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Connected Sports Equipment: A Big Factor in the Job Landscape

10 Feb, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
As More Companies Invest in Wearables, Connected Sports Equipment and All Aspects of the Internet of Things, Expect New College Majors to Proliferate

Connected sports equipment, which made a big showing this year at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is creating its own need: a way to keep ahead of the competition.

A recent article in Crain’s Detroit Business noted that online retailers, social media and the Internet of Things — manufactured things that are connected to the Internet (like fitness trackers as well as the ‘smart’ basketballs, tennis racquets, golf clubs, baseball and softball bats and more that track users’ performance for them) — are generating extraordinary amounts of data.

But while owners of the equipment are using that data, the companies who make the equipment need to find people to help their company stay competitive, while using not only data compiled by users but data on the market itself.

The Crain staff interviewed a number of college officials on the leading edge of the technology.

"Data is a strategic tool that makes you lower your costs, increase your revenues and increase your profits," said Amitabh Sinha, associate professor of technology and operations at the University of Michigan. A company with these tools, he said, puts competitive pressure on its rivals.

The challenge, however, is finding people who have the right blend of skills who can do the work, said Mark Isken, associate professor of management information systems at Oakland University.

That's where a number of local universities have stepped up their game, working to supply the students who will move into the workplace to fill that need.

The evolution has been fast. Ten years ago, only a handful of universities nationwide offered big data/analytics degree programs, said Ratna Babu Chinnam, a professor and co-director in the big data and business analytics group at Wayne State University. Now nearly 100 schools are enhancing data-related curriculums, adding undergraduate and graduate degrees and offering certificates for working professional or graduate students wanting to augment other degrees.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists computer analysts, statisticians and management analysts among the top 21 occupations, with the most expected job growth through 2024. And Glassdoor Inc., in its 25 Best Jobs in America report in January ranked data scientist No. 1, with more than 3,300 job openings and a median salary of $118,709.

And with MLB having approved connected bats for use in 2016, the data collection market for sports equipment (and everything else) is about to become even more lucrative, even more competitive, and even more useful as a career option.

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