Smart Living | Features

Features | 23 May 2023

How tech is transforming the way we play and enjoy sport

From 5G tennis lessons to training tailored around menstrual cycles, technology is elevating sport to new heights.

Summertime means sport, whether we are watching the pros battle it out on the pitch, or playing ourselves in parks and pools. Whatever your sport, there’s one key player you may not have considered yet: technology. From harnessing hologram tech to connect tennis stars with the next generation, to using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to turbocharge women’s teams and redefining rugby coverage with 5G technology, Vodafone is driving standards and innovation in ways that might surprise you.

Revolutionising rugby

In 2021 the British & Irish Lions, while on their South Africa Tour, became the first sports team in the world to trial a high-tech training tool: Vodafone’s PLAYER.Connect.

Smart mouthguards, chest straps and GPS trackers monitored each player’s every waking and sleeping moment. This super-granular data was gathered, in real time, by IoT technology and fed into a performance dashboard, allowing coaches to track precise and miniscule changes in each player’s performance, and alter their training in response.

Vodafone unveils player performance dashboard using cutting edge IoT technology put to the test by the British & Irish Lions

Innovative new data analysis platform developed to help boost player performance, wellbeing and recovery of the 2021 Lions team.

Buoyed by the success of this first outing, Vodafone became determined to take PLAYER.Connect even further. 67% of female rugby players believe that menstrual cycle symptoms severely impair their performance. So, when Wales Women decided to use the tool, information about players’ cycle phases was added. Coupled with performance data, this allowed coaches and analysts to create tailored diet and training regimes for each individual player.

That data will have a second life, too. Vodafone is now working with Cardiff Metropolitan University on a research project that uses this information to investigate the impact of menstrual cycles on concussion, injury prevention and more. Their findings should help female athletes better manage their performance and wellbeing.

Vodafone launches new menstrual cycle tracking technology with the Women’s Welsh Rugby Union

The new menstrual tracking programme is part of Vodafone’s PLAYER.Connect platform, which aggregates data from athletes’ wearable devices in real-time, allowing for instant analysis.

Freeing football coverage

Traditionally, football has been broadcast one way: from wired cameras to broadcast vans, then by satellite to studio and, finally, the telly. The superfast speeds and high capacity of 5G has the potential to shake up this status quo. As the 2023 Bundesliga kicked off, Vodafone enlisted German footballers Robin Gosens and Melanie Leupolz to test a new model of football coverage.

The two professionals commentated on the opening game live from their apartments in Italy and the UK, appearing as a tile on the screen alongside presenter Lukas Schönmüller, field reporter Ann-Sophie Kimmel and DAZN data expert Freddy Tappe.

Five presenters, in three different countries, were transmitted in real time to a broadcasting centre and into the DAZN app. Meanwhile, wireless cameras roamed the stadium and stands, bringing viewers right into the centre of the action in the most atmospheric way possible.

Coronation 1953 v 2023: How broadcasting tech is going mobile

As the world watched the first British coronation in 70 years, Vodafone played a crucial role behind the scenes which shows just how dramatically TV and broadcasting tech has changed across the decades.

Super-charging spectator sports

Soon, 5G and emerging technologies like AR could transform the experience for fans watching the action from within each stadium, too.

Vodafone, Sky Sports and Bundesliga have already tested a ‘5G Multiview’ app. German fans can use it to follow a match from five different perspectives without any delay between pitch and screen.

In another initiative with the German football league, spectators can use an augmented reality app to get live statistics on their smartphones, telling them how fast the players are running, for example, and how far they have run, in real time.

Finding fans

In the remote Isles of Scilly, the Garrison Gunners and the Woolpack Wanderers make up the world’s smallest football league.

“We don’t have that many fans – we get a few birdwatchers walking past, and they sometimes watch,” says Anthony Gibbons, the Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Football League. That all began to change in 2019, when Vodafone extended its high speed 5G network to the Isles of Scilly and signed a 5G sponsorship agreement with St Mary’s Association Football Club, which manages the Scilly football league.

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by Vodafone UK’s Editorial & Content team Vodafone went to the Isles of Scilly to test Fan-Assistant Refereeing (FAR) – a system that enables supporters to help the referee make tricky decisions via their 5G-enabled devices. Here’s what you need to know about this world first… It’s fair to say that Video-Assistant Refereeing (VAR) has … Continued

Games were live streamed over 5G and accessible to fans across the world. Super-fans got even more involved: Vodafone’s 5G network also supported the launch of the first ever crowdsourced fan-assisted referee (FAR) system. Anyone with a compatible smartphone became a remote assistant referee, reviewing disputed penalties, goals or red cards and delivering their verdict instantly back to the match official.

Beam me up, Raducanu

In April 2023, two young tennis players met Emma Raducanu, despite being 7,032km (4,370 miles) away from the star.

New hologram technology, powered by Vodafone’s 5G network, enabled the tennis superstar to conduct the first-ever 5G holographic coaching session with Sam Clague, 14, and T’nae Diamond Paisley, 12. Raducanu appeared as a live 3D hologram in London and led the live, real-time lesson all the way from her training camp in Abu Dhabi. 5G’s low latency meant that, despite the huge distance, there was no delay between Emma delivering the lesson in Abu Dhabi and her 5G hologram on court at the All England Club’s Community Tennis Centre in London.

Vodafone 5G powers first-ever hologram coaching session with Emma Raducanu

Tennis superstar surprises kids with once-in-a-lifetime training session from over 4,000 miles (7,000km) away.

“Coaching Sam and T’nae in the first-ever 5G hologram lesson only scratches the surface with this type of technology,” Raducanu explains. “Hopefully, coaches will be able to train the next Wimbledon champion wherever they are in the world.”

While the tennis stars of the future are trained by hologram, technology will spearhead other sporting advances, too. Connected seats in stands could allow fans to order food. Wearables could refine the judgements of referees. One thing’s for certain: Vodafone will be at the centre of the action.

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