Transforming coach-player communication with Armony CEO, Mo Malkawi

Armony is the world’s first wireless radio frequency communication system made specifically for the use of soccer teams.

The system creates a direct connection between coaches and their players, simultaneously transmitting coaches’ instructions.

We caught up with Mo Malkawi, CEO of Armony about the inception of the coach-player communication system, how it will change the game and much more.

This is part one of a two-part series with our friends at Bullpen.

Arrmony Team
Mo Malkawi and the Armony Team

Zushan Hashmi: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal story outside of Armony?

Mo Malkawi: I grew up in Dubai in a Middle-class family. My passion has always been sports, namely soccer. Like many teenagers from that region of the world, my dream was to become a professional soccer player.

I remember mentioning that in my high school senior year’s Yearbook. At age 17, I had the opportunity to join a club in the Netherlands called Blauw Wit Amsterdam.

My career as a professional soccer player was short-lived. At age 20, I had two back-to-back injuries while I was with the Jordanian U-20 national team, and I figured I should stop playing and focus on my studies.

Later, I got my coaching C-license from the Asian Football Confederation and worked as a coach with the Jordan Football Association and Granada FC in Spain for about 5 years. I also worked in the NGO sector for around 2 years, but I never really enjoyed it and was always trying to start my own sport-related business.

What exactly is Armony?

Our device is the world’s first and only coach-player communication system made specifically for football teams. It allows coaches to pick single or multiple players to communicate with immediately through an application on their smartphone.

Many coaches believe that watching the session from a distance gives them a better perspective of the performance of each player, but they also want to be able to communicate instructions to the players, and that’s why they use Armony.

The players receive the coach’s instructions through a small device that goes into a smart vest or sports bra. It can be used during games and training sessions and it uses 5G connectivity.

Why has football been your choice of sport, initially speaking?

It was obviously because of my background as a professional soccer player and coach, but also due to the nature of the game. Coaches are struggling to relay verbal instructions to their players during games due to the distance and noisy crowd, often causing them to lose their voices.

Even during training sessions, many coaches believe that watching the session from a distance gives them a better perspective of the performance of each player, but they also want to be able to communicate instructions to the players, and that’s why they use Armony.

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With a couple of offices, people-based across different countries and a growing number of organisations now involved with Armony, tell me a little bit about your day to day work life?

With a team split between Germany, the United States, and Denmark; we have been working remotely for over two years. Way before it was cool due to COVID-19! Apps such as Slack, Zoom, and Teams are part of our daily work routine.

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I am lucky to be working with a group of highly professional people, which made working remotely and being on top of everything a pretty easy job. However, in 2021, we’ll establish an HQ in the USA or Germany and try to have the whole team in one place.

And what are some of the challenges you have faced?

As with any start-up, we faced and still face challenges on a daily basis. In our case, the challenges had to do with being the first to try and create a wireless communication system for football – a revolutionary idea that would disrupt the game and change the status quo, but that’s our idea of innovation.

At the beginning of our journey, people wouldn’t always understand what we meant by that, and then when they did, they would ask the same question “Why hasn’t anyone thought about doing this before. It makes a lot of sense.”

Armony logo

How about the successes?

There have been many success so far, both on the personal and organizational levels, but let me use the latest one as an example and say that our selection as finalists for the prestigious World Football Summit was definitely a testament to a great job.

Armony was able to do a lot in the past two years. Being among the top SportsTech companies of the world, some of which are owned by football legends, such as Iker Casillas and Esteban Granero, gave us a boost to continue pushing forward.

Can you tell me about the accelerators that you have been involved with? And how has your time with them benefitted the startup?

We participated in the 1.FC Koln/HYPE Spin Accelerator that took place between September 2019 and January 2020. It helped us finetune many aspects of the business, and culminated in the signing of a partnership agreement with the Bundesliga side 1.FC Koln.

Recently, we were chosen for the Qatar SportsTech Program, which will take place between September and December of this year in Doha, Qatar. These programs offer good opportunities for exposure, both to potential customers and to investors.

They are pretty competitive though. The chances of getting in one of those are 1 on 100 in some cases, and that’s what explains the investment opportunities that come with it.

At the beginning of our journey, people wouldn’t always understand what we meant, and then when they did, they would ask the same question “Why hasn’t anyone thought about doing this before. It makes a lot of sense.”

Recently, you’ve announced that you’re swapping the armband for a vest. Why is this?

In June 2019, FIFA made the decision to allow players to wear GPS performance trackers during official games and competitions. This historic decision created an opportunity for us.

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Given these GPS performance tracking devices go into a pocket in a vest or sports bra that players can wear below or above the jersey, we figured it would be better to use the same vest for our communication device rather than add new hardware on the players’ bodies.

We signed a partnership agreement with the Swiss company Advanced Sports Instruments (ASI), and together we’ll be launching a new all-in-one device that will have our wireless communication technology in addition to their performance tracking system.

This obviously means Armony Sports can also spread to other sports outside of football. Is this something you have considered? If so, which sports?

That’s correct. Wireless communication between a coach and their players is paramount in almost every sport. While there are very few sports where coach-player wireless communication exists, such as American Football, it’s yet to gain traction in many other sports.

Starting from January 2021, we are expanding to 4 other sports besides soccer, which are Cricket, Rugby, Surfing, and Skateboarding.

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These are the sports that we’ll be actively targeting with marketing campaigns, but we remain open to providing our system to any athlete or club, regardless of the sport they play, should they want to use Armony.

What can we expect from Armony in the future? Or what are you working towards?

We are currently working on improving our product. We started off as a communication-only device, but now we are adding performance tracking and visualisation.

I like to take things step by step, but certain “crazy” ideas do come up sometimes during our team meetings. Regardless of the features that will be added to the device or the domains in which it will be used in the future.

We are proud of the fact that we’re already disrupting the sports market and are helping coaches around the world, and we’re doing it efficiently and smartly, the way everything should be done!

Any other thoughts/comments?

I would like to thank Sportageous for their interest and for this feature of Armony.

It’s always great to see fellow sports fans following their passion and creating something new in the space, and that’s what Team Sportageous is doing, so I wish you the best of luck!

You can follow Armony on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or visit their website here.
You can follow Mo Malkawi on Linkedin
For more SportsBiz and SportsTech related content, visit Sportageous.
The curation of this article was supported by Kinza Tahir. You can follow her here on Twitter.

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