The advancing digitization, which shows its influence in all areas of life, is also essential in sport and is changing behavior and actions. Digital technologies determine our everyday life in communication with friends and family and change our relationship to sport, our self-image, and the way we practice it. For many people, it is now unimaginable to spend a day without cell phones and social media.
Concerning sport, the perspective on digital technologies in sport has changed, especially (but not only) during the pandemic. Consequently, we look at what digital technologies can look like in sport, what clubs need to consider (what opportunities and challenges exist), how they have changed sporting competition and what the relationship between sport and technology looks like. In doing so, we direct our attention to current developments.
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What Do Digital Technologies Look Like In Sports?
Nowadays, intelligent electrical devices worn on the body are widespread in competitive and leisure sports. These include vests, chest straps, smartwatches (bracelets and watches), glasses, belts, headphones and many other devices. The functions are different. Another digital technology innovation is the cyber-physical systems and not to forget the fitness and training apps.
Fitness trackers worn as a bracelet or belt clip record the steps taken and the distance based on the steps, calculate the calorie consumption and display the sleep rhythm and total activity over the past seven days or 24 hours.
On the other hand, heart rate monitors measure the heart rate during training. This, in turn, enables extended training control with consideration for your heart rate. In addition, with the newer devices, the speed and distance are measured via GPS, and the training route, including the return to the starting point, is recorded.
Smartwatches are small computers that can be connected to smartphones. They have the same features as heart rate monitors and fitness trackers, only with notifications. Be its incoming calls, messages or emails.
With bright underwear, ultra-flat sensors are integrated directly into the textile fabric and collect data on the skin, allowing accurate readings and a more comfortable fit. Sports underwear now monitors heart rate, breathing, activity and water balance, and body temperature.
We all know them, the many fitness and training apps. They work similarly to fitness trackers, except that everything runs on the smartphone. Although they are efficient and motivate you to train, they do not replace a confirmed fitness coach. The apps can’t look very closely to see if we’re making mistakes in the exercises, which can even cause poor posture in the long run. It, therefore, does not hurt to train under the supervision of trained experts, at least occasionally.
Cyber-Physical Systems In Sport
Another digital technology that can be used in sports is the idea of cyber-physical systems. The piece of sports equipment, such as a golf club or tennis racket or a ski pole in winter sports, enables the sport to be performed and simultaneously records relevant measured values for stress and movement and communicates directly with data infrastructure. The added value lies in the fact that the active athletes receive live feedback. In addition, trainers and scientists are sent extensive data sets to be analyzed and evaluated.
Opportunities And Challenges For Sports Clubs
The possibilities of the digital transformation of the various sports involve considerable effort that not all clubs, leagues, or marks can bear. Not everyone has the money to equip themselves with the most modern digital training aids. This, in turn, leads to a certain degree of distortion of competition, which can affect the chances of success in sport.
Digital technologies are used in practical terms, i.e. training, competitions, etc., and in clubs’ administrative and organizational areas. If you look at the sports business, digital technologies help with internal and external communication, organization, classic administrative tasks and external presentation. They are used rather selectively for further training generation of alternative income and in sports-related areas such as the transmission of sports events, training control, competition analyses.
The Sporting Competition Has Changed
Sport is no longer just about the athletes who compete in a competition, and it has become an industry in which millions of people work and earn their living. Economically, the sports industry accounts for around 1 per cent of global GDP and is valued at 600-700. billion dollars. In addition, sport serves to give companies or products emotions and present the brands with a positive image. Billions of euros now flow annually into the sponsorship of the various brands concerning sports.
The goal of commercial leagues such as the NBA, NFL, Premier League, or the German Bundesliga is to organize a fair, balanced competition and prevent unequal opportunities between clubs and athletes.
The Relationship Between Sport And Technologies
Digital technologies and sport have a dynamic relationship with each other. As already mentioned, the sport has become a place to try out new technologies. At the same time, technologies are also a source of disruption to the sport. All aspects of how the sport is played, watched, monetized and managed are being revolutionized and impacted through technological innovation.
Technologies Improve The Performance Of Athletes
In the past, training and competition preparation was determined by intuitive practices, and you followed the proven path without knowing exactly why. Whether professional, amateur, or recreational, today’s athletes are increasingly turning to new technologies to maximize their physical and mental abilities and gain a competitive advantage.
Technologies are fundamentally changing the way people train and measure themselves. Technologies today include sensors and devices close to the body, wearables and performance tracking systems worn on the body and smart pills and implants in the body.
These technologies aim to Provide performance feedback and training guidance on athletic performance through the measurement and interpretation of fitness, tactical and technical data at an individual or team level. They help athletes to prevent injuries, manage stress and recognize overload. Most of these technologies are allowed before and after the competition but not during matches.
Technologies In Competition
The technological influence is particularly noticeable in Paralympic competitions. Many Paralympic athletes rely on technical aids to practice their sport. Innovation arises here in the area of greatest need. Many experts expect new performance records to be more likely to be set at the Paralympics than at the Olympics. Technological progress will determine when that will happen. It is easy to imagine that technical aids will enable athletes to perform better than a person without aids could ever have achieved in just a few years.
Do Digital Technologies Improve Sports Consumption?
New technologies improve the way people consume sport and expand the experiences for fans and viewers. For example, the advent of social media is constantly creating new types of content, be it original videos from various sports clubs, editorial contributions, sports news, game results via app or entire streaming platforms a la DAZN.
A more specific example would be the computer-controlled 360° drones that augment the broadcasting of sporting events. But the players also benefit from digitization in the area of marketing. Thanks to social media, clubs and players can interact more closely with their fans and communities, developing networks.
In addition, entirely new business branches emerged, such as the fantasy sports sector with apps such as Communio and Kickbase, which have experienced a significant boom in their mobile version, just like the sports betting industry.
Digital Technologies Improve Sports Management
In addition to sports performance and consumption, technological innovations and digital tools improve the management of sports facilities, teams, associations, leagues, events, gyms and media companies.
Tailor-made apps help teams and coaches search and recruit talent, stadiums with their internal processes or the organization of tournaments, leagues, races, and other sporting events. Arbitration has also changed due to the new (digital) technologies. Microphones and in-ear buttons for better communication, drawing off-lines, goal-line technology and video refereeing have influenced many sports decisions. They will become more widespread and used in the future to ensure reliability.
Digital Technologies Enable New Types Of Athletes And Competitions
Perhaps it is currently inconceivable that a team of robots or machines could beat a human couple in sports such as soccer, basketball, etc. Computers can now play structured games with clear rules. As early as 1996, the computer Deep Blue beat the then chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in one of six chess games. Artificial intelligence can defeat humans in Dota 2, for example. Of course, with the help of programmers and machine learning.
Digital Technologies Encourage The Development Of New Sports
It has taken over 30 years for trends or extreme sports to become mainstream and recognized. Technologies not only improve and expand existing sports but even create new ones. The best example is esports, which has grown from a niche subculture into a billion-dollar industry. Esports can become the largest sport with the most viewers and players. It’s only a matter of time before eSports becomes an Olympic. By 2022, e-sports will already be part of the Asian Games.
The Future Of The Sport
Digital technologies will continue to play a significant role in developing the sport in the future. Be it the sport itself that is changing, consumer behaviour or the existing business models. Nonetheless, predicting the evolution of one or more technologies and their future impact is a complex task.
Our world will change even more radically in the coming decades than in the past hundred years. In just decades, a new world will have emerged in which young people cannot imagine the world we live in today. It is, therefore, quite possible that the influence of digital technologies will be so significant that sport will also show completely new facets in its existence and practice.
Also Read: 2022 Tech Trends