Product. Tracker fits with the new technological footprint of multiple applications on a single mobile device. The performance of chip-fitted golf balls has been defined and accepted in the marketplace. Tracker effectively eclipses previously dedicated ball-tracking devices employing RDIF and digital scanning/tracking.
Placement. SkyCaddie SG5 GPS, which was once available as a dedicated GPS device, is now available as an application for Androids. Placement of Tracker will be congruent with this trend; however, threat of substitution is great. This is evident given the constellation of golf-related applications, such as range finding, driving distance, and score-keeping, tracking pro-tours, GPS course maps, and pro-advice. Integration of applications is standard, and barriers to entry are roughly equivalent across applications.
Price. Tracker's affluent target market is unlikely to prefer low-end glasses to locate their lost golf balls. Tracker requires purchase of chip-fitted balls, with pricing points in the range of quality regular golf balls, and a mobile device application, which is likely to be priced below either of the two competing dedicated ball-tracking devices. It is highly likely that applications for all major brands of smartphones will be developed, making the degree of rivalry the most fundamental marketing issue. For this reason, pricing points will feature prominently in Tracker's marketing campaigns.
Promotion. Pyschographics vary across venues. Golfing gadgets are commonplace in specialty catalogues and in online trend-setter Web sites. Certainly, opportunity exists for partnering with mobile device manufacturers for product placement opportunities for Tracker applications.
Competitive products. Three types of products designed to help golfers find their golf balls, which are currently or have recently been available on the market, are discussed in depth below. Two of the three products, RadarGold System Golf Tracker and BallFinder Scout, use sophisticated technology to locate golf balls. The third product, Visiball glasses, relies on a special light-filtering lens that permits a golfer to spot golf balls that are not otherwise concealed from view.
Unique selling value. Both BallFinder Scout and RadarGold System Golf Tracker are dedicated handheld devices that do not offer any additional functionality. In the interim time since these products were first marketed, applications for mobile devices have proliferated. For anyone who owns an iPhone, a Blackberry, or an Android, a separate, single-function (dedicated) device is unlikely to be appealing.
Product comparable -- RFID tracker system. The RadarGold System Golf Tracker is a "ball positioning system," or a BPS, that relies on an RFID-enabled tracking system. The BPS unit is used in conjunction with golf balls that have been implanted with tiny RFID chips in their cores. The balls are of sufficiently high quality to warrant approval by the U.S. Golf Association, and they have been "qualified" (Lindsay, 2005) for professional play. In fact, the chip-fitted golf balls have been tested against golf balls made by Titleist, Callaway, Nike, and Maxfli, and were found to perform equally well (LaPedus, 2005). The proprietary chip-fitted golf balls emit LCD/pulsed audio (Rubin, 2006) strength feedback to the RadarGolf Handheld apparatus. The signal strength enables a range of 30 to 100 feet from the radar system. The handheld finder emits an audio tone that gets louder as the golfer approaches the chip-fitted ball, and a corresponding LCD visual signal occurs on the finder screen. The radio frequencies indicate the exact location of a chip-fitted golf ball regardless of surrounding vegetation, assuming a player knows the general direction in which his ball was hit. Chip-fitted balls that are not in play are kept in protective pouches that block radio frequencies; these pouches prevent the detector from finding the spare balls and, thereby, producing false reads (Lindsay, 2005). The unit initially sold with 24 chip-fitted golf balls, two protective metallic fabric pouches, a protective case for the transmitter, and six AAA batteries for use in the transmitter. The transmitter weighs 14 ounces, and is 6 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches high. The price for a dozen chip-fitted golf balls is U.S.$39 and the handheld is priced at U.S.$249, but the unit has been sold at discount in major lifestyle catalogues for U.S.$139.95. For reasons unknown, at this juncture, the RadarGold System Golf Tracker is no longer available online.
Product comparable -- digital imaging system. The BallFinder Scout does not require a micro-chipped golf ball as it relies on video-camera scanning to detect regular golf balls. The BallFinder is a "video-like camera" (Hanlon, 2006) that uses digital imaging and digital tracking technology with the capability of scanning up to 600 feet in one second or up to 1/7 of an acre in ten seconds. The camera will detect a golf ball -- even in deep rough -- as long as one percent (about three surface dimples) is visible. However, a significant drawback is that the camera cannot locate golf balls that are in a body of water. The scan results in a two megapixel (two million pixels) image that is analyzed by the digital tracking system pixel-by-pixel, in just nanoseconds (Hanlon, 2006). Once the camera has found the "color signature" of a player's golf ball -- and the finder is within 35 feet of the ball -- it vibrates and displays the location of the ball on the megapixel screen. An instructional DVD, that features Nick Faldo providing golf tips, has been included with the purchase of the device. The finder uses two AAA batteries and has a low-battery indicator. The Scout, which is a little larger than a Blackberry, has a clip that can be attached to a belt or to a golf bag. The video display screen and the camera lens can be cleaned using a soft cloth. The BallFinder Scout appears to be currently available and is priced at U.S.$263.
Product comparable -- filtered-lens glasses. The lenses in Visiball glasses utilize several "basic principles of physics, visual physiology, and perception to significantly enhance the visibility of & #8230;[a] golf ball" (Visiball USA, n.d.). The golf ball finding glasses have specially designed proprietary lenses that contain pigments which make white golf balls look similar to the way that ordinary white objects look under a black light. Not only do the golf balls appear in the foreground, but the lens pigmentation also reduces light that reflects off objects in the background, thereby making the golf balls even more perceptible -- making them appear to "glow" (Visiball USA, n.d.). Technically, two visual phenomena function together to "enhance the perceptibility" (Visiball USA, n.d.) of golf balls when viewed through the Visiball lenses. The special lenses cause what is known as a "Purkinje shift" whereby light reflecting off the golf ball is "attenuated" (Visiball USA, n.d.) to match the wavelengths to which retinal rods are most sensitive, effectively reducing glare. The rods in the eye are sensitive to low light levels; the cones are sensitive to high light levels, spatial acuity, and color; the Visiball lenses enable the eye to capitalize on the type of light needed to detect lost golf balls. Also, because the digital image on the screen uses "visual selection" capitalizing on the amount of visual input that the brain can quickly process, the image of the golf ball is intensified (Visiball USA, n.d.). The lens technology uses the two visual phenomena to increase perceptibility, by brightening the golf balls, making the surroundings darker, and reducing the amount of visual stimuli from which the golf ball must be discriminated. It should be readily apparent that golf balls obscured by physical objects will not be seen. Visiball glasses are designed only for golf ball location and, because they do not offer protection from sunlight, should not be worn while actually playing golf. Three models of the Visiball glasses -- all of which significantly reduce peripheral light -- are available, including one model designed to fit over prescription glasses. The…