FC Barcelona is investing further in Internet of Things (IoT) technology to improve player performance and better connect with fans in its stadium.
The giants of Spanish football are said to be making big infrastructure changes to their stadium – with a new expansion due by the 2021-2022 season – as well as adopting newer wearables and analytics capabilities as part of an ongoing technological enhancement, according to Network World.
FC Barcelona ahead of the IoT curve?
The use of data and analytics in sport has just about become the norm; those that aren’t familiar with these technologies are getting left behind. If you don’t believe us, go and watch/read Moneyball.
So it’s hardly surprising that FC Barcelona is at the forefront of this technological change. The club is reportedly preparing to add more than 1,000 Wi-Fi access points, video security cameras, touchscreens, contactless ticketing, and new mobile apps to its much-loved Camp Nou. And that’s just the stadium.
For the players, traditional wearables supposedly don’t cut it. That’s according to Raúl Peláez, the club’s head of sports technology. Peláez – whose job it is to “put all its players in a position to win” – says wearables that track player movements, fitness and health have limitations for professional athletes. The problem: they’re too invasive.
For that reason, Barcelona only uses these devices during training, and only if the players want to. Instead, Peláez wants to use things like smart fabrics, which deliver the biometrics tracked by wearables but are less invasive for the players.
Once the data is generated, it’s all about making it work and do more for the club, so Peláez has a team of 20 people working on Barcelona’s own custom data and analytics platform. This is available across the club’s teams in five different sports. Coaches simply access the data and the analysis on smartphones or tablets, and share key information with players via the club’s app. Supposedly this works best when communicating with a team of predominantly millennials.
“The only KPI that matters is the win”
The club will not be stopping there, however. Virtual reality (VR) is viewed by the club as an important tool for a number of reasons.
“We need to train our players more hours,” Peláez said, “but without loading their bodies with more stress.” His feeling is that VR might help.
“It also promises to help injured players regain their rhythm while their bodies are still healing,” Peláez said, and for younger players it could be a chance to experience a simulated version of the professional game; something which is a rare commodity at the highest level.
There are still questions to be answered over the use of data in sport – who owns the data once a player leaves? Should that data follow the player to another club? And what about player privacy?
For Barcelona and Peláez, these questions are yet to be answered, but realistically “the only KPI that matters is the win.”