Question: Why is big data important in sports today?
In sports, we’re able to collect more information than ever. STATS LLC (one of our competitors) has created a technology called SportVU that allows them to track NBA players on the court, leading to a whole set of data that dictates a player’s location at each point in time. This uses cameras at different angles to achieve this. Soon enough, NFL teams will put unique tracking devices on players belts to get some real tracking data. From this, you could determine who moves the fastest, or who changes directions the quickest. Tons of innovation here.
Question: Where does the value of sports analytics lay when it comes to coaches, players, and general managers?
If you talk about coaches, they have the ability to use data from past events to decide whether they go for it on 4th down or they kick a field goal. Now, from what I’ve heard, coaches don’t actually like to surrender to computers in these cases, they’d rather make their own decision and decide based on their players and the flow of the game. I think sometimes that’s a good idea, but they can only gain insight from what a non-partial computer system tells them to do.
Another cool thing is that playbooks are on iPads now. No more paper for storing and studying plays. It’s also more secure because you can remote wipe the data if it gets lost or stolen. That doesn’t work with paper.
Regarding general managers … I think it’s mostly through watching film, talking to the players and their coaches and deciding based on those things. But, they also use data because the NFL runs the scouting combine in order to obtain data about player speed, strength, agility, etc. Obviously they look at stats too, but I think they spend a lot of time on film. They usually build their own in-house applications for managing information on college prospects also. I know the Philadelphia Eagles do that. So, they do build in-house technology.
Question: What trends are most popular and being highly sought after when analyzing sports data?
Predicting stuff. Predicting fantasy performances is an endless goal that people love going after. We actually just rolled out projected player stats in our API a couple weeks ago. This is really useful for our clients who run salary cap contests and don't want to develop their own salary cap formula.
Question: How can a mobile application help support these trends?
Well, you want everything to be on your mobile devices. So, having your projections and metrics stream to phones and tablets is powerful and effective. I enjoy using my iPad way more than my laptop, and I think part of the reason is because iPad tend to be streamlined and give you what you want.
Question: Give examples of both ineffective and effective mobile applications using sport data and tell us why.
Good question. This is a tough one. A good example is something like the ESPN Fantasy Football app. It runs on phones and tablets, so you can check your roster, set your starters, and you can even draft your team from the iPhone and iPad. Pretty awesome stuff. In fact, I preferred drafting on the iPad vs. the laptop for my fantasy draft last year. To aggregate all relevant information to the screen size, while also not having too much information, is powerful, and UX designers get paid big bucks to do this.
An ineffective mobile app is one that doesn’t allow you to do what you “need to do” from it. For instance, if you can’t research which players you want during your fantasy draft, and you need another device to do that, then you might as well use a laptop, where you can multi-task to have all the information you need.
Question: Five years from now where do you see mobile devices being used most in the game of sports (both from the professional and grassroots leave)?
Well, in the NFL, I think they should allow mobile devices to be used on the sidelines during games. Why not? It would create a whole sub-industry of real-time game mobile apps and I think it’d be awesome. Sure, it could shift the power to a team who has the best technology, rather than the best players, but not as much as they think, in my opinion.
Question: How can mobile application help simplify information driven through sports analytics?
Mobile apps are really meant to hide the noise and show the value. So, in that sense, they exist because they simplify information for the user. Just like the ESPN fantasy football mobile app that allows you to draft your team entirely on your phone, it’s because only the high value information is shown that this is possible.