Changing Trajectories in the Sports Arena- What to Expect in 2020

Changing Trajectories in the Sports Arena- What to Expect in 2020

There was a time when fans could read the key statistics about their favorite player on the back of a baseball card. These days, sports fans look for minute details such as the trajectory the ball, the speed of the bat swing, the precision of the bowler and more. Data-driven decision making by coaches and sports authorities is gaining as much ground as is the consumption of analytical content by fans.

Right from the selection of the team, to training, to the position each player takes in a specific game, to the opposition team’s strengths and weaknesses, to a 360-degree analysis of every shot that has been hit, everything is defined by insights garnered from data[1].

The biggest revolution in the sports arena in terms of digitalization has undoubtedly been brought by SAP. Be it the hyper connectivity via smart wearables and devices for each player to be monitored using Internet of Things (IoT), real-time memory computing of huge amounts of sensor data from each athlete in a secure environment by leveraging big data, the Digital Athlete Framework on SAP HANA offers comprehensive coverage of real-time information to base crucial decisions on. The SAP Sports One looks into team administration and training among other things, making tasks such as team management and monitoring of team fitness seem simple[2]. SAP Business One has also undertaken the task of running the financial management for the ICC Cricket tournament in recent times[3]. miCoach by Adidas allows coaches to attach a wearable device to the jersey of the players to find out their energy and fatigue levels in real-time[4] and send them out onto the field accordingly. We expect to see more interesting SAP system integration in sports in the near future.

Sportsvision helps evaluate the eyesight of players to help in basic functionalities such as hand-eye coordination, improved depth perception, eye tracking ability and a lot more[5]. In the game of baseball, the Pitchf/x technology from Sportsvision has been used to track pitches during games to augment the decision-making capabilities of referees and umpires[6]. Zebra Technologies makes RFID tags to attach to equipment, players and balls to track different criteria to tap the best out of the live data.

Data analytics and research company LiveAnalytics even provides insights into the fans for ticket vendors to better understand and cater to their needs – which games are they likely to buy tickets for or which series are they going to look for season passes. It also enables them to reach out to the new generation of fans via social media platforms[7].

Sports teams, such as New England Patriots, go the next step and even try to predict what special content fans would like, waiting time for bathrooms and even more specific details on mobile apps. The concept of the smart stadium is also increasing with vital information being provided to fans to improve the in-game experience. A great example of this is the Amsterdam Arena, stadium to a soccer team, which is going to be transformed into a futuristic arena with facial recognition tools and AI solutions enabling parking, guiding fans to seats and a lot more[8].

For fans, the whole experience of watching, consuming and interpreting their favourite games has gone beyond listening to commentary on radio, watching a match on TV or from far in the stands.

Channels such as Sling TV and Hotstar that stream Over the Top (OTT) content in real-time for viewers, also allow fans to watch their much-awaited game on the go with just internet connectivity. Apart from watching highlights of matches, these OTT providers enable viewers to watch the game discussions, view from different perspectives and a lot more to gain an immersive experience in the game. There are also websites such as, Spiideo and FiveThirtyEight that regale sports statistics from different angles to fans.

Livestreaming of sports content from various perspectives that a TV viewer cannot enjoy, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) devices to make fans feel like they are in the stadium in whichever seat they prefer, interactive games giving an immersive experience, these are all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what tech can unravel for sports fans. Social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others have become a great way for sports teams to connect to their fans and promote their games.

LAVA, a next-generation software platform turns real-time data into instant action and experiences using Realtime AI. Keeping the fans at the centre of the whole experience, they enable sports teams and players to engage in real-time fan engagement like never before. They can tap into personal likes and dislikes of fans, and enable personalized experiences that the fans can share in their social media platforms. They also collaborate with Apple and Google to provide digital wallet passes that fans can redeem at any outlet[9].

The sports arena today looks very different from what it was even a decade or two ago and is much more immersive. In 2020, the 32nd Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo might just give us a small glimpse into what the future holds[10].