In September 2009, Fitbit launched its first wearable device and revolutionized how fitness buffs could track their progress and monitor their health. The simple design, worn around the wrist, bridged tech and sports for everyday consumers for the first time.
However, behind the scenes in major league sports, professional athletes have worked closely with personal trainers and medical staff to hone their bodies to perfection. Looking for any edge over the competition, many leagues also began to study hard stats and hired professionals to apply data in a meaningful way across hockey, baseball, football, and basketball teams.
Six years before the Fitbit released its first device, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game changed the way analysts studied sports. By analyzing and cross-referencing baseball stats, author Michael Lewis showed how data could create real change on the diamond with a study of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.
Today’s sporting world looks to combine the ideology of Moneyball with the monitoring technology behind wearable devices like the Fitbit. By 2022, Statista reports that the wearable tech industry is likely to be worth $1.105 billion. Though the smartwatch sector accounted for nearly half the industry’s worth in 2018, dedicated joggers aren’t the only ones driving the market.
One major application for the data collected by wearable gadgets isn’t just to improve player performance and health. Soon, devices will streamline how fans wager on live games. Currently, in-play betting options aren’t handling raw data from wearable tech on live players (yet), especially considering the ample challenges facing mobile live betting platforms.
A bet365 sportsbook review, which covers one of the world’s largest and most successful sportsbooks, gives the oddsmaker a 96% overall rating, with their mobile app lagging at 90%. Before sportsbooks can move forward to offer a seamless in-play experience that includes live monitoring devices on major league athletes, mobile apps must evolve – along with major league regulations and stadium infrastructure.
Wearable Tech Boom
At its core, wearable tech in the major leagues is designed to collect data that can be used to analyze a player’s performance, whether they’re prone or nearing injury, and how they should move on the court, rink, diamond, and gridiron.
Beyond aiding individual player analysis, wearable tech can also identify patterns of how a team as a whole is moving. Data collected from a competitor could reveal key insight into how certain players or teams move as a whole.
In other words, wearable tech delivers crucial information about a player’s health and performance, as well as delivering a strategic edge in how the game is played. To do this, remote devices are attached to athletes to track physical data, known as biometrics. Devices then send this information to computers where number-crunching software can draw meaningful conclusions from wide ranges of data points.
The information can be applied however users see fit. In 2019, the NFL hosted its first Big Data Bowl competition. Contestants were provided raw player location data and required to answer questions about how the game would play out based on the data provided.
The competition proved so popular that the NFL hosted another iteration in 2020 with an entirely new set of questions for at-home analysts. Given the popularity of other stats-driven fan hobbies, like fantasy sports leagues, the move for sportsbooks to capitalize on big data and improve the fan experience is expected to boom in the coming years.
In 2018, the Supreme Court repealed a federal ban on sports betting. Since then, more and more US states have passed laws to regulate sportsbooks, whether online or in-person (or both). For sportsbooks like bet365, mentioned above, it’s a race to cut into the sports betting market’s $85 billion value (Global News Wire, 2019).
More and more oddsmakers are looking to offer in-play betting based on live data from in-stadium technology. However, sportsbooks aren’t likely to have access to the devices worn by athletes on the field. In fact, there are quite a few boundaries before a truly seamless live betting experience can be achieved.
Ideally, a sports fan watching from the stands or from home would be able to wager on live events, such as how fast the next pitch will be thrown, how fast the next slapshot will move, or how many yards the wide receiver will catch for.
With a few touches on a mobile device or web browser, punters would be able to make a wager and immediately know based on remote data collection whether they won or not. What’s required to make this happen? A lot more than wearable tech that shares data with sportsbooks.
The only sports league with liberal wearable tech policies is the MLB. Though each franchise is allowed to determine how and why it collects player data, the NFL, NHL, and NBA have all taken a step back from data collection because of player privacy concerns.
In other words, the Minnesota Vikings or the Miami Heat may be collecting and applying player data, but teams aren’t willing to share that information with the league or with fans. Even the MLB, which allows the sharing of metrics like player heart rates, has only limited distribution rights for that information- and no information is distributed during a live game.
Additionally, devices are now being added to equipment, such as bats, balls, pucks, and even goalposts. But it’s not likely sportsbooks will have access to that data anytime soon, either. So what needs to happen for sportsbooks to create a satisfying in-play betting experience?
For the time being, high-performance cameras have helped sports analytics companies provide hard data for big games. However, it’s difficult to collect and distribute meaningful data in a live setting that takes place at breakneck pace – nevermind transform that data into a live bet that users can access from their mobile device.
Sportsbooks also face challenges in developing seamless platforms that can handle a massive influx in usage, such as thousands of punters looking to get in on the action while on the same Wi-Fi network at AT&T Stadium. However, given the revenue and interest behind live betting, it’s only a matter of time before major sportsbooks find meaningful solutions.