SOCIETY | May 31, 2018

5 ways in which Big Data and technologies are transforming the world of sport

Will Analytics and Big Data change or have they already changed the way we play?

Some time ago, we offered a view by Paolo Raineri in which the opportunity was mentioned for coaches and teams to use analysis of Big Data for choosing not so much the “best player” but the “right player”, or to identify – regardless of the sixth sense of coach and managers – the person who serves in a certain context and at a given moment. This is a possibility that has existed for some years, as demonstrated by the famous case of Oakland Athletics told in the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis which illustrated the rebirth of a team in difficulty through data-based recruitment techniques. This opportunity has now been enhanced by technology and the availability of new instruments.

The choice of training and recruitment of players is certainly not the only way to make the most of the availability and analysis of data. Which 5 other things will impact on the sports sector and change it?

Monitoring of players with wearable objects

Wearable IoT devices are a valid aid for monitoring, for example, players’ health, such as their physical conditions during the game or the state of hydration and possible fatigue. Adidas markets devices that turn jerseys into “connected jerseys” (miCoach) which show the coach the physical parameters of the player – such as speed, heart rate and acceleration – in real time. These are data that not only help the coach choose whether to keep the same person in play or not, but contribute to improve the planning of specific training sessions aimed at improving conditions. .

Greater precision in refereeing

A technology called PITCHf/x®, which is the result of over 7 years of research and millions of dollars invested, is already used widely in baseball; it tracks and records speed, position, trajectory and other ball pitching data with great precision. These are data that help (without replacing judgment of course) refereeing decisions.

Predicting fan preferences

Thanks to social networks and analytics, it is possible to intercept fan wishes and expectations in order to promote targeted marketing initiatives that can satisfy them. Many teams, such as the New England Patriots, are studying the needs of supporters and proposing specific mobile applications that provide services useful for improving the experience of match spectators.  Knowledge of the expectations of fans also enables their greater involvement in supporting teams.

Gathering (and collecting) data of matches played

There are many valuable data that can be collected during a match for studying “how it was played”. Gathering them manually would be unthinkable and this is why devices are spreading which, through specific sensors, are also able to intercept the movements of sports equipment used, balls and players in order to track movements, distances and speeds. For example, SportVU has six cameras in each NBA arena that collect data on the movements of each player with a frequency of 25 times a second.

Creating arguments for contractual negotiations

Having data and analysis on the performance of players and coaches enables having useful arguments available in the purchase or transfer negotiating phase. And, above all, it makes it possible to produce tangible evidence of a person’s ability or non-ability, influencing evaluation positively or negatively.