13 February, 2018

Sports and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to turn the corner at full speed in F1 as Michael Schumacher does and to fly in the air and slam-dunk like Michael Jordan?

There might not yet be many people who experienced the above in their real life so far. However, things have changed. The new era where people are able to experience those things themselves is here to stay – the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is defined by WEF (World Economic Forum) as “the digital revolution that has been occurring since the end of the last revolution. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution encompasses more integrated and comprehensive technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), Cloud, Big Data, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Robotics, VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality) while the First Industrial Revolution was based more on mechanization, the Second on mass production and the Third on electronics and information technology.

The world is watching the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it will disrupt almost every industry and change our life at an exponential speed by combining all the accumulated data with knowledge. Sports is not an exception. It is rather more special in terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution and Its Goals

What is the nature of sport? Why are humans so enthusiastic about sports and spending that much money and time on it?

“Want to do well. Want to win.”

The nature of sports is human desire. The encounter between the essence of sports and technologies (The Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution) would be a perfect combination. Technologies make the human desire to do well better and desire to win real. It is hard to find more powerful motivation than this in other industries.  

Moreover, unlike other industries, the sports industry revolution is not only for the Korean people but also for the whole world as the most sports use a single rule globally. New approaches and technologies applied to sports do not apply to only one country. From the industry’s perspective, attempting convergence itself means targeting the global village automatically.

The Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution is also well suited to global trends. Considering the increase in the number of single-person households and YOLOs (You Only Live Once), and the activity pattern and technology capacity of modern people in the 21st century, where the word 'active aging' (the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age) comes into play, the Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution based on the convergence between sports and technologies is like the calm before the storm.

What should be the goal of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Sports? I think it is creating “an environment and culture in which people exercise more, watch and consume more sports”.

Sporting goods represent the desire to do well and to win which are the essence of sports. Because many people invest in more high-end equipment and have royalties on the brands famous players use. 

The changes in the sporting goods of professional athletes are even more noticeable. The Smart Bat that Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels' Major League Baseball (MLB) uses is the equipment that can easily analyze the speed, trajectory and angle of the swing. It is not difficult to find analytical equipment that costs tens of millions to hundreds of millions of Korean won in badminton, tennis, golf clubs and others.

The most easily conceivable combination in the Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution is Big Data. Since ‘analyzing the past data can increase chances of winning’ has been proved, it is necessary to use Big Data in the game.
 
The German national team, who won the World Cup, made headline when they announced that they analyzed the condition of the athletes, the type of stadium, the movement of the athlete, and the relationship with the climate. Martial arts classify players' characteristics and classes through Big Data, and in case of tennis, they use Big Data to predict a winner based on past data.

The New York Mets, an American Baseball League (MLB), has applied this technology not only to the players’ record but also to the crowd to understand the patterns of behavior, consumption tendency, and preference by analyzing the participation of fans in social media, mobile activities and e-mail routes. Based on these results, they set up a goal of achieving more than 20% of additional sponsorship revenues through various marketing strategies that led to customized promotions for men and women of all ages and voluntary participation of fans.

Have you ever heard the words "a bad call is also part of the game"? It may sound very romantic, but it actually means that "it is impossible to make a 100% correct decision without hindering the flow of the game".

Therefore, there are more games with umpires than players. Tennis
is an extreme example of it: One umpire and nine judges for two athletes are
placed in the match.

This technique is not used only in a judgment during a sport
game. More and more high-end technologies are actively being used to convey
what viewers want to relay to fans through TV, the Internet, and other medium.
But the key to the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not IT.

Rather, the data and knowledge accumulated by each industry are the key. IT deliver
a value only when it is employed with data and experience, not the technology
itself.

The sports industry will have to innovate faster and continue
to try new initiatives rather than the technology industry armed with IT. In
order to accomplish this goal, sports people should define and address social demands
in accordance with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The recent changes in
Under Armor, Nike, New York Mets, and in the German football team are the
results of addressing the social needs that can be represented by fans, viewers
and the public.

Once the social needs are identified, it is necessary to push
ahead with a drastic reform of the conservative system in the sports industry,
and internalize the industry data, knowledge and experience by employing IT
with agility.




In the process of achieving this goal, I believe it would play a role in addressing industrial and social challenges such as rapid growth of the sports industry, employment creation in the sports sector, health and public welfare, and social integration.

The Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution and Sporting Goods

The way of producing sporting goods in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is undergoing great innovation. It is rapidly changing from mass-production factory to personalized or multi-kind, small quantity production to improve performance by converging digital technologies such as 3D, Big Data, Cloud, AI and IoT.


[Pic.1] Adidas has started making a personalized footwear outsole at its Speedfactory in Germany. The factory makes personalized shoes in 5 hours with automated machines while it used to take 5 weeks when it used conventional production method. It is expected to minimize logistics and inventory costs around the world. (Source: Adidas)

Sporting goods – the core of the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution - are at the heart of the wearable products that use IoT technology. Under Armor with annual sales of about 6 trillion won introduces sporting goods with IoT such as smart shoes and smart pajamas, which is enough to say “Our competitors are Samsung and Apple. "



[Pic. 2] Mike Trout is using a high-tech at to learn more about his swing. (Source: Mashable, Image: ZEPP)

The Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution and Big Data

Game records would be the biggest beneficiary of the Big Data in sports because analyzing makes it possible to anticipate the abnormality of the equipment through the accumulated data and to estimate how the record will be shortened based on the real-time response especially in the games such as auto racing, a boat race and horse racing where every second counts.



[Pic. 3] The mechanic does not decide whether to repair the race car any more. Data analysts see data in real time in Italy and decide whether to maintain it based on Big Data. (Source: Cisco)

The Fourth Sports Industrial Revolution and Sports Games



[Pic. 4] Unlike previous tennis matches where 10 umpires were placed, one umpire and six Hawk-Eyes (a camera-based) will be judged in the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tournament in Italy. (Source: ATP world tour homepage)

These image-based judgment techniques do not apply only to tennis. They are used in numerous sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball, badminton, volleyball and etc. for umpires to make more accurate calls in the game.

Since 2016, MLB has earned a reputation for making history by developing StatCast that uses a combination of missile tracking technology and image processing technology, and of course, they see an increase in the number of viewers and advertising revenue.


[Pic. 5] The StatCast that MLB uses displays not only the trajectory of the ball but also the reaction speed of the runner and the running speed of the batter on the screen in real time to make viewers more enjoyable. (Source: MLB.com)

Sports people coping with the Fourth Industrial Revolution

It may look like IT is playing a major role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and you seem to be doing something wrong if you are not familiar with terms like IoT, Cloud, Big Data, AI, robotics, VR and AR.

But the key to the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not IT. Rather, the data and knowledge accumulated by each industry are the key. IT deliver a value only when it is employed with data and experience, not the technology itself.

The sports industry will have to innovate faster and continue to try new initiatives rather than the technology industry armed with IT. In order to accomplish this goal, sports people should define and address social demands in accordance with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The recent changes in Under Armor, Nike, New York Mets, and in the German football team are the results of addressing the social needs that can be represented by fans, viewers and the public.

Once the social needs are identified, it is necessary to push ahead with a drastic reform of the conservative system in the sports industry, and internalize the industry data, knowledge and experience by employing IT with agility.