By Bill McGuire
Publicity Chair, Cornwall Curling Club
A member of the Cornwall Curling Club and his dad are the driving forces behind Sport4TV, a tech startup company focused on enhancing major curling broadcasts such as Olympic, Canadian and Grand Slam events, and supporting training and coaching aids for curlers and coaches. Jeremy MacAulay is one of three partners in the company, along with his dad Ian and a third development person in Ottawa.
Ian was born in Souris and spent his career as a curling icemaker at several clubs in Ottawa. He returns every summer for three to four months on vacation, and is in the process of building a retirement home on P.E.I. His son Jeremy was born in Ottawa and attended UPEI. He recently moved to the Island to work in the financial sector and curls out of the Cornwall Curling Club.
Ian won a world senior men’s curling title with a team out of Ottawa and claimed a P.E.I. Tankard title three years ago. This spring he competed in Tankard playdowns in Crapaud on a team with Jeremy, the first time the duo played together in competitive action.
Jeremy joined the Cornwall club last season and is back this coming season.
The company recently secured a $25,000 grant through the spring competition in Innovation P.E.I.’s Ignition Fund. Sport4TV’s technology involves inserting a microchip into the handles of curling rocks. The technology tracks various metrics, such as release, split times, speed, rotation, line of delivery, freeze times, and even the point at which a rock starts to curl. This data is transmitted to a website before being relayed to the broadcasting team. Magnetic strips on the back line and hog line of a curling sheet activate the microchip which relays various information to the company’s website and then to the broadcast booth, iPhone or smart watch.
Jeremy says the concept behind Sport4TV traces back to his father, who brainstormed the idea after a casual conversation with a friend following a curling match. Their idea centered on integrating technology into sports broadcasting, specifically curling, by bringing real-time data to TV screens. “We wanted to bring the sport you’re watching straight to your TV,” Jeremy explained, highlighting the company’s focus on enhancing the viewer’s experience. “We’re focusing primarily on the broadcasting side of things,” said Jeremy, referring to the recent successful integration of their technology during the final two Grand Slam curling events this spring on Sportsnet broadcasts.
Jeremy says the technology is curling-specific, but the Sport4TV team is open to exploring opportunities in different sports in the future.
The technology has garnered interest from top Canadian and international curlers, with Mark Nichols, mate on Brad Gushue’s Olympic and multi-Brier champions team out of St. John’s, among the interested parties.
While there’s considerable interest surrounding the innovation, Jeremy emphasized that they are cautious not to disrupt the integrity of the game. “We don’t want to take away the essence of curling,” Jeremy said. “Sport4TV wants to maintain a balance between tradition and technological advancement.”
With approved patents in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Asia, Sport4TV is setting its sights on refining the technology and establishing partnerships with organizations like Curling Canada and the World Curling Federation.
The Innovation P.E.I. grant will support further research and development, while also aiding in incorporation costs and marketing efforts. The company will locate its headquarters on P.E.I.
Meanwhile, Sport4TV is gearing for broadcasts of the opening two Grand Slam events this fall in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Following are Q&A excerpts from Bill McGuire’s interview with Jeremy MacAulay.
Bill McGuire: Jeremy, could you tell us about the origin of the name Sport4TV?
Jeremy MacAulay: Certainly. Sport4TV came about through the collaboration of three partners. The idea was initiated by my father almost seven or eight years ago. He and a friend, after a curling match, had a brainstorming session fueled by a few drinks. They envisioned the potential of merging technology with television broadcasting to enhance the sports experience. Their concept centered around bringing the excitement of the sport directly to viewers’ TVs.
Bill McGuire: So, is this technology exclusively for curling, or do you have plans to expand it to other sports?
Jeremy MacAulay: Currently, our technology is tailored specifically for curling. We’ve developed a model that can be attached to any curling rock handle worldwide. This model includes a microchip and a battery. Curling clubs can easily adopt this technology and attach it to their curling rocks for use.
Bill McGuire: How does your technology differ from existing solutions like hogline violations?
Jeremy MacAulay: While there are some similarities with hogline violation technology, our system offers more diverse data extraction capabilities. In addition to monitoring hogline violations, our model incorporates touch sensitivity, time measurement, and rotation analysis. We’re also working on developing features that help identify the point where a curling rock begins to curve on the ice, along with the impact of rotations. This data is then transmitted to the TV and can also be accessed through our website.
Bill McGuire: So, this data can be sent to the skip or even to a smartphone for real-time analysis?
Jeremy MacAulay: Exactly. The data is first collected on our website, and then it can be shared with various recipients. At the moment, our primary focus is on enhancing the broadcasting experience.
Bill McGuire: Have you tested this technology at any events or curling clubs?
Jeremy MacAulay: Yes, indeed. We’ve recently used our technology at the last two Grand Slam curling events. The data collected was directly sent to the broadcast truck for analysis. Going forward, we aim to provide this data to competitive teams for practice and performance improvement.
Bill McGuire: That sounds promising. Are you planning to collaborate with curling organizations like Curling Canada and the World Curling Federation?
Jeremy MacAulay: We’re very interested in working with Curling Canada and the World Curling Federation to integrate our technology into official events. However, at this stage, our focus is primarily on refining our product for broadcasting purposes.
Bill McGuire: How do you address concerns about the potential impact of technology on the integrity of the game?
Jeremy MacAulay: We’re mindful of not compromising the essence of the game. While our technology offers valuable insights, we believe there should still be room for human judgment and skill. As a skipper, for instance, it’s important to retain the strategic aspect of decision-making and the ability to judge a situation. Our aim is to enhance the experience without fundamentally altering the game.
Bill McGuire: It’s great to hear that you’re considering the balance between technology and the spirit of the sport. What’s next for Sport4TV?
Jeremy MacAulay: Our next steps involve participating in the upcoming Grand Slam curling events. We hope to create a successful impact and continue collaborating with broadcasting networks and curling associations. Our ultimate goal is to enhance the viewer experience and contribute to the growth of curling.
Bill McGuire: It’s been fascinating learning about Sport4TV and your journey. Thank you for sharing your insights with us today.
Jeremy MacAulay: Thank you, Bill. It’s been a pleasure discussing our vision and progress with you. We’re excited about the potential our technology holds for the future of curling and sports broadcasting.