The Convergence Of Technology And… Sports? Getting Fans From The Sofa To The Stadium

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Fabio Belloni – Chief Growth Officer and Co-founder of Quuppa and a leading authority on advanced location technologies talks about how technologies such as RTLS can help bring fans back to the stadium safely.

It’s been 19 months since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020. Still, we are caught in its grip — from burdening global healthcare systems, financial and educational institutions to problems with personal finances, jobs, housing and general well-being. One space that is still being upended is sports, and although players are back on the field amidst cases of the highly contagious Delta variant, the reopening of stadiums and the potential for ticket sales is no slam dunk. 

Regardless, the Tokyo Olympics played on despite the pandemic, without spectators in the stands, proving once again just how challenging the persistent Covid-19 pandemic has been for live sporting events. And even so, cases surged in Japan, with hospitals bursting at the seams. But the teams played on. 

The pandemic is an Olympic-sized problem spanning countries and events, even as the summer of 2021 has been something of a festival of global sports. From Euro 2021 and South America’s Copa América to the British Lions rugby tour, sporting as a live entertainment event is making a comeback. On a national level, the NBA Finals and NHL’s Stanley Cup had fans back in various capacities. And we kicked off the NFL’s regular season with all 32 teams cleared for full stadium capacity and differing restrictions set by the teams’ home state. Simultaneously, Dr. Anthony Fauci says with enough vaccinations, the country could have a better handle over Covid-19 by spring.

This conflicted picture of live sports captures a central issue: how do we get back to normality? With sports, it’s balancing the business (i.e., filling venues) with public safety. In other words, how can cities reopen stadiums in a way that does not present a public health risk?

Fabio Belloni

This conflicted picture of live sports captures a central issue: how do we get back to normality? With sports, it’s balancing the business (i.e., filling venues) with public safety. In other words, how can cities reopen stadiums in a way that does not present a public health risk? How do stadiums execute additional considerations, such as testing spectators before attending an event, ensuring that social distancing is maintained, contact tracing, limiting contact between staff and spectators at concessions and more?

With #FollowTheScience being championed on Twitter, it’s not as clear-cut in the sports world, with major disparities between cities, stadiums and teams. In Europe, the top leagues like the Bunslegia in Germany were subject to limited capacity at the start of the season, while the Premier League allowed full-capacity crowds. In addition to following the science and health experts, there should be equal emphasis on following the data.

One can argue that with sporting events, we must also #FollowTheTechnology. This isn’t a new concept as the relationship between sports and tech is well-established. Traditionally used to increase aptitude and strategy, technology is now crucial to how we think about, consume and play sports. With Video Assistant Referee (VAR), air cushioning, body sensors and innovations from companies like Hawk-Eye, Snicko, Hotspot and others, teams can improve decision-making and performance, ultimately driving the quality of the sport. 

But the relationship between sports and tech goes even deeper. AI is useful for testing different crowd and occupancy management strategies, seating arrangements or fan numbers, allowing for the mapping out of scenarios in advance of the event. An example is stadiums experimenting with checkout-free shopping to ensure contactless transactions, while another is a company harnessing data to simulate foot traffic around stadiums to model how fans will arrive and leave sporting events in order to strategically plan for and reduce crowding.

One technology that is being increasingly utilized for sporting events is Real-time Location Systems (RTLS), which works by enabling tracking movement of attendees around stadiums.

Fabio Belloni

Although this type of technology isn’t new, understanding how to avoid congestion and reduce bottlenecks is important. One technology that is being increasingly utilized for sporting events is real-time location systems (RTLS), which works by enabling tracking movement of attendees around stadiums. 

This can protect attendees from spreading (or being infected with) Covid-19 by monitoring movement throughout the venue and alerting when people get too close. The tracking system can provide organizers with useful information about peak times, areas that are currently free for load balancing and finding specific individuals. Results include optimizing time and capacity, reducing Covid-19 breaches and ultimately happier and more confident attendees. Factors like the formation of lines, close-quarter behavior and adherence to guidelines can all be measured. 

The collection and analysis of data collected by wearable tags are providing even more avenues for RTLS in sports. According to IndustryARC, the use of RTLS in the sports market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 14.7% between 2018 and 2024, with APAC projected to be the fastest-growing market. 

These growth numbers are unsurprising as this data offers the potential to help athletes perform better with the added bonus of making sports more enjoyable for fans. For instance, by placing the tags on player uniforms, data can be sent to a device and analyzed to give coaches insight into performance on the field, including top speed and stamina. 

Similarly, fans win with more data and insight that enhances the viewing and betting experiences. Broadcasters are also winners, allowing them to gain an edge by giving those who are tuned-in access to unique and detailed statistics on how individual players and teams are doing during live games, transforming the viewing experience. 

As restrictions lift and the vaccinations rise... Solutions such as RTLS, foot traffic simulation and more will prove key to the process.

Fabio Belloni

As restrictions lift and the vaccinations rise, the impact of technology on the spectator experience will look very different for fans at home and in person. Solutions such as RTLS, foot traffic simulation and more will prove key to the process. 

But even beyond that, up-and-coming innovative venue owners can weave RTLS into their vision for business success. For instance, instead of just paying the rent for the field, rink or pitch, teams can rent RTLS as a service, creating new revenue streams. By paying a bit extra, teams receive access to tags and the service, as well as analyzed and visualized data on all players, even if they are a hobby league. 

There are a wealth of opportunities in which teams and venues can improve the services they offer with the help of RTLS. And the good news is it’s just the tip of the iceberg for the possibilities of RTLS in sports, with new applications being developed every day that are helping advance the business of sports.

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Learn more about Quuppa RTLS for Sports
Fabio Belloni

Fabio Belloni

Fabio Belloni is the Co-founder & Chief Growth Officer at Quuppa. He is also a member of Forbes Technology Council – A Community for World-Class CIOs, CTOs, and Technology Executives. (Read more here)

This article was first published here: Forbes.com 

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