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IoT in sports: Can we use tech to create superfans?

Going to live sporting events can be a polarizing experience, depending on the individual. For me, I love it. The fans, the atmosphere and even the $10 beers — I actually have a collection of souvenir cups from all the stadiums I’ve been to! For others, it can be a bit of a letdown. You may find that watching a game at a stadium can be kind of underwhelming. After all, watching the game at home — with your high-definition screen, surround sound, instant replays and color commentary — offers amenities the stadium experience can’t replicate.

Many sports are beginning to experience declining ticket sales for these reasons. For example, Major League Baseball experienced a 10% drop in ticket sales between 2017 and 2018. NFL ticket sales dropped by 30% in 2017. College football is also seeing a decline.

While many sports have embraced technology in ways that other industries haven’t, especially in terms of scouting and player assessment, I see this problem coming down to an underuse of technology when it comes to the in-game experience. Here are a few ways I think technology can fix it, specifically the internet of things.

Using IoT to enhance fan experience

Smart stadiums are already improving digital engagement, organizing the stadium experience around the fan by using Wi-Fi and other digital engagement technologies to simplify concession orders, parking availability, seat upgrades, replays, directions and even restroom availability.

In order to offset the high price of tickets and the draw of the steadily improving at-home experience, teams and organizations must recognize that fans are engaging with sports in new ways, and that’s not only a business and marketing challenge, it’s also an IT challenge. The pace of change in IoT is rapid. Our expectations of technology change rapidly too. What was once an amazing capability quickly becomes an everyday expectation. These teams need an IT infrastructure that has the capability of keeping up with not only what’s needed today, but the flexibility to be able to handle whatever tomorrow looks like.

Using IoT to fine-tune player performance

IoT is also changing sports medicine, specifically the way teams reduce injuries, improve health and safety for young players, and help players recover faster. Using embedded sensors for real-time tracking provides a comprehensive view of player health so organizations and teams can take intelligent approaches to player health that’s based on better data.

These devices can help teams understand when players need rest. They can also track player development across a season and a career. And they can help coaches better understand where to focus when to help those players develop so they can perform better for longer.

Where IoT can have a real impact on player safety and performance is combining multiple data sources with advanced analytics so coaches can deliver insight and actionable intelligence in real time. But providing those kinds of insights relies on an underlying infrastructure that can handle data, no matter where it’s created or processed.

Supporting these capabilities with the right technology

The prerequisite to upgrading the fan experience and player performance is the right technology. While these capabilities are easy to describe, they aren’t necessarily easy to pull off, and these organizations need to make sure they have a high-performance infrastructure platform that can support sensors and IoT applications, and effectively capture, store, protect and analyze data across edge and cloud computing environments in order to accomplish their goals.

Will widespread implementation of technology turn the sports world into Moneyball on steroids — tightly governed by statistics, averages and algorithms that humans can’t quite understand? I don’t think so. Technology has the potential to make every athlete better, operating at the full physical potential of their bodies and minds, while simultaneously reducing injuries and improving player safety, and all the while improving our enjoyment of the sport, the game, the experience.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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