Sports and ICT

In the last years, all the concepts related with preventive health and wellness have become in an essential concept. Besides, the interest in sports field has raised a lot. In addition, the professionalization of the sport and the new marketing business generated around it have become this field in one the most growth industries nowadays

The society has seen how other fields that are not apparently related with sports have been involved in this field, such as marketing applied to sports or the sporty psychology. Telecommunications has not been different and it has tried to apply its newest techniques and technologies to this field. This reason has allowed the development of diverse devices and systems to monitoring, tracking or control of the sports technique, among others things.

One example of this kind of devices and system is the sports performance control systems of a man or a team. The first steps that have been found in this field have consisted in the development of devices that allow the sportsman to monitor physiologic variables such as heart rhythm or the number of steps that he have made. In some cases, other technologies as GPS or altimeters have been added to this devices to store the user’s position and analyze subsequently the route that the user followed. After those first developments, the line that the researchers have followed to add value and services to the user is to explode the capacities of the web 2.0 to create a sportsman’s social network in which is easy to share their data and improve their training seasons. The communication among the different sensors that form the devices is made with wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, WIFI 802.11 or Wireless USB. Some problems that have been detected in this kind of systems are the relative simplicity to interfere with similar devices or the low security in the communication between the sensors and the devices to present the data.

As we said before, other objective that the industry is trying to reach is to monitor whole teams. In the solutions that we could find in the market, it is typical to add a wireless transmission module to devices that allow to measure physiologic variables individually. With this method, the system is able to send the data that the sensors have collected to a central station in which is possible to monitor and stored it for a future analyze. Nowadays, this kind of systems is reserved for professional users because they are very expensive equipment. In addition, the same problems that we have highlighted for the individual devices are present in this case.

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To summarize the introduction in these devices, it is important to stand out that these systems allow the user to get a lot relevant information about the training sessions and its quality level. Thanks to that information, the users and theirs coach could be able to improve the planning of these training seasons and increase the sports performance.

Other example of IT technologies applied to sports is the tracking of different elements of the game. Inside this field, we can find the Hawk-Eye in tennis or the tracking of football players in TV to compute the covering distance during a match. This kind of applications are based in provide a set of cameras that can detect the interest element (the ball in the case of the Hawk-Eye and the player in football) and track it to give the pertinent information. Focusing in the Hawk-Eye, it is a system composed by six or more high-velocity cameras that detect and track all the elements of the game: the players and the ball. First, each camera calculates the position and the velocity of the ball and, next, it can obtain the bounce of the ball with a precision of three millimeters. For this calculation, the system uses techniques as triangulation or camera angle correction from the position of the court’s lines. This image processing technology allows to getting additional information about the deformation of the ball or the place of the court in which the player beat the ball.

In the case of tracking of football players, the system is similar. In this case, we need to use the images provided for 16 cameras located in the press box of the stadium at an altitude of 15 meters or more to track the players. It is necessary that an operator assist the system to distinguish different players when they have crossed in the football field. The most relevant problem of this kind of system is the high cost that they mean. As example, the use of the Hawk-Eye during one week cost between 12000 and 15000 euro. This reason motivates that these systems haven’t been used in amateur sport.

In the previous paragraphs we have tried to explain some applications of the IT techniques used in sports field. Even though, there are a lot of projects to apply the capabilities of newest technologies in sports. Nowadays, the user demands more and more information and it allows to improving the performance of the sportsman. This represents a business opportunity and a great potential of development and growth that will be able to give added value to sportsmen.
The appearance of new applications in the sports field is joined to the development of the technologies associated to the different systems. The advances in fields as wireless communications, image processing, sensors networks or signal processing could permit open new ways in the development of these applications. One of the main objectives of Gradiant is to reach advances in this telecommunication fields and apply this new concepts in applications for sports.

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