As technology has become further embedded in the sports fan’s viewing habits in recent years every major sporting event receives more views than the previous. And with the explosion of digital options for watching sports events “views” come in many forms and broadcast companies measure their digital reach in addition to their television audience. This year’s 2014 soccer tournament in Brazil will be no different. Technology will be impacting every aspect of the event as hundreds of millions of fans around the globe will tune in on tablets, phone, web and TV to most likely make it the most watched event of all time.
When fans watch their nation’s team play The Beautiful Game in Brazil they may not be privy to all of the new technology present that was not at the 2010 tournament in South Africa. But between 4K resolution, goal-line technology and the components of the official event ball there is much more tech than meets the eye.
Sony and FIFA recently announced that they will work together to make the 2014 World Cup a 4K production. For those of us not caught up on the latest television technology lingo, 4K is a term that describes display devices that have a horizontal resolution of 4,000 pixels. Translation: 4K is ultra high-definition television compared to the current standard 1080p hi-def resolution that most consumers are familiar with.
This type of hi-tech, extra clear viewing experience seems to be tailor made for a sports watching experience. But the problem is that 4K television has yet to capture the attention of the masses because there is a lack of content and the cheapest 4K TV’s available to consumers start at around $1000. So Sony’s goal with their FIFA collaboration is to try and bring this hi-tech future of TV to the mainstream by partnering with FIFA for the world’s largest television viewing event.
To demonstrate what the action looks like in 4K, Sony is capturing footage of the final, one quarter-final and a round of 16 game on June 28th. The footage from these games will then be included in the official 2014 tournament film that will be produced in, you guessed it, 4K. The film will be presented online through 4K content distribution platforms after the World Cup has concluded.
This partnership between Sony and FIFA will be interesting because 4K tech is promising but still has not been largely adopted at the consumer level. The ultimate question is how effective will the world’s largest television viewing event be at marketing 4K? Sony seems to think it is a worthwhile opportunity and on paper it looks like there is no better time to market this specific type of tech. So as you watch the tournament this summer keep in mind its ramifications on the latest technology in the television industry.
Goal Line Tech
For the first time in tournament history, goal line technology (GLT) will be used to assist referees this summer in Brazil. To implement this tech, FIFA went through a long process of testing potential GLT companies and having them audition their systems at FIFA matches. From this process FIFA ended up appointing GoalControl GmbH as the official goal line technology provider for the 2014 tournament.
GoalControl GmbH had to go through the FIFA Quality Programme and earn a FIFA Quality PRO certificate. This certificate is FIFA’s way of assuring fans that any given system they implement has been thoroughly tested – in this case the system from GoalControl GmbH was tested at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013- and is fit for match play.
The current challenge with this tech is to install and test it in each of the 12 stadiums that will host matches. To set it up 14 high-speed cameras are positioned around a stadium with seven of the cameras tracking each goal line plane. As matches are played the position of the ball is tracked in 3D. If the ball crosses the goal line plane the referee is alerted within one second on a wristwatch that is synced to the GoalControl system.
Throughout the process of installing this system FIFA has posted videos like the one below to provide great visibility for fans to see how GoalControl GmbH is preparing their GLT.
For the overwhelming majority of goals scored in FIFA matches it is obvious if the ball crossed the plane and easy for the referees to deem a goal. But who knows if it will even be needed in this year’s tournament in Brazil.
Out of the 68 goals scored in the 2013 FIFA Confederations matches there were zero goal line incidents. But the small percentage of tricky instances where the ball may have crossed the plane for a split second is where this tech will be crucial.
The Brazuca is a new ball designed by Adidas – since 1970 every tournament ball has been designed by Adidas – that was revealed in December of 2013 and created for this year’s World Cup. The name “Brazuca” was chosen in September of 2012 by a vote of 1 million Brazilian football fans. The name is a local term for describing national Brazilian pride for and the colors and design symbolize the emotions and pride associated with football in Brazil.
Beyond the symbolism and aesthetics of the ball there is quite a bit of tech that goes into creating it. The Brazuca is different than traditional soccer balls because it is made up of six interlocking polyurethane panels and has thousands of small dimples on the surface that are designed to create grip and speed.
Balls from previous tournaments have been subject to scrutiny for being too light and having erratic flight paths due to their make up. But the Brazuca has been tested for two-and-a-half years and has received approval from 600 of the world’s top players including Lionel Messi, Iker Casillas, Bastian Schweinsteiger and former France player Zinedine Zidane.
Adidas is confident that the Brazuca’s technology will “meet and exceed all FIFA metrics” and will “ensure top performance for every condition.”
“A new structural innovation with a unique symmetry of six identical panels alongside a different surface structure will provide improved grip, touch, stability and aerodynamics on the pitch. Brazuca has been thoroughly tested to meet and exceed all FIFA metrics for an official match ball, ensuring top performance for every condition,” an Adidas statement read.
This video shows the precision and skill that goes into constructing the ball.
Taylor Bloom is the Managing Director at SportTechie.com and a sports technology enthusiast. SportTechie is a daily news site that examines and explores the many different ways that technology is disrupting the sports industry and impacting athletes and teams. Due to constant involvement in the sports tech world through his SportTechie work, Taylor was very excited to contribute to IQ Intel. Feel free to Tweet him @taylorhbloom or email him firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to connect or discuss the intersection of sports and technology.
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