Under Armour has never had a problem looking outside its walls for help designing new products.
This year, the brand looked as far away as Finland and Israel in its quest to build a defining training product.
The sports apparel maker picked Omegawave, a company based in Espoo, Finland, as winner of the 2014 Under Armour Future Show, its annual best ideas contest for established companies and startups alike.
The fourth future show was billed as a "Connected Fitness Innovation Challenge." Under Armour wanted to hear about "the next generation" of digital apps and wearable technology that could potentially fit into MapMyFitness software. Under Armour acquired the fitness technology company, creator of the MapMyRun and MapMyRide mobile applications, for $150 million late last year in a move to close the gap on wearable fitness and fitness applications with Nike and other rivals.
During the event earlier this month, Under Armour looked for engineers and software developers who are creating wearable, wireless and embedded "apparel based" technology that can help athletes in fitness assessment and training, recovery, sleep analysis or in other ways.
Omegawave, which has built technology in which coaches can use real time data to evaluate athletes training results, was one of a narrowed field of 14 participants that presented ideas to Under Armour executives at the Locust Point headquarters. As winner, Omegawage took home the $50,000 grand prize and a chance for additional investment from Under Armour. Second place, and a $10,000 prize, went to Life Beam, based in Israel, a developer of wearable instruments for measuring fitness performance.
"The infusion of new technology and innovation into training apparel and wearable devices remains one of the most exciting elements of sports performance," Kevin Haley, Under Armour's senior vice president of Innovation, said in a Future Show announcement. “Our brand is focused ..on finding talent outside the walls of Under Armour to help accomplish those goals.”
Vasu Kulkarni, CEO of New York-based Krossover, a Future Show participant, found his company among the 14 companies invited to present.
"They’re trying to go after the big boys from a digital online standpoint, and the Future Show is their way of getting smart, startup companies to come in and give them ideas," said Kulkarni, whose company breaks down and analyzes game film for thousands of athletic teams in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Under Armour executives, including CEO and founder Kevin Plank, seemed interested in the five-year-old company and in potentially pursuing some kind of future partnership, Kulkarni said.
"He was pretty interested in the core business, what we were doing, how many teams we had," Kulkarni said of Plank. "At the end of the day, the pitch we had was for the future. It’s not exactly what we have today, this idea of mashing data together. I think there’s something for us to do with Under Armour in the near future.
"This gave us a platform to pitch to the highest level of Under Armour executives," he said. "It was a great first step toward making something happen."
That’s the place that 2011’s Future Show winner Scott Peters finds himself now.
Peters, an engineer from Rochester, N.Y., is about to see his invention – the one-handed zipper -- come to fruition. Under Armour is preparing to release its new UA MagZip technology, an open-ended magnetic zipper that aligns and locks into place without the use of both hands.
The new zippers are being used in men's, women's and youth outerwear lines and are expected to be in stores this season.