From ballistic missiles to balloons: This is sports technology for statistics

Distance traveled, maximum speed, the number of passes, and many other aspects are counted practically in real-time, but how do they do it?.

Soccer players during a match

Technology has made it possible to obtain statistics in real time for each athlete while they play the matches. / Photo: Reuters

LatinAmerican Post | Juan Bacallado

Listen to this article

Leer en español: De misiles balísticos a balones: así es la tecnología deportiva para estadísticas

In the world of sports it is possible to obtain data on anything, from knowing how many balls an athlete has recovered, to in which area of the field they have recovered, the speed a player reaches, and many other things that are revealed in real-time and a near-perfect precision that achieves everything through technology. Where could a system capable of doing all of this come from? Well, the answer is not in some sports fanatic engineer who decided to invent it, since the basis of this system comes from a technology to track ballistic missiles.

Stats is the company that adapted ballistic missile tracking technology to create SportVU, an optical tracking system that tracks players and the ball within a playing field according to Fansided. Stats has an important repertoire of clients, the National Basketball Association (NBA) being one of the first, but it also provides its system to competitions such as Serie A in Italy and in general works with the Union of European Football Federations, better known as UEFA, the main body of all European football.

How does it work?

The SportVU system is made up of 9 high-tech cameras that record at a frequency of 60 fps, which means that it captures 60 images per second (a common camera usually perceives 30fps), it also records with a 4K resolution in order to get full resolution videos. According to Hypertextual, these 9 cameras are distributed in three cameras at the foot of the field: one in each area where the teams are positioned and another for the center of the field, the other six are located in strategic beams in the upper part of the stadium.

All the images collected by the 9 cameras are processed in a central unit that has “player tracking” technology that uses Artificial Intelligence to interpret data. But to track each player on the field in addition to the ball, the cameras use a point system that looks for previously programmed patterns, such as a shot in the case of soccer or basketball, as well as many other actions. On the other hand, this point technology is also capable of identifying a certain player through their bib number, in some cases, it will require the help of people when the bib is not visible to the cameras, according to Fansided. In the end, the margin of error that the SportVU system has is 3%, which makes it an acceptable technology.

Why this data is so important?

Although for some people statistics in sports do not mean anything, there will always be fans of statistics either for informational interests or simply curiosities, on the other hand, statistics are an essential part of sports betting since through this data they can know the tendency with which both teams or players come to the game, the minutes in which they usually score, the physical condition and performance of each player on a certain court or rival among many other numbers that according to the website Casa de Apuestas are essential for any gambler at least professional.

Los Rays de Tampa están a un triunfo de la serie mundial. Prepara #TuMejorJugada para los playoffs de la MLB en https://t.co/95g0UCxCke con las estadísticas y apuestas disponibles #MLB #ApuestasColombia #ApuestasDeportivas #Rivalo pic.twitter.com/inLnoZYHIe

— Rivalo Colombia (@RivaloColombia) October 14, 2020

For this same reason, bookmakers have the possibility of betting on specific data such as who will score the first goal of the game, how many corners there will be in a soccer game, among others. The data for bettors can be so specific that Luckia reviews how there are some websites that collect certain data, such as Total Corner, which specializes in statistics on corner kicks in football, Soccerway is more inclined to data on refereeing and number of football cards, these can vary according to the type of data required and some are paid.

Also read: Who makes up the coaching staff of a soccer team?

But the statistics also serve the same clubs, which also hire services such as SportVU so that these systems are present even in training and know the performance of the players, either their team or rivals, the latter It is important because it allows you to identify the game patterns of each team and player you face: where do you usually shoot from? The tendency to haggle? among many other statistics that may not be available to everyone but that allows the coaching staff to be kept informed regardless of the sport, according to Fansided.