Sports technology in game for 2020

What are some of the technologies that will transform the playing field of sports?
2 January 2020

How technology supports the champions of tomorrow. Source: AFP

 Technology has been transforming just about every aspect of life, and sports is no exception. According to reports, the sports technology market is predicted to hit a whopping US$31.1 billion by 2024.

There are numerous ongoing technological developments in the field, be it in improving the performance of athletes to its use in large sporting events to help referees make decisions during a game.

Based on a survey of industry experts, Scrum Ventures notes that some of the biggest technology set to have the biggest impact in the following years are fan engagement technologies, athlete performance technologies, and stadium experience technologies.

Fan engagement tech

Which technologies would make the biggest impact on the sports industry in the next 12 months?

An overwhelming number of survey respondents (78  percent) chose fan engagement technologies such as live streaming, eSports and content platforms compared to technologies related to athlete performance (16 percent) and stadium experience (6 percent).

Technology can open the door to a myriad of opportunities for sports organizations to better understand their fans and strengthen their engagement with them.

For instance, NASCAR, an auto racing, company employs Adobe’s Experience Cloud to analyze customer data for optimal marketing strategies. Based on data insights, the auto racing brand is offering augmented reality (AR) experiences and other eSports services to attract new fans. NASCAR aims to appeal to the younger, tech-savvy generation through digital strategies while keeping the interests of current fans ablaze.

Organizations that employ technology to achieve this goal will benefit in the long run and access an arena of opportunities to lead in the industry as the relationship between sports teams and fans is invaluable.

Echoing this is Tom Masterman, STT Mentor and Global Head of Publisher Sales at Genius Sports Media, who said, “Anticipating the next fan engagement trend is critical, whether you’re a team, brand or media company.”

Athlete performance tech

Some organizations are exploring technology’s potential to improve fan engagement, but others are tapping into the latest tech tools to improve the performance of athletes.

A total of 16 percent of respondents believe wearables, coaching platforms, and recovery health technologies will transform the current sports technology industry.

This example is best illustrated by the German football team, who tapped into the power of technology as they marched on to win their fourth FIFA World Cup trophy in 2014.

Midfielder Mario Götze’s 113th minute goal clinched victory in the final against Argentina,  but he had not started the game. Coach Joachim Löw brought Götze off the bench in the 88th minute, in a decision that was as much driven by data as it was tactics and instinct.

While training for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the German team wore small devices to monitor their heart rate, speed, and distance. A performance data analyst then crunches the data after each training session and evaluates the performance of each athlete. Following this, coaches use this information to improve future workouts, in addition to helping them with their decision making during a game.

Within this context, it was data and technology that helped Low choose the “right” player during a crucial game — and the effort paid off.

While technology can play a role in helping coaches assemble their A-team, the remaining 6 percent of respondents are keen on how technology can transform the stadium experience for its fans.

Stadium experience tech

A report by Deloitte notes that stadium attendance has stagnated, in light of pricey tickets and sports fans who have built themselves “comfortable ‘digital nests’ at home with enormous TV screens, surround sound, and access to 24/7 games and commentary”, among other reasons.

Managing the stadium experience is undoubtedly a challenging one for both managers and staff, what with managing the flow of traffic from multiple entrances to the safety of visitors. However, organizations have found new approaches to improve the experience for visitors and staff.

For instance, Miami Heat launched a mobile app that allows visitors to enter the stadium with a digital ticket and purchase food or merchandise via e-payment. The deployment of an app significantly reduced waiting time and improved the stadium experience for fans.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of massive crowds attending the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and 2020 Paralympics, Tokyo Metropolitan Police and Panasonic are collaborating on a new crowd forecasting system. The system will provide real-time management of pedestrian and vehicle flow around major venues once the crowd departs the event. The collected data will guide visitors to the best exit route via messages or electronic signs on their phones.

Without a doubt, it’s clear that sports technology will continue to transform and revolutionize the industry, paving the way for better management of sporting events to enhanced performance among athletes.