As a veteran entrepreneur and angel investor, David Vanslette saw how new technology like location data and predictive analytics was changing the way companies do business. Now he’s decided to apply that realization to a game he loves: golf.
Vanslette is CEO and co-founder of FairwayIQ, a Boston-area startup that wants to help golf course operators and maintenance staff be more efficient.
The 2-year-old company has developed “smart tags” that connect golfers, caddies, carts, flagsticks, maintenance equipment, and staff together on a private network. The idea is to give courses an air traffic control-like overhead view of what’s going on across hundreds of acres in real-time, while also collecting historical data to help identify areas of improvement.
The tags on golfers, caddies, and carts can help operators see exactly where they are on the course, surfacing pace of play data for each group. Operators can use the information to notify golfers that they are playing too slow, for example, which is a common problem that can tarnish the golf experience. FairwayIQ can also identify gaps between groups and help marshals facilitate a better pace.
The golfers themselves can also use the tags to see distance to the pin and estimated time of round completion.
Using the same tag technology, there are also applications for course maintenance — which incurs one of the biggest expenses for operators — like being able to track mower location and paths.
“The tags send location data based upon movement of everything on the golf course,” Vanslette told GeekWire. “We take that data and predict problems before they occur.”
Vanslette previously worked on a project in 2010 with the New York Jets, helping the NFL team try to correlate data on fan activity within stadium. But doing so was difficult, as the technology wasn’t good enough.
That’s changed in 2016, with more efficient and accurate ways to track movement and location in large open spaces without having to rely on cell networks.
“We’ve landed on several pieces of technology that didn’t exist a few years ago,” Vanslette said.
There are more advanced data points FairwayIQ plans to track and collect, like the speed of individual greens or incorporating weather into its analytics.
The company has also developed an app both for golfers themselves and the course operators, who can be notified about certain issues based on the data coming in.
On the player side, Vanslette said private clubs can use the app to engage members by sending them relevant, personalized information.
“We are really all about improving the experience for the players, ultimately,” Vanslette noted.
FairwayIQ has ambitions to apply its tech platform beyond just golf.
“We haven’t quite decided which industry to go after next, but you can imagine similar logistics problems solved through location data and predictive analytics,” Vanslette said. “They exist everywhere — airport tarmacs, ski slopes, big live events, etc.”
FairwayIQ employs 12 people, including co-founder James Nunn, who formerly worked in marketing communications for Gillette Global. The company, which has raised $1.6 million to date, has deals with a half-dozen courses.