IBM makes Irish sports start-up Orreco a primetime star in US

5 Sep 2016

Brian Moore, managing director, Orreco. Photo: James Connolly

Sligo-based sports science start-up Orreco is the star of IBM’s new primetime TV ad for its Watson supercomputer.

The ad featuring Sligo start-up Orreco will air for two weeks on NBC, ESPN and other channels during the US Open tennis tournament.

IBM Watson is helping elite athletes and sports stars optimise their performance.

‘The ad campaign reflects our long-term ambition to make elite-level analysis and support available to weekend and amateur athletes’

But a little-known fact is that IBM Watson’s sports programme is being powered by Orreco, the Irish sports performance company that counts golfers Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell as investors.

Orreco’s team of sports scientists works with the world’s top coaches and teams, using valuable data – including GPS and performance stats that it collects and analyses from blood – to improve athlete performances and even help to prevent injuries.

It is game on for big data and the world of sport

Orreco was founded by Irishman Brian Moore, and its technology is used by Premier League football clubs, as well as Major League Baseball teams in the US, to reduce the $500m lost annually to sports teams through injury.

Orreco has developed unique biomarker technology that analyses blood and other data in an elite athlete’s body to devise ways of ensuring the athlete achieves peak performance.

That actionable data and expertise is now being fed into IBM Watson, helping coaches and pro-athletes to make key decisions based on specific knowledge and personalised factors. One day, Orreco intends that this expertise will be available to all athletes.

In the primetime TV spot, IBM says: “Orreco is working with Watson to reimagine competitive training. Every factor counts when a coach is training a team or athlete. And with Orreco and Watson, coaches can analyse every bit of data to customise training regimens for each athlete. Scientific studies, performance records, sleep schedules, weather, diet, and even unstructured data like handwritten notes, can all be analysed to ensure athletes have the best programme to optimise their performance.”

Moore explained: “The ad campaign reflects our long-term ambition to make elite-level analysis and support available to weekend and amateur athletes.”

“Our team is growing and our consultancy team has been joined by high-performance advisors including Dr Andy Barr – a recovery specialist who has worked with English Premier League side Manchester City, New York Knicks and New York City FC.

In a recent funding round, Orreco raised US$1m, which will be invested in further building its software infrastructure and increasingly targeting the huge US market where clients include Nike Running, New Balance, an NBA team and Major League Baseball franchises.

Orreco has also added new board members, including former VP of technology at Tom Killalea – who worked on the creation of AWS and Kindle –and the former managing director of Glanbia, John Maloney, who will also chair the board.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years