Transforming Sports to a Science with Technology

The best part about living in India? The diversity. There’s so much to look up to, in so many different languages, cultures, ethnicities, cuisines…I could go on, but you get the picture. What’s better than this diversity? Something that binds us all together. And what better example to take than Cricket. I can bet everyone was hooked on to their televisions two nights ago, because there’s nothing nearly as exciting as an India vs Pakistan match! Gone are the days where hundreds of people crowded together, waiting to catch a glimpse of the match. Hotstar and other streaming services have acted as saviours, and people can now watch sports on the go. Technology intervention has acted as a boon for the sports industry, and streaming services is just one piece of the pie.

A step ahead of Moneyball: Rising Global Investments

Spends in the global sports tech domain have only been rising in the last couple of years, and it’s not just me saying this. Since 2014, the industry has grown at a CAGR of more than 20%. Traditional sports is slowly merging with new age investment styles, and this intersection has led to many more athletes themselves becoming part of the investor community. In fact, Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance also says that the wage costs of Premier League clubs have gone up by 40% in the last five years. Predictions also point to sports tech crossing the $40 billion mark by 2024, especially in areas like Asia Pacific and Europe. The global sports tech fund ADVantage has already made its presence in India, and with the numbers doing the talking, one can only imagine the vast array of opportunities that lies ahead for us.

Tech trends that matter

From a time where our grandfathers would spend hours listening to the radio commentary, our generation has the privilege to even listen to what Virat Kohli says to the team while on the field! Truly amazing, if you ask me. The size of these disruptions may be tiny, but the scale at which they’ve dynamised the industry is HUGE. The BCCI already has wearable devices in place that record physical player metrics including the distance they travel, biometric rates, hydration levels and dynamic stress load. Machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence solutions have changed the competition field altogether. If you have a robust tech integration that allows you to judge player performance in real time, these capabilities can be enhanced incrementally. Predictive analytics is, in my opinion, the biggest disruptor in this space. It has enabled coaches to customize player coaching programs, focus on their individual strengths and weaknesses and train teams better. Could we have anticipated player fatigue a few years back? Probably not. Can we do it now? Absolutely, and so much more! Tracking analytics now gives coaches a real time view into the player’s health, pre-empting injuries and rehabilitation.

What does this mean?

There’s ample room to grow and innovate, and all tech experts will agree that we’ve not hit the nail right on the head yet. The pace of technological advancement may even be too overwhelming for some, but for the efforts to translate to fruitful results, we need to keep going. Nothing worth having comes without challenges, of course, and sports tech is no exception. Maintaining consistency in the speed of evolution, analysing changing consumer behaviour and illegal gambling activities are yet to be dealt with. On the flip side, connected athletes, improved fan engagement and derivative sports are not just trends anymore. They’re not even the future, they’re the present, and a pretty exciting one at that! E-sports is already a growing business that has crossed the $1 billion mark, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next big thing in sports turns out to be digital playing fields where players, viewers and coaches can interact through artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Can you imagine that? I most definitely can.

-Gautam Rege is the Co-Founder and Director of Josh Software

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