Analytics continues to become more pervasive in sport, whether it is through improved wireless service in arena being able to adequately service thousands of handheld devices equally to improve a fan experience, crowdsourcing ability which enables teams to know the trends and tendencies instantaneously of who is sitting in a certain section, video game insertion where stats can be dropped in real time into the like of Madden or other mass-player video games, or in the way teams to their evaluation to make sure they are optimizing performance for their athletes.
In the past month several college teams have taken advantage of enhanced wireless service to switch to tablets on the field for real-time video analysis during games, which soon can be overlaid with live stats from their carrier of choice. A large number of professional athletes, especially baseball players, have also taken the tablet route and are now able to download video matched to stats almost in real time for them to make decisions on the field. It’s not quite the video game world, and most sports still do not allow the use of real time tablet devices near the field of play yet because the wireless infrastructure is not consistent enough (you can be able to get a signal in the home team dugout while a weak signal is still going to the visitors across the field yet), but that type of adaptation is coming.
With all that as a backdrop it should not come as a great surprise that one of sport’s most innovative owners, Mark Cuban, is now set to unveil his latest buy-in on the use of analytics and technology to improve performance. While Cuban is not a huge fan of the use of devices or second screens for fans during games yet (he feels it distracts from what goes on on the court and actually decreases fan activity) he is all about finding ways to legally get an edge for his players.
So this week the Dallas Mavericks will become the first team in the NBA to use a wrist device that will collect physical data from their players in order to measure optimum performance. The devices will tell staff when the players are sleeping, and for how long and how deeply they’re doing so. The collected data will quantify how fatigue from training, competing, travel, time-zone adjustments and other variables affect multiple aspects of game-day performance such as reaction time and readiness. The device, developed in Canada and called Readiband is expected to provide critical information on fatigue, and partnered with another Mavs-led initiative, using GPS tracking devices to record movement and measure workload levels could provide another elite glimpse into optimal performance techniques using high tech analytics.
Now as a one-off these types of technologies have been used for several years by teams in the NBA, the NHL, even MLS, all with varying degrees of success. You have to have across the board will participation by all players, not to mention the financial buy-in from ownership and the strategic buy-in from coaches and medical staff. Also you need to make sure that you have state-of-the-art wireless technology to collect data, and then you have to have the right staff to be able to mesh all the information together so that it is being used properly and effectively. All that takes time and money and has to be a commitment for the long term in a world where short term ROI is king.
As far as the fan side go, the ever increasing use of mobile devices and better service may not suit the Mavs owner, but it is becoming more increasingly interesting for teams looking for new revenue sources. With every passing day, another State challenges or readies to challenge Federal Law controlling mobile gambling, something which has long been a huge revenue source in Europe for clubs. New Jersey will be the first to go forward with internet gaming in late November, and although it is not yet wagering on games, the time will come where a sports book will use the mobile space to take wagers in the United States on professional sports, like what is and has been done in Nevada for years. When that does occur, providing that the infrastructure in stadia is consistent, the opportunities for consumer use of analytics will skyrocket, with teams and leagues reaping the controlled benefits. Devices like internet TV and even Xbox are already structured for a more interactive experience between consumer and outside entities, and that use of interactivity tied to data will continue to grow over time.
What was once for geeks and those in the front office becomes more mainstream every day, whether it is on the player development or consumer side, and the best applications are still yet to come.