Sport is being transformed by the power of the cloud • The Register

Sponsored Feature Cloud computing is having a transformational effect on the sports world. It’s changing the way athletes train and keep fit, the way matches are played, and even the way events are consumed by spectators.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the cloud is in the enormous data analysis and processing power that can now be applied to the performance of individual athletes and teams. Concentrated computing resources can monitor and analyze every detail of performance in real time, storing and analyzing a huge amount and variety of data to hone player talent and improve competitive results.

According to global research and advisory firm MarketsandMarkets, the computerized sports analysis industry is set for dramatic growth. Worth $1.9 billion in 2019, it is expected to reach a value of $5.2 billion by 2024, with performance analytics expected to be the fastest growing part of the market.

Cloudy on and off the pitch

Across the sports spectrum, sports organizations are using cloud technology to form the basis for key decisions both on and off the field. Information can now be gathered from a variety of sources, from biomedical sensors to drone video footage. This data can cover just about every aspect of an athlete’s life, whether they eat, sleep or train. Powered by cloud servers, this data is the foundation for improving not only an athlete’s performance, but also their overall health, including predicting the likelihood of future injuries, all within the framework of the obtaining optimal results.

When data obtained from devices, during games or in a training situation, is uploaded to the cloud, it means that everyone, from the head coach to the medical team, can view it and analyze them, helping to track a player’s development and identify areas where their activity needs improvement.

The use of analytics to improve sports performance is not new. The technology was developed as early as the 1950s to turn thousands of in-game data points into statistics for athlete performance evaluation. Oakland Athletics Director of Baseball Billy Beane took science to a new level in the early 2000s with his “moneyball” approach to identifying underrated players in order to build a more successful team on the cheap.

A film starring Brad Pitt drew attention to Beane’s groundbreaking work.

But it was the cloud era that took sports analytics to a whole new level. Ultimately, this spelled the end of internal cycles of batch data processing, which means that once data scientists have generated their information, the time for maximum user-friendliness of that information has often passed.

Chris Woodin is Vice President of the Cloud Business Unit at Toronto-based Softchoice, a provider of cloud migration solutions for many sports organizations. “The cloud enables the sports industry in several ways,” he says. “This helps with team and athlete optimization as well as the fan experience. Cloud data services mean that sports organizations can consume and use huge amounts of data in order to more easily identify trends keys. They can more clearly visualize the meaning of that. The data.”

Cloud-based analytics has, he says, brought much more than just numbers-crunching power to the elite: “We are now seeing benefits for smaller sports organizations that traditionally may not have not have the resources to analyze the data,” he notes. “Historically, they lacked human capital, or perhaps technical capacity. The computing power of the cloud is democratizing the ability to perform truly advanced data analysis, opening it up to organizations of all sizes and backgrounds.”

Scalability requires huge computing power

Placing sports analytics in the cloud, rather than relying on in-house IT, allows organizations to build the applications they want much faster because they use pre-built platforms: “You can access all the microservices available in the public cloud framework,” adds Woodin. “Transaction processing, facial recognition, location services, you don’t have to design them from scratch. That means sports bodies don’t need a bunch of developers on staff. They can use APIs and just plug in pre-built cloud services. They can choose and then integrate the additional services they want into their application.”

He notes that in the sports industry, IT departments tend to be very lean and underfunded: “They’re not IT organizations,” he says. “These small teams often spend the working day maintaining traditional infrastructure. It takes time, running a data center around the clock. There’s no time for innovation when you’re trying to keep the lights on. On top of that, there’s huge volatility in demand for their services, depending on whether it’s matchday or not.”

Woodin says that by moving everything to the cloud, IT staff can direct their skills towards developing exciting new services to help the team run more efficiently or improve the fan experience: “These organizations don’t have no problem coming up with good ideas,” he said. . “The hardest part is bringing this to life. The cloud is doing this with its unlimited potential. That said, by and large the vast majority of sports organizations have yet to take this step. They are still running on traditional infrastructure .”

Ronald Brouwer is Senior Manager Data & Responsible Insight at Deloitte, based in the firm’s Amsterdam office. He is also a former top athlete, having been a key member of the Dutch national field hockey team that won the silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Brouwer then served the team as a data analyst and assistant coach. “Cloud-based performance analytics is still in its infancy in Europe, compared to what we see in the US,” he notes. “But he has enormous potential. Sometimes there is a lack of knowledge at the management level, but people coming out of university and getting into sports management at this time will bring with them knowledge and enthusiasm. .”

The analytics power of the cloud is so much more scalable than anything in-house IT can offer, he notes: “To get the analytics you need during a game, you need a high level of computing power,” he explains. “Today’s GPU technology and agile architectures can handle all that data and scale it quickly. Then after the game, when you no longer need that data, you can lower your costs and lower your costs The cloud excels here.”

Brouwer reveals that Deloitte is driving a number of use cases featuring cutting-edge, 5G-based computing technology. This offers the possibility, for example, of streaming video footage on demand during a match: “In most cases, stadiums don’t have the type of WiFi that can do that,” he says. “The future of this technology is looking bright. Just think of golf where PGA Tour fans should follow the player all the way through the course. Now you just click and watch every shot made by that player .”

Baseball, soccer, sailing and cycling lead the way

Indeed, sports examples that use platforms such as Google Cloud and its BigQuery data warehouse solution are now aplenty.

The Football Association of England, for example, is deploying cloud technology to prepare its men’s and women’s teams for upcoming tournaments. The Google Cloud Platform (GCP) helps the FA maximize its use of data by processing large volumes of information on a daily basis, which is used by coaches and performance staff to make key decisions for England teams.

International sailing competition SailGP also uses the power of the cloud to analyze billions of data requests, delivering information where it’s needed in a fraction of a second and helping teams decide on optimal racing strategies.

The United States National Cycling Team uses a cloud-based application to generate accurate real-time rider data to facilitate crucial real-time adjustments and deliver maximum performance during training sessions .

Athletes also rely on the cloud, with more than around 50 million runners now using the Runkeeper app which syncs data to help them track their speed, mileage and schedules, as well as schedule breaks.

One of the most exciting applications of cloud technology in sports is more on the business side than the performance side. A byproduct of all the information available to coaches is that a subset of that data may be provided to live viewers, adding to their sense of engagement. When they receive real-time details and settings during a game, their viewing experience can become much more immersive. The possibility of involving commercial sponsors more deeply in this process is also beginning to materialize.

Again, Major League Baseball is one of the pioneer sports in this area. Several teams are turning to cloud-based technology to address the viewing experience at the individual fan level. Using their mobile device, a viewer can watch real-time replays from their seat, while enjoying personalized merchandise promotions. This not only equates to a better customer experience, but also a better business opportunity for the ballpark. Even the biggest MLB brands can’t easily build and operate this kind of on-premises application using traditional infrastructure. Now even the smallest teams can use the cloud to delight fans, expand their addressable market, and make it effectively global.

The next steps in the sports cloud revolution will undoubtedly be to embed AI and ML more deeply into the technology to help identify trends before competition, and then constantly refine the data on those trends to make it actionable. Smart stadiums, complemented by IoT devices, will take consumer interactions to the next level. Like ambitious businesses everywhere, sports organizations will apply the power of the cloud to datasets in increasingly imaginative ways to create better results and gain a sharper competitive advantage.

Sponsored by Google Cloud.

Lance B. Holton