Braswell & Gary Andrew Poole
There is an undying thirst for sports programming, news, and information about leagues, teams, and individual players. People are accessing information on different platforms, from television to mobile phones. Sports fans are hungry for as much information as possible about our sports stars.
We are moving rapidly in the entertainment universe from looking broadly at the audience to a more personal level. People want tailored information for assessing their team or for trying to get an edge in a fantasy league. And they are willing to pay for it. Sports teams also want data so they can crunch the numbers and create better results on the playing field. There is a movement in every sport toward more and deeper data collection and analytics.
There are firms that specialize in data collection. But monitoring an athlete’s biology and turning the data into useable information takes a unique skillset: Bio Sport Stats opens the data game to a new treasure trove of statistics.
Professional athletes are differentiated by their unique physical and mental abilities. The margins that separate the best from the Hall of Fames are small and are dynamic. What defines a champion is the ability to individually or collectively harness a complex set of mental and physical variables that allow them to put forth the best performance. We think these variables are individual and measurable. When is Tiger Woods in “the Zone”? When NBC analyst Johnny Miller claims he is because of “that look in his eye” or the way he strides down the fairway? More likely, it’s his mental control over his considerable physical gifts that translate into a certain respiratory rate, body temperature, a unique level of G-force generated through a shot and a steady heart rate on the putting green. The technology to measure these variables is here, now. And wouldn’t it be interesting to see them and try and possibly figure out why he is struggling on the course? There is technology that can (unobtrusively) wirelessly relay the information. How does an athlete, team or a television network turn this data into part of their brand and create commercial opportunities with new revenue streams?
We view Bio Sport Stats as the first truly transformative thing to happen to sports since television.
A CRITICAL MOMENT
We live in the Culture of Now, and technology has made it possible—right now—to monitor athletes and create new fan experiences and generate athletic performance data. People want more information. Differentiating an athlete, a league, or a franchise through bio sport stats will become an important revenue stream in the very near future. (Cisco Systems predicts that sports technology will soon be a $1 billion market.) Understanding how bio sport stats fits into a strategic plan will become a critical part of the progression of sports. Bio Sport Stats is a guide to the (near) future so organizations can touch and test new products, develop prototypes, create strategic business plans, and keep ahead of competitors. Putting resources into planning for the bio sport stats future is important because new monitoring products will be made available in the coming 18 months. And yet, understandably, many organizations can’t afford to dedicate personnel and the enormous time it takes to figure out the best products and how they work strategically within an organization.
Here is a snapshot of our research from four perspectives:
01: The Fan Experience
In golf, if viewers of a tournament knew that a player was in a cold sweat as he stands over a putt, the fan will have a more personal, relatable and therefore richer experience. This data can be imbedded with sophisticated intelligence so that the fan is provided with an analysis of the player’s performance according to a number of measurables. For instance, if we are monitoring a quarterback, we can provide that combination of heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature, that lead to the most third down conversions. Or the Bio Sport Stats of a kicker when they attempt a field goal that win/lose a game. What if sports fans could see the combined heart rates of an entire team to gage how the team will perform on a two-minute drive? What if we could see how Kobe Bryant deals with pressure on a last second shot? Wireless technology in the form of small patches are now available that can give fans these sorts of experiences. In-arena fans or people watching on television can get a better sense of how bio sport stats plays into an athletes’ performance.
02: The Athlete
Athletes can--for the first time--get insight into what body functions, like heart rate and respiratory rate translate into the best performance. This is highly valuable because these are functions that can be modulated by physical training, but also by mental exercises like biofeedback or other types of mental training. For example, let’s say that a professional golfer, finds that he never makes a putt within 30 feet if his heart rate is above 120 beats per minute, but makes 65% of puts from that distance if his heart rate is between 90 and 110 bpm. It is entirely possible that the athlete could use that insight to “train” himself to bring down his rate to the desirable zone. This additional data could truly take players/teams on the margins of greatness to the championship arena.
03: Athlete Health and Longevity
While athletes are the most physically gifted members of our society, they face a much higher risk of sudden cardiac death than the general population. Moreover, when such an event occurs in a young and gifted athlete, it is especially tragic. Wireless monitoring of vital parameters, such as heart rate, can allow for real-time identification of at-risk players as well as immediate and targeted resuscitation of those players when a cardiac event takes place. This is critical because unless a player is immediately resuscitated, he or she will die or suffer irreversible heart or brain damage. Between the extremes of absolute wellness and death, there is a myriad of data that is easily collected that can identify when a player with sickle cell trait or mild dehydration needs to be rested. This data alone, could not only help assure optimal performance from a player, but also greatly extend players ability to perform at the highest level. One example of this type of intervention is in the ability to recognize and pull a player if his/her performance lags by just a fraction, prior to the point of true fatigue and underperformance. The heart rate, respiratory rate and skin temperature data are often the earliest sign of player decompensation, before either the player, trainer or coach is aware of a decline. Therefore, resting a player for a brief interval in these situations can extend the time to performance deterioration. Imagine if Mike Shanahan had this type of data on Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos prior to him temporarily losing his eyesight due to a vascular migraine headache during the 1997 Super Bowl. The Broncos were lucky. Davis was awarded game MVP and the Broncos won that game, but with better data the risk could have been avoided. Another scenario is the high school football coach during late-summer workouts in the intense heat of Alabama with his assistant coaches monitoring each player on the sidelines with iPads. These types of avoidable scenarios play out every day.
