Wearable Tech World Feature Article
March 19, 2015

What Wearables Will Likely Do For Professional Sports

An interesting side effect of the wearable technology market is that, while it's been shown to have plenty of application for basic home use, it's shown just as much—if not more—value for enterprise users as well. Professional sports is one enterprise that's taking a serious look at wearable devices, and this is a technology that may well change the game—literally and figuratively—as we know it.

Perhaps one of the biggest applications is in the gathering and subsequent use of player data. Andrew Hawkins, a wide receiver from last season with the Cleveland Browns, described it as a situation where a player is called into an office, handed a piece of paper, and then shown the door thereafter, with various stats shown on said page. The technology to carry out such analyses can be easily added to a player's normal loadout of gear—GPS chips can be readily added to padding and the like—and from there, data can be gathered, subject to analysis, and clear conclusions drawn, even if these are the wrong conclusions.

For team managers, however, this data is an absolute godsend. There's no more need to rely on subjective measures any more as all are replaced by hard data. A manager's decision questioned by those above him or her will be explained away with a handful of data points.

So what does this mean for the professional sports field? It takes a lot of burden off managers and coaches, and puts it more sharply on the backs of players. Players who generate the data will be directly accountable for its output, while coaches will be able to cover most any issue by noting how problems in the data are being addressed with more workouts or more training. There's also a larger issue of access to the data afoot here; such data is the treasure trove that fantasy football legends are made of. But beyond that, would a health insurance firm be able to raise rates on a team playing a player who's slowing down, exposing said player to a greater potential for injury?

The biggest question and one that likely won't be addressed until wearable tech becomes a larger part of the game—a particularly gray area thanks to a corporate culture that's largely change-averse by some reports—is just how the data gathered will be used. Will it be the impetus to improve players, or to set up a paper trail to fire higher-paid athletes and replace same with younger models? Will access to the numbers be made available by subscription to fantasy football players, providing pro sports another revenue stream? Will insurers demand access to determine rates?

Wearable tech in pro sports features a lot of cloudy forecasts, mostly because there's not much data to show how these tools are being used. But as that changes we'll get a better handle on just what this new technology means for an old, familiar field. Its ultimate impact is a matter only time will tell, and when it does arrive, it may well leave us with a completely different game.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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