How data and technology have changed our sports?

Updated: Mar 16

Try to recall the last time you watched a national sports competition, what is the first scene coming to your mind? Most of the people may probably remember the remarkable athleticism of the sports players, or the competitiveness of the match itself. Many of us, however, would not associate our favourite sports to #data and #technology. However, despite being mostly invisible and unreachable, data and technology have changed our games completely at a speed we are not aware of.

Back in the 1950s, NHL has intention to develop a trackable puck for collecting data for team coaches and improving audience’s watching experience by allowing them to follow the puck easier. This is, however, not easy to do as it completely changes the internal design of the puck. In 2013, NHL announced its plan on developing a trackable puck and finally, this season, the league will roll-out a new puck with an advanced tracking system developed by SMT, a sports technology company. The trackable puck, on the one hand, generates detailed players’ statistics including player speed and execution that can improve the way coaches analyze the game and players’ performance. On the other hand, perhaps more importantly, it alters the way fans interact with the game. “The major upside for us is driving more engagement” said Dave Lehanski, senior vice president of business development and global partnerships for NHL. With a better watching experience, fans are more involved and eager to watch more games, which in turn generates more ticket and merchandise revenue for NHL and their clubs.

Not only data and technology allow us to engage more in the game, they also identify potential problems which are hardly detected by humans. In the past regular season of MLB (Major League Baseball), there was a record of 6776 home runs being hit. The figures surprisingly dropped by a large extent in the postseason and players start to become suspicious of the postseason balls. Before technology coming to the games, players or sports analysts can only barely identify the reasons leading to the unusual events in the games. But with the advanced technology, MLB now measures the speed and angle of every ball hit leaves the bat. It also records the first-pitch temperature, wind speed and wind direction. All the data are used by the league and other sports analysts to analyze the game balls and identify other potential problems. Until now, MLB is still not clear why the home runs have dropped from 2.8 per game in the regular season to 2.5 in the postseason but the data they collected have provided a more objective view of the game and that is crucial for maintaining the fairness and consistency in the game.

In fact, data and technology have way more usages than the ones mentioned above. But one thing we are sure, is that they will continue to improve our sports and provide a better watching experience to every sports fans in the world.


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