Q&A With Sam Card, Technology Continues To Grow In Sports

BERLIN – As we all know the Super Bowl was this month and it seemed to be the highlight for many. It felt like a little piece of “getting back to normal” in the midst of an ongoing pandemic lockdown. With all the snacks, cheering and entertainment that the Super Bowl brings, most don’t even remotely understand the increasing role that technology plays in the recruiting, training, production, promotion and enjoyment of professional sports.

Many major companies took a step back from advertising at the big game this year, but tech companies gladly stepped in their place to secure some of the most expensive ad slots. There was an extensive list of online based or tech driven newcomers that paid roughly $5.5 million for a 30-second commercial on this year’s game. Even companies that have very little to do with Silicon Valley highlighted the growing role of social media and the always-online lifestyle we have embraced. The ad influx signals the growing power of tech in society and American culture.

How we watched the game and ate this year was further proof of this transformation. For example, rather than large gatherings tech companies predicted a record number of Americans would be streaming the game on their couches. According to CBS Sports, this year’s Super Bowl was confirmed as the most-streamed NFL game ever, with streaming in particular up by 65 percent compared to last year. Food delivery companies also saw a spike in business for the game.

Data, Data, Data

Another fast trend that is influencing all sports is playing the numbers game. The score of the game is not the only place numbers matter. They are also being used to assess athletes, performance and the competition. From on-field cameras to tracking devices embedded into player equipment they track real-time statistics to make on the fly decisions about players and game time. Most other industries, like manufacturing, have been focused on increasing uptime and production to maximize output forever. With these types of technical tools to measure athleticism of individuals those can now be applied to professional sports as well.

Safety First

With the heightened attention surrounding keeping professional athletes safe, specifically from concussions and impacts to the head, there have been technology upgrades to the equipment developed to protect such sensitive parts of each athlete. For example, old helmet designs were phased out with the development of SpeedFlex helmet technology. This technology offers players a customizable smart helmet that includes sensors and magnets that help detect a collision, and disperse the impact. From there data is transmitted wirelessly, where it can be evaluated in real-time. Other equipment, like mouth guards, are also following suit and becoming enabled as well.

Is this Real?

Virtual Reality is being used to maximize training and spectator experience. Players are now able to practice skills in virtual spaces without fearing injury. They are also able to play different scenarios quickly to help make better decisions on future plays. This predictive training is enabling athletes to train their instinctual and quick judgment skills along with their physical training. From a fan experience can you imagine being on the field with your favorite player? VR is going to transform the broadcasting of live sporting events in the future, especially with the ability to attend live events still in question, all by having a VR device on players’ uniforms.

Tech Help For Refs

Even referees are human, which means they can make mistakes. However, technology is seeking to eliminate the possibility of errors being called in the game. While instant replay technology has been around for a while, VR and 360-degree cameras are now giving refs and sporting commentators an unprecedented view of the action. Already in place is goal-line technology in soccer which is a collaboration of live referees and technology to confirm if a goal is scored.

Forever Young

As with most things in the sports world, the younger the better. That thought is not amiss when it comes to technology either. A focus of professionals is to develop athletes in their teens, by using scaled down versions of their wearable trackers and data platforms to develop performance metrics of high schoolers. The analysis of these metrics can be used to obtain scholarships, adjust training programs, and eventually will adapt to provide detailed nutrition and workout plans by individual and their position on the fields.

In the world of sports, technology is building better athletes, and keeping them safer on the field. It is also helping coaches and teams understand the competition and each other’s tactics and strengths, as well as aiming for accurate calls. As fans, it’s helping us follow the action, enhance the experience, connect online with our sports heroes, and encourage our buying and viewing behavior

(The writer can be reached at SCard@cards-tech.com. To learn more about Cards Technology, visit www.cards-tech.com.)