Hougang Utd banks on new football software to be a money-spinner
SINGAPORE — Local businessman and Hougang United chairman Bill Ng has teamed up with some investors to fund the development of a new state-of-the-art football data analytics programme, the proprietary rights of which will be subsequently given to the S.League club to generate revenue for itself.
Developed by local IT firm RetinAR, the software, also called RetinAR, is designed to provide coaches with the detailed statistics of a live football match — such as key passes, a player’s heat map, the number of interceptions made, among others — within minutes of the half-time whistle being blown.
“Football managers will be able to use the information provided to get a clearer and statistically backed idea of how the match has been going so far. This will allow them to tweak their tactics and instructions accordingly at half-time.”
Unlike the traditional statistical systems operated by the likes of Prozone and Opta, which rely on a back-end team of around 70 people per match to watch each game closely before manually recording the relevant data, RetinAR will utilise cameras as well as augmented reality (AR) technology and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to perform the same tasks of tracking the players and ball on the pitch, thus removing the risk of human error.
The motions captured by RetinAR are fed back to the main operating system, which will then churn out relevant and comprehensive statistics in near-real-time.
A team of seven, which includes software engineers and a scientist, are currently working on RetinAR. The team is helmed by Ang Chong Lai, the founder of Rock Nano (Global), a Singapore-based company that specialises in AR, virtual reality (VR), holograms, tracking technologies, and AI.
Ang told TODAY that the idea for RetinAR came about when they were using AR, VR and AI technology to work on other projects.
“We noticed that we could harness this into a machine-learning technology for sports, and we decided to use it for football because it’s a game that is massively popular.
Ang and his team have also been working closely with Hougang’s technical staff, such as head coach Philippe Aw and team manager Clement Wong, as well as other coaches and football analysts to get their feedback.
Ng told TODAY that he has invested in RetinAR not only because of the application’s potential, but also to provide Hougang United with a product that can help them achieve financial self-sufficiency as the Cheetahs move away from relying on their clubhouse operations, which currently generate about S$2 million in profits annually.
“There may come a day where we can’t rely on clubhouse revenue anymore because the industry is shifting from mechanical, old-school gaming to cyber gaming,” said the founder of private equity firm Financial Frontiers, who declined to reveal how much he has invested in RetinAR.
“We knew we had to find other ways of being self-sustainable. So I decided to invest in RetinAR.
“Once it’s ready, I will transfer the proprietary rights to Hougang. The club then can sustain itself with the income generated from the sale of the programme.”
Ng added that he would be happy to share the software with the Football Association of Singapore and S.League clubs to help raise the overall quality of Singapore football.
Another RetinAR investor, Jeffrey Seah, believes that professional clubs worldwide will be interested in the application.
“I deal a lot with big data in my line of work and for me, RetinAR ticks all the boxes to become a successful product in sports,” said the former South-east Asia CEO of Starcom Mediavest.
“I’m confident it will be taken up by teams from around the world once they try it out.”
Ang plans to get a working prototype of RetinAR, also known as a minimum viable product (MVP), ready by April before finally implementing the system at the Hougang Stadium in May.