Who doesn’t love the tense, exuberant, nail-biting, sweat-dripping feelings you get watching or even better by playing your favorite sport! For centuries, sports have had their own way of bringing people together despite their numerous differences.
From the inception of the ‘Olympic Truce’ in ninth century BC to the World War I Christmas football truce in 1914, sports have time and again proved that no matter how broken the world is at the moment, it has the power to bridge gaps that keeps humans segregated.
Combine the extraordinary potency of sports that binds people together with the longevity and accuracy of technology; together we have a formidable combination. Gone are the days when athletes used to spend hundreds of hours sweating it out on the field. Athletes these days are using complex technologies under appropriate guidance from tech experts and are monitoring every aspect of their training to optimize their performance and gain that extra inch over their opponents.
Be it monitoring bodily metrics, tracking physical maneuvering, increasing social engagement, or analyzing real-time events, technology is taking sports to a whole new level. This article will take a closer look at how technological advancement is revamping the way that we play and watch the sport we love.
Sensors and Wearable Tech
Sensor technology potentially has to be the most disruptive innovation in the sports-tech industry. From monitoring pulse and breathing patterns to tracking and optimizing sleep patterns, there is a specific sensor for possibly tracking every athletic activity under the sun.
Some of these include:
- Heart Rate Sensors to monitor heart rate and breathing patterns.
- Inertial sensors that analyze human motion can be handy in the recovery process after injuries and accidents.
- Accelerometers and gyroscopes to calibrate position, rotation, acceleration, and speed
- GPS (Global Positioning System) sensors to track outdoor velocity metrics
- LPS (Local Positioning System) sensors to measure indoor velocity metrics with higher accuracy than the GPS
- VBT (Velocity Based Training) sensors to track physical performance in the weight room
- Sleep trackers to track and optimize sleep routines
- Pressure sensors to determine the frequency, force, and accuracy of how strikes or footfalls are landing
Sensors embedded in wearables are revolutionizing how athletes look at their games. From an athlete’s perspective, these sensors provide them with a bundle of critical information that can be used to improve their overall performance. These sensors are evolving constantly and are getting smaller and lighter whilst tracking the minuscule amount of information.
Some of the famous examples of these technologies are the Smart Ball System and the Apple Watch.
The Smart Ball System consists of a sensor embedded within the ball. The technology utilizes a network of receivers placed around the stadium to track the ball’s precise location. The system will accordingly notify the match officials exactly when the ball crosses the goal line by relaying a signal to the official’s smartwatch.
Another example is the Apple Watch 4 which is a certified Class II Medical Device as per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Apple Watch 4 provides 3 new heart-monitoring capabilities: low heart rate alert, heart rhythm detection, and a personal electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor alongside a fall detection feature.
Video Monitoring Tech
Making the right call within split seconds is an important part of an on-field referee’s job. Noticeably, this often leaves room for human error which can cost a team dearly.
Enter Video Monitoring Technology!
This technology leverages emerging camera technologies to make refereeing more precise.
Several sports namely football, tennis, and rugby have adopted Video Technology which also includes in-game video analysis and video refereeing. Many believe that this tech has taken the fun out of sports but the truth is that it simply made everything unbiased and equitable. A major example of this remarkable technology is the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) which debuted at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and disrupted the football world.
VAR consists of a team of referees located in the control room analyzing and correcting every incorrect call or non-call in the game, along with goals, penalty calls, and cases of mistaken identity. It is to be noted that VAR is only used in situations where a call may have changed the outcome of a match. This tech isn’t meant to replace the human aspect of decision-making but in fact, is supposed to assist it.
Of course, these systems aren’t perfect yet but as newer technologies become available, we can expect systems like VAR to improve to 100% efficiency.
Long gone are the days of using stopwatches and table clocks for accurately timing a race. This assures that human error is no longer a thing; all thanks to the advancements made in the race timing systems. Now, these new advancements guarantee that the best athletes will never be robbed of their glory.
Athletes wear special clothing or accessories that track their motion and speed. Timing tools are often embedded into a site themselves or are utilized in setups within these sites. Swimming, for example, utilizes a touchpad, placed at the finish lane and inertial sensors that track the most precise metrics possible, other sports also use laser beams and photographs to determine winners.
Timing systems now provide the faculty to track time up to a thousandth of a second, which helps eliminate rounding errors.
When it comes to sports, safety is the key factor for the durability of athletes as well as the amusement of the fans. Equipment manufacturers have revolutionized sports by introducing accessories that prevent injuries, reduce fatal accidents and ensure the well-being of spectators.
For example, in 2010, special helmets were introduced in the NFL after growing concerns over concussion injuries. The helmets were designed to absorb the shock caused by collisions and protect the athlete from severe head and neck injuries. Other wearable technologies like biometric monitoring were shortly introduced as well.
Sports like auto racing and hockey employ similar technology to enhance the safety of these high-contact, high-impact activities. Spectator safety is another issue where fast-paced bodies or debris are involved. NASCAR events have substituted concrete barriers with Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers whereas Hockey venues are equipped with different types of glass that absorb the impact rather than shatter.
These advancements have enabled players to play at their peak without compromising their safety whilst the fans get to witness the thrill of peak sports.
Sports Data Analytics means the study of analytical data involving players and their performances to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Leading tech giants work closely with famous teams to build wearable technology that helps the team assess various individual performance metrics in great detail. This tech is woven into jerseys or installed in equipment like balls or bats, or even in the shoes.
Data is then transferred in real-time, allowing the managers to monitor performances from the sidelines and make calculated decisions on the go. Analytical data makes it easier to predict several major events like a club looking to buy a big-name player. Sports Data Analytics can be also be leveraged for the following:
- Injury Predictions
- Player Valuations
- Team Strategy
- Evaluating Ticket Churn
- Ticket Pricing
- Sports Betting
So what’s next for technology in sports? Virtual and Augmented Reality has been a big fuss recently – from holographic referees to multi-sensory headsets for viewers, the possibilities are endless.
Technology has completely taken over today’s modern world and revolutionary advancements have significantly changed the way everyone interacts with sports. From athletes to coaches and managers, to the fans in the stands, sports technology is making it easier for everyone to enjoy the sports and activities they love.
What the coming decade will bring in terms of technological advancements remains to be seen!