M2M Makes the Final Call in Sports

7/15/2013

Baseball, hockey, football, soccer, and basketball fans around the world have experienced the pain of a bad call that ultimately cost their team the game. The fans slump away from the stadium frustrated primarily with the official for making the wrong decision that cost their team the win. The fact of the matter, though, is the ref or ump is only human and likely can’t see all sides of the play. This is where M2M can take over.

Imagine a baseball game, for example. The ball flies over the plate, slightly inside. The ump sees what he believes is a ball, but sensors in homeplate detect and indicate the ball was in fact in the strike zone, ending the game. Sound like a baseball game of the future? It doesn’t have to be. The technology exists today that can sense and detect where a ball is located in any sporting event—football, soccer, basketball—and send that data directly to the official in realtime so a call can be made immediately.

This particular Electronic Home Plate, www.electronichomeplate.com, might not be ready for the big leagues, but is available for youth, scholastic, and collegiate games where the umpires are more commonly volunteers and inexperienced at detecting a ball or a strike.


M2M, sensors, and RFID (radio-frequency identification) aren’t entirely new to the sporting arena either. RFID chips have been used in marathons and other running venues for years. In the past, the challenge with these types of events is runners cross the starting line at different times, making it difficult to determine the amount of time it takes each participant to finish the race. RFID embedded either on bibs or looped through the shoes detects the second the racer begins and the instant they finish, offering accurate placing data.

NASCAR, www.nascar.com, also isn’t a stranger to M2M at the races. National series events use technology from Sportvision, www.sportvision.com. The cars are equipped with devices that use both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems, which can track the cars’ location and speed. Not specifically targeted for official use at this time, the objective is to give fans a virtual experience of the sport and will continue to be integrated by NASCAR broadcast partners through 2018.

M2M can be used for officiating in big sporting events such as soccer, football, tennis, and more. The Hawk-Eye, www.hawkeyeinnovations.co.uk, ball-tracking system can make calls at such events. This particular system first made its entrance in Cricket, but can be used in other sports such as tennis and soccer. In tennis, for example, the technology makes line calls and generates player-tracking data. The company also says there is a growing interest for the system aiding as an official in baseball, and is currently working with major leagues worldwide to see how the technology might be used for both officiating and entertainment.

Jumping to soccer, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Assn.), www.fifa.com, sees the value of goal-line technology, as it has granted a technology license to GoalControl, www.goalcontrol.de. With this system, when the ball passes the goal line, an encrypted radio signal is sent to the referee’s watch. GoalControl says one of the benefits of its system is organizers can use the existing goal frames and nets.

This is just the beginning for M2M in sports, as the technology is becoming more widely available for tracking realtime sports data. Now, more sporting organizations just need to make the call to put M2M in the game.

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