Authors: Rafael Mengual Ortolá, Ricard Barberà-Guillem, Laura Magraner Llavador, Begoña Martínez Climent, Juan Carlos González García
Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia
Universitat Politècnica de València
Edificio 9C. Camino de Vera s/n
(46022) Valencia. Spain
Developed by the Institute of Biomechanics (IBV), the eyeturf app has been specifically designed to make it easier to efficiently monitor the condition of artificial turf football pitches. It allows the user to easily check the condition of the playing surface of this type of facility - at a very low cost. eyeturf is aimed at maintenance companies in particular and indeed any actor related to these pitches, whether they are a manufacturer, a sports club or a public body. The application integrates the wealth of knowledge and experience that the IBV has accumulated in the area of sports surfaces over more than thirty years.
Ever since the first artificial turf football pitches were installed in the 1960s, significant progress has been made in terms of the quality of the materials used and their behavior and performance from the point of view of sporting practice. This progress has gone hand in hand with the need to ensure increasingly efficient maintenance for facilities that, especially in the case of public centers, have to withstand many hours of play each week.
Frequent monitoring of the state of the playing surface is vital if we are to decide what kind of intervention is needed at any given moment or even whether the pitch has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be completely renewed. Our rationale for developing the eyeturf tool lies precisely in the need to offer a very streamlined and remote service able to assess the state of the pitch - a service that comes with a high added value and at an adjusted cost..
The eyeturf app has been developed thanks to the support and funding of the Valencia Institute for Corporate Competitiveness (IVACE) and the co-financing of the European Union, through the EYESPORT 2020-2021 and POSTUMEC 2022-2023 projects. These projects are based on the IBV’s previous experience - going back more than 30 years - in the sports industry and, specifically, in sports surfaces: IBV has carried out work and projects with companies throughout the sector, public administrations, sports clubs and athletes.
HOW eyeturf WORKS
eyeturf has been designed to make it easier to monitor the state of artificial turf football pitches. It is a tool that captures information using a cellphone with a camera. To obtain an assessment of the state of the pitch, the three steps outlined in Figure 1 have to be followed. First, the APP needs to be installed on a cellphone: it is available on both the App Store for iOS systems and on Google Play for Android systems. Secondly, once placed on the playing field, a questionnaire has to be filled in with data regarding the intensity of use, the degree of deterioration of the pitch or the year in which it was installed. A guided tour of the pitch is also required. During this tour, the application tells the user where to take photographs, as well as how to take them, indicating the distance at which the cellphone should be kept from the ground and the correct camera angle. Finally, once the information has been uploaded to the application and by means of the partial application of AI algorithms and our expert knowledge, the IBV will produce a report that will include an overall assessment of the state of the pitch and a series of recommendations regarding its maintenance.
Figure 1. How to use the eyeturf app and how to obtain a report
The eyeturf app sets out four overall levels of quality for the state of a football pitch: unacceptable, poor, good and excellent.
If the quality is unacceptable, this means that the football pitch has reached the end of its useful life and any maintenance action may indeed be counterproductive. More importantly, continuing to use the pitch could lead to injuries to the players. In such a situation, it is advisable to make plans to renew this facility as soon as possible.
If the eyeturf quality rating of a pitch is poor, this means that the pitch is in the final stage of its use cycle and has a number of important deficiencies. In such a situation, the objective should be to ensure an adequate intervention that will make it possible to extend the pitch’s service life with minimum quality and safety requirements.
When eyeturf rates a pitch as being of good quality, even though it may have a number of correctable deficiencies, we can safely assume that it is in good condition. In this case, an appropriate intervention should be devised to ensure that optimum quality is achieve and safety requirements met.
Finally, a pitch rated as being of excellent quality is one that is in optimal playing condition, albeit perhaps with certain minor deficiencies. In pitches of this type, the recommendation is generally to follow the specified guidelines and to continue with regular specialized and adapted maintenance.
The pitch’s overall quality levels are clearly identified in the evaluation certificate issued by the IBV which contains the registration data, an overall and item-by-item assessment, as well as the identification of the most critical aspects and a general recommendation.
Figure 2. Data contained in the report
Our certificate also includes specific recommendations for each of the items assessed. For example, if there are unbonded joints all over the pitch, we recommend that a specialized maintenance company carry out a complete overhaul of all the seams and repair any seams that have a gap of more than 3 mm between them.
VALIDATION OF eyeturf
eyeturf has been demonstrated in specialized seminars related to the field of artificial turf football pitches, attended by municipal technicians from both infrastructure and sports departments. The seminars discussed such aspects as maintenance and the preparation of technical specifications, and the fact that this type of tool has value for public administrations that own and run sports facilities has been confirmed. The potential of a flexible and user-friendly tool that makes it easier to monitor the state of artificial turf football pitches is highly appreciated by public authorities.
The pilot use of the tool by companies int the sector, such as ITURF (http://www.iturf.es/) and CESPEVAL (https://www.cespeval.com/), which specializes in the installation and maintenance of artificial turf surfaces, shows that the industry is also interested in this tool. As far as maintenance companies are concerned, eyeturf is a flexible tool that not only helps them to better determine what type of intervention they need to carry out, but also enables them to issue a certificate guaranteeing the quality of their intervention, given that the tool has the backing of an organization with proven experience such as the IBV.
As the eyeturf tool allows them to complement their range of services, manufacturers and installers, such as REALTURF (https://realturf.com), regard it as a valuable way to differentiate themselves from their competitors in the market. For example, by offering better warranty periods that can include specific conditions for the maintenance and monitoring of an installation when they are presenting their services and products in tenders and bids. Maintenance that can also be offered with the endorsement of the IBV.
FUTURE LINES OF INTEREST AND CONCLUSIONS
In addition to the need to further increase the database of labelled artificial turf images in order to improve the automated detection of errors by means of artificial intelligence tools, IBV is considering the following lines of interest and evolution: (1) extending the use of eyeturf to other artificial turf sports surfaces such as Rugby, Padel or Hockey and (2) to add to the application simplified assessment protocols of the standard tests. By providing additional biomechanical values, these protocols will allow the user to adjust and optimize their recommendations and the maintenance interventions that need to be carried out.
As has been demonstrated, the potential of eyeturf varies depending on the different agents and what their particular relationship with maintenance and the state of the playing field may be, but all of them can benefit from this tool and the future improvements that we are working on to make it faster in terms of the diagnosis it provides and, above all, more specific in terms of maintenance proposals and recommendations.
The POSTUMEC project (IMDEEA/2022/57) is funded by the 2022 aid programme of the Valencian Institute for Business Competitiveness (IVACE) aimed at technology centers in the Valencian Community for the development of non-economic R&D projects carried out in collaboration with companies and co-financed by the European Union.
This development has been made possible by the engagement and collaboration of CESPEVAL, ITURF and REALTURF.