How technology is changing sport

Image: Wimbledon Tennis Championships

Technology has revolutionized sport in many ways. Whereas once you relied on a referee or umpire to make a judgement which could cost a team dearly if they got the decision wrong, now you have a raft of technology designed to help eliminate human error. At the same time, we are seeing the introduction of smart technology to monitor athletes via wearable devices as well as software that can be used to improve team performance. Here we look at four current technology trends in sport.

1) Growth of esports

Whether you like it or not, it’s difficult to ignore the growing influence of esports: sport played by individuals in front of their screens rather than on a traditional playing field. Whereas in the past, esports players competed for gadgets or token rewards, today’s tournaments come with prize pools in the hundreds of thousands, and sometimes even millions, thanks in part to platforms like Twitch. Research from the University of Chichester found Competitive Esports gamers taking part in tournaments face equivalent pressure and stress levels as elite athletes in sports such as football. Furthermore, many elite esports players have their own personal trainers to ensure they are both physically and mentally fit for tournaments that are watched by millions across the globe.

2) Greater fan engagement

Watching sport no longer means sitting passively at home or in a stadium. Technology has enabled spectators to take a much more active part in events. For example, remote-controlled and micro-cameras provide more angles, track individual athletes or provide a performer’s viewpoint. There’s also a wealth of statistical information on players’ performances past and present that fans can access. Take Basketball as an example. Thanks to SportVU cameras in every NBA arena, the way basketball is analyzed has been completely revolutionized with data provided via the NBA website which fans can pore over at their leisure. Another way fans can get more involved is by checking out a list of sports betting apps before deciding where to place a bet. 

3) Much greater accuracy

Referees and umpires are human which means inevitably they get things wrong from time to time. This is where tech can help. There are now loads of different technologies and gadgets designed to help officials get decisions right – at least most of the time. Perhaps one of the most established bits of sports tech is Hawk-Eye. A computer and camera system which traces a ball’s trajectory, it has been widely used in international cricket and tennis for years as well as more recently introduced into Premier League football (soccer) to determine whether a ball has crossed the line for a goal. In the case of Premier League football, Hawk-Eye uses a number of cameras placed across the goal which are filming footage at 600 frames per second. Information is then analysed by computer and the decision sent in an instant to a device on the referee’s wrist.

4) Improve athlete performance

Technology can be used at all stages to improve an athlete’s performance, including before, during and after competition. For example, wearable devices can be used to track athletes’ cardiovascular rates while game analysis software tracks team, ball and opposition movements. Then there’s the equipment itself. One sport that has benefitted massively from increased use of technology is cycling with clothes that can measure your hydration, pedals that can make you more efficient and even ‘smart bikes’ that can transmit information including speed, power output, pedal pressure, frame behavior, heart rate temperature, humidity, and more. Disabled athletes have also been able to benefit from advances in technology with customised lightweight ‘blades’ for running having improved considerably since they were first introduced in the 1970s.


Chris Price