The thought of having real-time team data at your fingertips is enough to cause nightmares for a bartender who makes his money from baseball stat hounds. Typically, they argue incessantly over stats. Yet that may be exactly what’s in store for sports fans around the world.
What started as a tool for teams to analyze opponents for upcoming games is slowly being turned into a way for armchair quarterbacks to make sure that they have the best fantasy football team out on the virtual gridiron. Let us take a look at the origins of big sports data and how Microsoft plans to put it in the hands of sports fans.
SportVU and the NBA
The traditional way to prepare for a huge playoff game would be to study hours and hours of “tape” to get a feel for what the team’s strategy was and what to expect out of individual players. This year, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers were doing things a bit differently. They employed the use of a sophisticated system of data collection. This allowed them to track the movement of every player on the court for every second of the game, as well as the position of the ball. Talk about detailed analysis!
The system was developed by Israeli programmers whose background began in missile tracking technology. SportVU leverages this technology and a system of cameras that can recognize a player’s jersey number, color and his position on the court.
All of this data is fed back to an Oracle database. There it can be matched up with the play by play data that is kept by human score keepers operating courtside. The data is not quite real-time yet, but it can be dispensed with approximately a sixty second delay.
The result is complex and very detailed data that can be used to determine trends about each player. It can measure their general speed and agility, but also determine stats about a player’s accuracy over time in particular spots on the court. This method is a significant improvement over the old tape method when scouting opponents.
From the Field to the Fan
In a similar vein, Microsoft is currently partnering with the Real Madrid soccer (football to the rest of the world) team. They plan to offer these same types of big data and analytics for the fans as well as the coaches.
Microsoft is looking to leverage their Power Business Intelligence for Office 365 to give fans and coaches access to data from both current and past teams. The goal is to allow fans to create graphs, visual comparisons and even do matchups between players on the fly using the Power BI tools.
Could big sports data, coupled with tools like Power BI allow future fantasy football players to create their own personal dashboards in the future? NFL coaches and MLB managers probably will still have nothing to fear from their armchair counterparts. Those people will probably use tools like this to second guess every game decision that is made, in real time. It might improve the Monday morning results for a lot of fantasy league players though!