Sports Technology Trends to Watch in 2018

Last year’s Michigan Sport Business Conference included the debut of the Tech Showcase, putting a spotlight on companies that have been revolutionizing sport business through new technologies. Since then, sport technology companies have continued to innovate, displaying a series of trends that signal what the industry will look like in the future. Two of the most prominent sports technology trends are wearable tech and innovations in fan experience.

Attendees experience the 2017 MSBC Tech Showcase.

Wearable Technology

According to Digital Sport, the value of the wearable technology market has tripled in the past four years, reaching $5.8 billion in 2018. Much of the growth has been the result of wearable tech reaching the mass market, with major players, such as Garmin and Fitbit, selling large volumes of wrist-based wearables measuring hydration, steps and sleep. In addition, some professional sports organizations have incorporated this technology on an elite level to track player performance. For example, compression armbands that track pitchers’ arm use and a location-tracking system in NFL stadiums to help improve the recording of statistics.

Much of the future growth in the industry will come from expanding these advanced types of wearable technologies. Firms have come up with several promising ideas, such as smart fitness wear and sunglasses that track your performance and use the data to inform a voice-activated coaching system. Sensoria, which was featured at last year’s inaugural Tech Showcase, is one company in this field, selling fitness gear that collects data on the user’s performance while they exercise and sends it to a connected mobile app. Look for these technologies to fuel growth in coming years as they enter the mass market.

Innovations in Fan Experience

Another area of the industry that is undergoing change is how fans view sporting events. Sport media companies have been tinkering with how to provide a more engaging consumer experience to less attentive younger audiences, utilizing immersive technology to do so. In the stadium, firms are using augmented reality to improve fan diversions during breaks in the game. During Super Bowl LII, fans had the opportunity to test this technology, playing augmented reality games on their phone that interacted with U.S. Bank Stadium. Augmented reality is also being used in on-air broadcasts, displaying statistics that appear as if they are on the field.

Other fan experience technologies focus on getting the viewer as close to the action as possible. A frequently-used technique for this is micing up athletes, which allows viewers to listen in on what’s happening in the huddle and on the sidelines. More nascent is the increasing effort to give viewers a first-person view of the action. Leaders in this field are designing miniature cameras that easily fit onto hats, helmets and other sports equipment to give viewers an inside look at what’s happening on the field. ActionStreamer, another company featured in the MSBC’s inaugural Tech Showcase, displays this type of point of view footage through both live-streaming and premium content channels. It will be exciting to see how immersive broadcasting techniques enhance the viewer experience going forward.

Wearable technology and innovation in how fans experience live sporting events signal where the sport industry is heading in the future. Firms in the sector are looking to use technology to engage fans in all aspects of consumption, whether it be in personal fitness or viewing professional sporting events. Be sure to check out the Tech Showcase at this year’s MSBC for more insight on technologies driving the sport industry and the companies behind them.

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