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The Internet of Things: The New Normal in Sports Business

18 Nov, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The Internet of Things, that term that describes the growing interconnectedness and networking of society, can be either the biggest selling point of any device, or the biggest honorary four-letter word around, depending upon your acceptance of it as the new normal.  And in the world of sports business, planners are embracing it.

The first emergence in the sports world might have been fitness tracking devices. Wearables are still experiencing explosive growth; in fact, research from ReportBuyer shows wearables in sports and fitness alone reaching $9.4 billion globally by 2020 with a compound annual growth rate of 103%.

Impact sensors embedded in football helmets and mouthguards, transmitting data to coaches and athletic trainers on the sidelines (or to parents’ smartphones, which could be its own headache) were another early example of the IoT in action at sports events.

The average person also has the ability to passively provide information for use in the IoT. Travel to sports events, for example, is going to be a lot more interconnected, with airports investing in beacon technology. According to a report in MediaPost, travelers can expect to see the deployment of beacons and other sensors throughout airports for a variety of functions. In fact, notes the article, here is how airports plan the use of beacons, by location, in three years:

  • 61% -- Check-in

  • 61% -- Security

  • 57% -- Boarding

  • 56% -- Dwell time (restaurants, coffee shops, etc.)

  • 55% -- Bag drop

  • 45% -- Border control

  • 40% -- Bag claim

  • 36% -- Transfer

The idea is that sensor technologies will enable airports to better manage lines and move passengers through the airport more efficiently. Of course, along with beaconing technology will be the ability to provide location-based travel information and location-based advertising.

Sensors also will allow airports to add new features, with 61% planning to add wayfinding within the airports and notifications such as security wait times or parking availability by 58% of airports within three years.

A recent article in Huffington Post detailed the exponentially growing universe of IoT products in spectator sports. Twitter Amplify, for example, allows promoted tweets to be sent by the NFL to over 284 million users. And the NFL, slow to pick up social media in the beginning, is becoming an example of how to use the platform in fan engagement and targeting.

IBM forecasts the possibility of fans arriving at the stadium with mobile apps that guide them to the closest parking, providing instant replays, close-up videos and more. Already in use is the ability to order food and beverages to be delivered to spectators’ seats, as well as updates on which rest rooms have shorter lines.

Really. Shorter rest room lines.

And it doesn’t stop there. WT Vox describes the way the IoT has given rise to intelligent buildings. Sports venues are no exception and teams and sports scientists can piggyback on this intelligence to share rich data. Technology company Cisco is heavily involved in smart buildings but also has a project called the Connected Athlete.

The Connected Athlete takes data from sensors, for example in a shoe or boot, and then connects that up to the stadium’s wi-fi network or even a low-powered cellular phone transmitter so that teams can monitor it. But because the internet of things allows the athlete’s sensors to connect to other networks, it can be shared with fans and broadcasters too.

If some of this sounds less than accessible to the rec sports event planner, that’s okay. Plugged-in sports equipment, including smart basketballs, tennis racquets, golf clubs, baseballs, bats and more, is in stores now and as is the way of all technology, it will only drop in price as time passes.

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