Gamers want ways to increase the reality of a sports game. The Wii and the Kinect try and bridge the gap between imagination and reality. Using technology can help gaming companies to create more realistic games and bring more interactive elements to the gaming experience. For example, if a gamer is emulating Peyton Manning on a last minute drive, the gamer could be asked to control his heart rate so not to make mistakes. Also, using bio sport stat products on systems like the Wii Fit could help gamers reach fitness goals and create more body awareness. There are also ways to integrate bio sport stats into “social athletics,” which have been utilized by Adidas and Nike. There is a large upside to bio sport stats in the gaming arena and these can be connected back toward real-life athletes, franchises, and leagues.
While this world might seem like science fiction, it is in fact science fact. There are products such as the Nike+, which can track miles run and pace, but this is just the first step. Bio Sport Stats investigates advances such as Zephyr Technology’s shirt, which measures heart rate, skin temperature, breathing rate, and G force and then sends the information to an Android phone. There is work being conducted at various institutions--including the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing at which the Bio Sport Stats principals are affiliated—to create and study bio statistical technology. There are now pills that have digestible chips, which can be read onto smart phones. There are body tattoos in development. We believe this near-to-market technology can create an entire market for sports leagues and athletes and numerous social networking opportunities.
It is a complicated field, and there are many pressing questions to consider: Does the athlete own their biometric stats or is it controlled by the team? Can the league prevent the player from taking sponsorships of their bio sport stats? Will the new CBA negotiations with the various leagues this year (MLB & NBA) change the environment for the players giving them more freedom to engage a sponsor for their bio sport stats?
Will energy drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, Red Bull, Monster, FRS, etc.) see this as a new sponsorship opportunity to have athletes consume their energy drink and show a direct correlation to better bio sport stats? What are the ethical issues with energy drinks or vitamin companies sponsoring an athlete’s bio sport stats?
How will bio sport stats help or hinder the financial value of an athlete when they are negotiating their deals? What are the privacy issues that arise if the team management wants the all the athlete’s Bio Sport Stats but some athletes considers this a violation of their personal privacy?
As leagues, athletes and sponsors see bio sport stats as a revenue stream, it will be important to create business models with negotiated rules and guidelines, and to better understand some key questions, such as: Can bio sport stats increase the revenues for the leagues mobile apps via charging an in-app upgrade for this new data? How will fantasy sports enterprises (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, ESPN Fantasy & Games, etc.) monetize these new sport stats? How will the sports broadcasters monetize these new stats via the live television broadcasts? Could bio sport stats create a secondary revenue stream for companies who build biometric sensors? Will the FDA have any overview if the biometric sensors are only being used for sports entertainment products? How can high school football teams utilize bio sport stats for screening and monitoring heat strokes during grueling summer practices? Could monitoring bio sport stats of high school players lower the school district's liability insurance? Could this savings pay for the initial investment of biometric monitors?
How does bio sport stats support health education?
Bio sport stats is a complex field because it is a merging of athletics and health. Medical companies and startups are creating an array of products, some of which are highly engineered medical grade products. There are many benefits to medical device-athlete cooperation, including public health. Wireless health companies are wondering how athletes wearing biometric monitors can educate the public on the benefits of mHealth? What global impact could athletes contribute to developing countries by endorsing biometric monitors?
There are more than 5 billion cell phones in the world and many medical experts, as well as the World Economic Forum, believe wireless health products could make a significant and positive impact on world health.
USC CENTER FOR BODY COMPUTING
Headquartered at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, the Center for Body Computing works with the School of Cinematic Arts, the Marshall School of Business, the Viterbi School of Engineering and other USC schools to think about, study, and create the future of healthcare. The Center for Body Computing hosts the annual Body Computing Conference, which is known as the premiere event of its kind. Considered the most comprehensive wireless health institute in the world, the Center has developed award-winning medical applications, led significant research, and counts some of the world's most influential innovators as members in the Center. The Center for Body Computing also fosters low-cost health solutions that can lead to better health outcomes across the globe, especially in the developing world. The NFL recently gave the Center for Body Computing a grant to study dynamic heart rate in NFL and USC players.
With a career at the forefront of entertainment and technology, digital strategist Braswell moves big ideas from conception to reality.
Braswell has held leadership roles at Sony Corp and Virgin Records. Recently he has specialized in bringing mobile strategies to sports leagues. He was the digital architect building the mobile business for the NHL and Major League Soccer and he is a sought after consultant in the sports-mobile space. Ty has written for Venture Beat and he was recently featured on the BBC in a story about sports health monitoring.
Ty holds an M.A. degree in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
.Gary Andrew Poole
Poole is an award winning sports and technology journalist, author, and commentator.
He writes regularly for TIME and The Atlantic, and he works as a consultant to the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing.
Poole has written two best-selling sports books: PacMan: Behind The Scenes With Manny Pacquiao (Da Capo) and The Galloping Ghost: Red Grange, an American Football Legend (Houghton Mifflin). Both books are considered the definitive biographies of both men and they were praised in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, the South China Morning Post, and the Washington Post. (The Guardian named PacMan one of the best books of 2010.) Poole has been a guest on more than 50 radio programs, including NPR and the BBC, to talk about various sports topics. Poole, who is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, is an advisor on a forthcoming film about Manny Pacquiao directed by Academy Award winner Leon Gast (“When We Were Kings”).
Poole began his journalism career in Silicon Valley. He has won many journalism awards, including accolades from the Computer Press Association, which named him the industry’s best columnist. Poole has written extensively about technology for the New York Times, Wired, USA Today, and Forbes.
Poole has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.