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June 06, 2017
Exciting emerging technologies come to our favourite sports
By: Jenni Babayode
Accenture Team

Passion, atmosphere, style; the best rugby games contain drama that makes your stomach turn and heart pound. There was no better example of this theatre than England vs Wales in Cardiff. But this year, RBS 6 Nations brought much more than high quality international rugby to the pitch. With Accenture, as Official Technology Partner of the tournament, tech-savvy fans were transported to the heart of the game.

Accenture did this by developing the official Championship app—building on 2012’s version to integrate highly sophisticated analytics, covering player statistics and real-time match momentum. To add to this, in 2017, the Innovation Programme created a cinematic, full-body, mixed-reality experience, extending traditional VR from the individual to a wider audience. We used the latest technology from Oculus Rift and Haptic sensors to enable a new kind of experience, and by broadcasting each immersive experience in real time, onlookers could get a glimpse into what their future rugby experiences might hold. With the dust settled, Accenture’s Innovation Programme have been researching cutting-edge innovations, that pair developments in sports science with novel, digital technologies. Allow us to guide you through how connected devices, wearable tech and virtual reality software are changing the way we approach exercise, track fitness and interact with our favourite sports.

Connected Devices are crawling their way into all walks of modern life and sport is no exception. Babolat have introduced the connected racket, Babolat Play, which collects data on a player’s: swing, speed, energy and maps impact location, among many other metrics [1]. Pioneering in-game devices on the rugby pitch, Saracens introduced the x-Patch to monitor impact and severity of contact whilst playing [2]. The plasters sit behind players’ ears and detect the need for further head assessment, showcasing how innovative technologies can be used to solve health and safety concerns. Away from professional sports, UnderArmour are solving the biggest fear of runners: forgetting to start or stop the clock. Without having to hold a device whilst exercising, runners can enjoy a more natural running experience, as the data-capturing technology is built into the new Gemini 2 Record Equipped trainers [3].

Since the birth of the internet, a digital revolution has occurred whereby more and more devices are connected to the internet, generating vast quantities of data and great advances in data analytics. Accenture’s analytics practice continues to grow with over 15,000 professionals who hold deep functional, business process and technical experience of helping our clients to become insight-powered enterprises.

As internet-enabled devices become increasingly commonplace in sport, companies are becoming more creative and practical with technology; introducing wearables! Say goodbye to measuring fitness with clunky breathing apparatus and wires connected to a treadmill. SmartLife have developed small “softsensor” pads that can easily be attached to clothing [4]. The ViperPod from STATSports is another example of wearable tech, which won the 2016 Sports Technology Awards [5]. The product monitors footballers in-play tracking recovery times, energy levels and signalling potential injuries. Arsenal, Liverpool, Man U and Barcelona are amongst the teams using this technology, which provides managers greater transparency of players’ performance. The value of analytics data lies in the learning, insights and actions from it. Accenture provide a range of analytics services from traditional consulting to our Analytics-as-a-service platform, to help our clients navigate the big data they have at their disposal.

But what about the fans? Virtual reality (VR) allows supporters to be immersed into the action, experience their favourite games and to be more involved than ever before! In Accenture’s RBS 6 Nations 2017 VR experience, users could throw a rugby ball around with the players on the digitally re-created pitch. Additionally, the analytics dashboard feeds into the experience and provides statistics on players and teams participating in the RBS 6 Nations tournament [6]. In the US, ice hockey fans have been blown away by STRIVR. They have taken their technology beyond training, to allowing fans to “step into the skates” in the rink at the Madison Square Garden [7]. Through VR headsets, spectators can be launched into stadiums around the globe, from the comfort of their own home. LiveLike have even developed the live streaming of sports games in VR [8]. The app is available with Google Cardboard, making the game-watching experience more accessible for all. Connected IoT devices, wearables and VR are moving into mainstream environments, with exciting new use cases, helping to make sport more accessible and enhancing the experience for all, whether you’re working out or watching! What are some of your favourite examples of innovative technology being brought into the sporting arena?

Accenture’s Innovation Programme focuses on bleeding edge innovations, looking at emerging technologies and trends and how they impact different industries.

Sources

  1. http://www.sporttechie.com/2015/01/08/trending/the-3-most-innovative-sports-tech-products-from-ces-2015/

  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/30671380

  3. http://www.runnersworld.com/running-shoes/first-run-under-armours-smart-shoes

  4. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/sport/sports_technology_awards/11370004/promising-concept-award-finalists.html?frame=3177656

  5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/sport/sports_technology_awards/12209078/wearable-tech-in-sport.html

  6. http://www.accenture-rugby.com/about/

  7. http://fortune.com/2015/12/30/vr-new-york-rangers/

  8. https://techcrunch.com/2016/02/06/virtual-reality-sports/

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