Sports + Technology = WINNING!

How is technology impacting the sports industry? What exciting technology is being used now? And what can we look forward to in the future?

Last Thursday (23rd June) I had the pleasure of hosting London Sports Tech 2016 as part of London Tech Week where, in just one evening, these questions were answered. A fantastic event focused on presenting the latest innovations in sports technology, with speakers from Hudl, Sony and Catapult Sports.

Below are some of the key takeaways (in my humble opinion)…

Hudl – Speaker: Paul Pop – Lead Computer Vision Engineer

What is Hudl? Hudl is a sports technology company that creates a suite of video analysis software products to help athletes, coaches and teams better their performance. Paul Pop works in R&D at Hudl, more specifically in Computer Vision,  and is working towards automating the analysis of video to provide greater actionable insights for better team performance.

Paul emphasised the impact of luck or chance in any typical game of football. But there is still a great deal we can influence using data (blue and grey areas in picture below).

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 14.00.35
“There are many data sources in sports, some more useful than others. Analytics done at Hudl provides coaches and analysts another insight in measurable metrics. Based on event annotation and tracking data, we highlight instances of interest during a football game and help coaches adjust their team formation and strategy”.

In many cases a game is won or lost by just one player being in the wrong position, such as a defender hanging back to increase the offside line, but with more accurate and relevant data teams can learn and improve.

Sony – Speaker: Mark Grinyer – Head of Business Development and Programme Manager

Right now, whether you’re a sports professional or a consumer, you have easy access to technologies like 4K cameras, headphones and smart bands which are able to track location, movement, heart rate and sleep patterns (to name a few). This is giving us an ever increasing understanding of our personal performance. But how can this be used by a broadcaster, club or association?

In this talk, Mark Grinyer discussed how the impact of today’s technology alongside a greater focus on combining content and data can improve the experience for fans.

Sony Presentation

A standout point for me was the use of player tracking for broadcasters. Sony acquired Hawkeye Technologies back in 2011 and uses their precise tools to track players, for example here during a tennis match. This can provide automated alerts to broadcasters, very often allowing just one person to control a production. For example, a camera will be pointing at the sideline chairs and recognise when Andy Murray goes to sit down alerting the broadcaster to switch to that camera. Better understanding of the game along with what fans want to see allows for a more entertaining experience of sports and live broadcasts.

Catapult Sports – Speaker: John Coulson – Director of Business Operations

You may not have heard of Catapult Sports. Catapult enlightens sport with scientifically validated analytics, obtained with some of the most advanced wearable technology in team sports. For example, in professional football (soccer), players wear a small tracking device on their back that includes a 3D accelerometer, 3D gyroscope and a magnetometer which allows Catapult to capture minute pieces of data on an athlete’s movement.

Catapult
A key finding over recent years has been the direct correlation between low injuries and winning a season (across all team sports). For example, see above the injury stats from the 2015/16 English Premier League and notice how Leicester City have the lowest amount of injuries lasting 14 days or more and the only team to hit single digits here.

John gave an example of how a player, though reporting no pain at all, was slightly compensating his weight onto a different leg. If you were to watch this player’s performance you wouldn’t think anything had changed, but the tracker detected this change alerting the physio’s to dig deeper. Turns out the player had a hairline fracture at the base of his spine. It’s small injuries like this, when discovered early, that can stop season ending injuries resulting in a better performing team.

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I hope this post was helpful and we hope to organise another London Sports Tech event soon (and get it filmed next time!). If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me on joe.burridge@hudl.com.

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