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November 2, 2018

The Evolution of Sport Through Technology

Written By Natalie Moores
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Technology in sport has evolved rapidly over the last decade. It has now become a reliance on performance, engagement and the difference between winning and losing. Without the inclusion of technology, sporting industries wouldn’t even have the commercial staying power to compete. If you look even at the simplest of examples ‘the Superbowl’. Without superfast 5G networks, social media, live streaming, gaming opportunities, AR and updated ecommerce technology, it couldn’t be the slick outlet that it is today. The NFL have been working on using the Oculus Rift both on and off the field to help improve player performance and give fans a better viewing experience.

Professional sport now requires even more detailed analytics that can link to performance in an individual and team. It was only recently that Olympic swimmers are now tracked using smart swimming apparel that monitors heart rate, respiratory activity and even posture. Likewise in runners, you can now use smart socks that can process information such as speed and weight distribution. These socks can also act as a pedometer and measure the data that comes from distance and how this affects a multitude of muscles and bones in the body.  This is complimented by the increased use of on-field cameras and tracking devices embedded into players shoes, helmets, bats, balls and other equipment that is used to track players and give real- time statistics. This level of data allows decreases in injuries but also informs team coaches and managers how to quickly assess much needed tactics or dynamics that need to be changed.

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Wearables come in many different formats in sport and are currently one of the most popular fitness products in the elite fitness marketplace. Recently Garmin designed a new Smartwatch that allows users to make contactless payments. Another example is from a brand called Motus who developed a wearable device that analyses basketball players with their pitching and hitting data to protect them from injury.

From a fan perspective, VR is probably that fastest growing area in the technology world for sport, with a prediction that within this industry alone it could hit a revenue estimate of £38 billion by 2026. The sports entertainment sector is now harnessing the power of VR by creating events and experiences that submerse and engage viewers. UEFA are now showing games in VR, giving fans the option of being at the game without being present, whilst also using 360 VR during live games to totally immerse their fans at every level. Mixed realities is also having a positive impact on sports performance. Medical students are now studying anatomy on a virtual level making it possible athletes to become acclimated to situations using simulations to improve performance. This will also enhance back room teams to understand the physical experience of injuries and determine the best possible cause of action for solution.

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A new reliance on machine learning in sport now makes deep analytics possible, making the opportunity for smart advertising smarter than ever before. Machine Learning models are now  being used to predict the results of matches. A start-up called Kickoff.ai used advanced code to analyse the current strength of teams to project outcomes of games. In tennis, machine learning can even detect movement patterns and learn to group similar data into different types of shots and styles, which ultimately leads to more detailed analysis and increased performance over time.

As a society, we are going through a digital transformation and the shift in the sports industry to user experience and engagement is now a huge focus. As consumers, viewers and participants, we expect more from our experiences, and with the sports and entertainment sector accounting for a huge proportion of that, it has to be at the forefront of technological change.