Technology is a critical part of many industries, and professional sports is no exception. It can reduce referee errors, gain near real-time insights from the field or augment the fan experience. The challenge, however, is to gain this value without impacting the game.

“The goal is to deliver 100 percent accurate information immediately,” says Mike Krell, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

Technology is providing value to referees and crew chiefs in sports, as crucial data is sent from cameras and sensors to analyze critical moments, such as whether a goal was made, an out-of-bounds line was crossed, or a foul was legit.

Line detection technology is used in sports such as hockey, American football, tennis, football (soccer) and basketball. Even in sailing, sensors detect a wind position and help people align sails to best take advantage of the wind, Krell noted.

Sensors also monitor the landings of athletes in gymnastics to determine whether they are clean. Red Bull Media House is working to incorporate Intel’s Curie technology in athletic gear, and gymnasts have demonstrated the technology, which incorporates real-time sensors to track them as they move.

The key issue with referee decisions in sports is not only the accuracy but how long it takes to come to a decision, noted Krell.

“The issue on a lot of this stuff is the amount of time it takes to get a response,” Krell said.

Often it’s unclear whether a decision is based on technology or the official, he noted.

“What we do know is the faster you can get a response, the better off you’ll be; the more things you can see and measure, the better off you can be,” Krell said.

IoT technology aids referees in football

Starting with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, GoalControl, a company based in Germany, has been focused on helping referees better determine whether a goal has been scored.

The company’s platform consists of 14 cameras, mounted on the roof and catwalks, which track the position of the ball in 3-D.

Cameras capture data from the goal line and send signals to Dell servers. In less than a second, vibration and optical signals are then sent to referees’ watches. The officials find out whether a goal has been scored or not and make their call.