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Technology in Sports
The Evolutionary Role It Plays

Steven Webb
Oct 25, 2023

In the high-stakes world of sports, where a fraction of a second can be the difference between victory and defeat, the burgeoning role of technology is inevitable. The integration of data, analytics, and cutting-edge technology is transforming how we perceive, consume, and participate in sports across the spectrum.

At Capgemini we pride ourselves on bringing together diverse sets of views on really interesting topics and at our second “Whats Now UK” event of the year we took on technology in sport. With a panel of Johnny Wilkinson, Leah Davis, Michael Cole and Mihiri Warty we were able to glean some amazing insights into the role technology can play in sport.

WNUK — Technology in Sports panel

The conversation spanned a range of topics and idea but some of the most interesting ideas for me were:

The Vastness of Technological Infrastructure

Michael Cole threw light on the intricacies of managing golf tournaments Spanning the globe. He drew an analogy, likening them to constructing mini-cities that demand flawless connectivity and technology.

The Power and Scope of Data

The challenge of bringing sailing to the masses was expertly highlighted by Leah Davis who explained how they accrue 30,000 data points every five seconds from their boats — all of which is made totally available and open-source. This data aids athletes in decision-making and enhances the viewer’s experience with AI-generated visuals. She explained the impact this had on fans with Sebastian Vettel, so engrossed he spent nearly an entire weekend watching the sailing from their partner Oracle Data van.

Michael Cole emphasised that the true challenge isn’t merely collecting data, but transforming that data into actionable intelligence. Mahir Warty highlighted the delicate equilibrium between overwhelming and underwhelming fans with data.

Data vs Instinct

Johnny Wilkinson was quick to emphasise that whilst data is crucial, an athlete’s intuitive connection with the sport is paramount. For example he noted how a simple aspect like the position of a ball’s valve can drastically impact a player’s performance, but the current ability to harness that data on ball direction, force and so on from in ball sensors was massively aiding the drive in performance.

Elaborating on this Mahir Warty explained how technology could aid feel with for example technology embedded in mouth gaurds and head protectors so both quantitative and qualitative data could be used to evaluate the impact of knocks on say head injury.

The Transformation in Sports Engagement

Michael Cole explained how a mere four years ago phones were banned on the golf course but now they were everywhere to plan, watch, buy and do pretty much anything on the course. He talked about how they’d worked with Capgemini to focus on getting more of that data out onto the big screens to also engage people away from their phone and to the live experience.

Reflecting on his career, Johnny Wilkinson recalled the evolution of technology in sports. When he began in 1997, athletes received laptops which served no purpose to the athletes. He reflected on the technological metamorphosis over his career, stressing the profound influence of data on athletes. He also touched upon the importance of eliminating stress for optimal performance and drew a parallel with the global need for cohesive sustainability measures.How tech in sport can be a driver for change

Technology as a Catalyst for Positive Change

For Mihir Warty and World Rugby, sustainability is key to that change and it isn’t just an obligation but a necessity. The fact that 25% professional rugby players comes from the Pacific Islands, which are one of the most at risk of climate change is just one of the reasons driving that.

Leah Davis of SailGP shared their pledge to transition to 100% clean energy by 2025. She introduced the Impact League, a twin competition to SailGP, where teams are scored not just on sporting prowess but also their eco-contributions. Demonstrating the significance of this league, she mentioned a whopping $100,000 prize for the winners’ chosen ‘purpose partner’.

Overall a really fascinating event through the world of sports and technology. Should you wish to learn more or collaborate with us, we’re just a call away. Thank you for your time!

Author

Steven Webb

Expert in Digital Transformation
Steven is the UK Chief Technology Officer at Capgemini and part of the UK leadership team. He is an experienced technology leader and IT strategist who understands how to deliver strategic customer value, through innovation and transformation. Steven is responsible for leading Capgemini’s UK Software Engineering, Architecture and Innovation communities; making sure technology and innovation is at the heart of what we do as a business.