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Sports Tech Trends to Watch Out for in 2020

Technology is making significant changes in sports– changes that are global, effective, and most of the times, positive; improving the quality of game in terms of safety, competition, and access for both the players and the fans.

Every day there is a breakthrough in unlocking a tech-goal that brings revolution in different sports. Innovation has become a vital part of progress in sports. All this progress has been given one term to sum it up and that is ‘Sports Tech’ 

Smart Sports Equipment

A certain degree of an athlete or sportsman performance depends on the quality of equipment he or she plays with. 2020 is going to be the era of smart equipment domination. These advanced-functioning equipment are designed to record real-time data of their performance, and highlight ways of improvement through features like cameras and sensors. 

The sports federations and investors are now providing athletes with the best sports equipment in the market, and there are all kinds of them. There are sensors attached to gloves and bats for Cricket and Volleyball which detects the swing, speed, and distance of the ball. 

Recently, many research reports highlighted the issue that traditional NFL helmets were not as helpful as once thought to be for protecting players from brain injuries. In correspondence to that, Riddell launched SpeedFlex helmet technology to give players a personalized smart helmet. This smart helmet features sensors and magnets which detect the collision with high precision and disperse the impact.

Plus, the IoT technology is now being used in mouth guards and other equipment. National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) evaluates equipment, but they didn’t have appropriate procedures to test mouth guards’ hardness and strength. But now multiple brands are making advanced mouth guards with better biocompatibility, strength, and energy absorption. 

360 Cameras to do the Judgment

The human eye can never be as accurate as high-quality lenses. Thanks to the advanced technology, we now have better ‘replay options’ which help umpires and referees to make the right call. Although the replay technology isn’t new with the assistance of VR and 360 degrees camera, the chances in error of judgment are almost zero. 

The most recent example of adapting better camera technology is FIFA, which implemented goal-line technology. The goal-line technology operates with live references to demonstrate if a goal was scored or not. 

Fitness Labs and Smart Applications

Advance player-tracking tech is the new face of coaching courses for star players. Platforms and wearables like FieldWiz and PlayerTek have become essential for coaches and players to collect data and study it to enhance performance. ‘DribbleUp’ is a similar platform for soccer.

Sports associations and clubs are using all kinds of technology to provide enhanced fitness applications for the players. From three-dimensional biomechanical scanning to tracking the individual moves, powers, and flaws of athletes, everything is scrutinized with the help of machine learning. 

Take ‘Kitman Labs’ for example, the multi-dimensional platform which introduces new technologies that assist sportsmen in optimizing their performance. They are associated with teams like the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and English Premier League Clubs’ Everton FC. They use data to devise specific training plans that tell coaches about athlete’s suitable schedule, break durations, and accommodations that are needed to adjust a workout to strengthen a player who might be susceptible to injury.

We are already seeing that fitness bands have flooded the market for casual athletes, and it reflects that the general population has an eye to capture data and insights through it at all levels. The trend to capture more insights and be predictive through data captured via IoT devices, wearables, past performances, and health data, will continue in 2020.

You’re in The Show with Virtual Reality

The virtual technology assists players to improve performance by giving them close to reality field environment during practice. It is also safer for players to practice in a digitized setting to minimize the chances of any injury.  Moreover, virtual reality is offering fans a better viewing experience. 2020 is predicted to be the year when virtual reality will be featured more frequently to improve both the playing and spectating experiences. 

FOX Sports collaborated with NextVR to transmit live sports events through VR technology. So besides buying tickets and watching the live match, virtual reality can provide you a chance to enjoy the game from closer at a much affordable price.

2020 is the year when sports tech is dominating with new trends; trends that benefit both the viewers and fans and the players. 

However, VR isolates the viewer from surrounding experience and for that reason alone it may not become widely popular, yet the viewers who want more close, detailed and uninterrupted experience are waiting for more content on VR.

Personalized Fan Experience & Digital Marketing

Companies are collecting data about ticket buyers/fans through various mediums and providing them with a more customized and immersive experience, marketing, and data to engage them better. 

Technology has made it more convenient for fans to receive specialized treatments and opportunities to interact with their favourite player.  

Sports associations, brands, and entertainment franchises also initiate a digital marketing campaign to create hype for an event.  This covers all kind of news about a forthcoming tournament from online booking information to special passes as a price of a contest. Moreover, Chatbots and voice technology is also playing an essential role in developing an incredible medium of interaction between fans and sports platforms.

Just since last two year,  as per the MVPIndex, the five major sports league in the US namely MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, and NHL and NASCAR (they are also called ‘the big 5’) have generated almost 16.7 billion engagements through social media. These engagements are generated by using multiple techniques like video content, voting polls, hold AMAs in which players directly interact with fans and much more.

eSports

The eSports industry has experienced enormous growth in recent years by generating huge revenue and viewership. In 2018, the total e-sport interaction boasted worldwide. Overall 215 million occasional viewers and 165 million practitioners were recorded. The total number of people exceeded almost 380 million.

The experts predict that by 2021, the yearly growth rate of e-sports enthusiast will increase to up to 14 percent. They prediction further categorized the random viewers, who will reach almost 307 million while the true e-sports enthusiast will make a total number of 557 million.  

Sports brands are realizing the great potential of the phenomenon and hence taking great interest in collaborating with eSports both directly and indirectly.  

The most prominent example is the incredible success of FIFA and eSports collaborated video games. The initiative in the e-sports world gave FIFA a full boast of fans engagement and multiple marketing opportunities as well.  

Similarly, Spanish football team Real Madrid recently released plans for their updated, high-tech new home stadium which will include an eSports arena for fans. 

Broadcast & Streaming

Media experts predict that year 2020 is a revolutionary year for streaming, broadcasting, and OTT (over the top) media services. Before, tech sports revolution, live sports streaming rights were limited to giant sports broadcaster. But as technology has taken over, many tech platforms like Amazon and Facebook have stepped into the game of live streaming and broadcasting, providing people upgraded mediums to watch sports anywhere. 

Not to forget how we have fully functioning pure play sports OTT platforms like eleven sports which offer fans a premium broadcasting medium to enjoy games. Take the example of Amazon secure ATP World Tour Tennis. Another example is Facebook reserving the rights to stream premium League La Liga in India.

Disclaimer: All the names, products, services mentioned in the article belong to their rightful owner and Author does not claim any rights on them whatsoever and this article has used these names to only show their innovation, use in sports effectively.

Vivek Khare, Director IT at dailyhunt (Versé Innovation Pvt Ltd)

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