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IoT in sports

04.07.2018
Andrey Nikishin

Even if you’re not a football fan, you’re bound to have heard about the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. But if you are following the football, you will have seen the new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology being used regularly during matches. VAR and other technologies are helping clear up controversial episodes on the pitch: the awarding of penalties has become fairer, and it’s now easy to clarify if a goal has been scored or not.

Modern technologies have been used in sports for a while now. For example, Hawk-Eye has seen active use not only in football but also tennis, cricket and volleyball for over 15 years. This particular technology collects data from several cameras and, after processing, provides a verdict on whether a football has crossed the goal line, or a tennis ball lands inside the court.


Photo taken from FIFA.com

GoalRef is another technology that’s used in football. However, it uses a very different principle – the ball has a special chip inside it.

Just imagine if chips were added to the players’ football strips as well as the ball – electronic devices could make precision offside calls or say who last touched the ball before it left the field. It would make assistant referees superfluous and the number of human errors would be significantly reduced.

Team sports are not the only area where  advanced technologies and the IoT can be put to good use. Gymnastics and diving are two sports where high technologies are playing a big role.

Fujitsu has developed a 3D sensing system that is actually used as a training tool to help athletes achieve better results. Although the system hasn’t been used in sports for long, Fujitsu positions it as being capable of completely replacing judges. The system uses 3D sensors to scan the movements of an athlete, builds a model based on the collected data and gathers statistics. 3D sensing has a library of all gymnastic skills that provides the system with the opportunity to detect a specific skill in real time and calculate the complexity of an athlete’s performance. The system has already gained approval during large-scale regional and international competitions, and the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is already planning to use the system in an auxiliary role at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Who knows, maybe there will be no human judges in gymnastics by 2024.

The use of IT systems helps remove subjectivity when judging athletes in those sports where it’s necessary to score technical elements, for example, rather than artistry.

The use of advanced technologies is not exclusive to the world of sporting achievements, however. We mere mortals also have something to gain. For example, there are wristbands that remind us it’s time to get up and have a walk, or make it possible to compete with a friend thousands of kilometers away, or schedule training sessions in preparation for a marathon. Those who play golf will know how difficult it is to get the perfect swing. IT technologies can assist here too. It can show you where you’re going wrong on the screen of your smartphone and provide recommendations on how to correct it.

I’m all for the use of the latest technologies in sport – I believe they enrich sports by reducing subjectivity and the number of human errors. Having said that, I really hope robots never replace sportsmen, and when supporting our favorite teams we still get excited over near misses and still cheer when a goal’s scored. Otherwise, what’s the point of sport?