade to figure out how to integrate the
sensors without affecting playability or feel. But now
that the smart racket is on the market, the intelligence
it generates is changing the game not just for players
but also for Babolat.
"When you develop a sensor-free product, the
story ends when you release it to the market," says
Zimmermann, who's taken on the role of project
director for the Connected Players Xperience.
"With this range of products the story starts when
customers are using them. The main change in both
product development and marketing is that we have to
be prepared to get that instant feedback and work to
keep evolving [our apps and our products] over time."

CTO Straight Talk | 7


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2


CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2