06 Jul 2022 World leisure: news, training & property
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Fit Tech
2020 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Toni Knowlson, Amazon Web Services

In conversation

Toni Knowlson, Amazon Web Services

The digital innovation lead at Amazon Web Services, Australia and New Zealand, talks to Steph Eaves about smart balls, Formula 1 and fan engagement

Steph Eaves, Health Club Management and Sports Management
Toni Knowlson is digital innovation lead at AWS in Australia and New Zealand
Knowlson says AI and ML technology will help sports remain relevant
Sportcor’s Smart Ball can measure spin and speed
Using AWS, Formula 1 can capture key performance data for each car
The NFL collects data from RFID devices in players’ shoulder pads
Swimming Australia aims to use AWS to optimise athlete performance
Kayo is a new way for Aussies to experience sport

How is Amazon Web Services changing the sports industry?
Amazon Web Services is working closely with local and global sporting organisations that are using AWS cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) technologies to reimagine the sporting experience, deepen fan engagement, and achieve meaningful data insights to help athletes perform better.

In Australia, there are already promising examples of young local companies using AWS to innovate. Working from his garage, the owner of Queensland-based Sportcor, Ben Tattersfield, used AWS cloud to create a smart ball concept that can be used for cricket, golf and athletics and which displays useful details, including its spin and speed during play.

Tattersfield’s company is also planning to roll out its technology for other ball sports such as netball and rugby, as well as integrating it into equipment, such as helmets.

AWS also powers the data-driven sport of Formula 1 racing. During each race, 120 sensors on each car generate 3GB of data, and 1,500 data points are generated each second. Using our ML technology, Amazon SageMaker, Formula 1’s data scientists are able to train deep-learning models, which learn from 65 years of historical race data, to extract critical race performance statistics, make race predictions, and give fans an insight into the split-second decisions and strategies adopted by all the teams and drivers.

By streaming real-time race data to AWS using Amazon Kinesis, Formula 1 is able to capture and process key performance data for each car during every twist and turn of the race circuits. Then, by deploying advanced machine learning via Amazon SageMaker, Formula 1 can pinpoint exactly how a driver is performing and whether or not any drivers have pushed themselves over the limit. By sharing these insights through television broadcasts and digital platforms, Formula 1 is giving fans access to the inner workings of their favourite teams and drivers.

Is AWS working on any exciting new projects?
We’re working with Swimming Australia to identify innovation opportunities by leveraging big data technologies to collect, analyse, and share data, that can then be used to drive new projects that will bring swimmers, fans, and the community closer to the race action.

With AWS, Swimming Australia aims to optimise athlete performance at critical junctures of the race, create new swimming meet formats, connect the national tribe of swimmers to better identify talent, and provide more meaningful fan experiences.

How is tech changing the experience of sport – both for athletes and fans?
The emergence of cloud technology has helped drive faster adoption and real-world use of AI and ML technologies. Data analytics is definitely changing the way fans are consuming the sporting experience. Customers can integrate AWS AI and ML technologies into their applications now without having to purchase expensive, high performance technology hardware, and can get started in minutes, with no long-term commitments, and only pay for what they use.

For example, the NFL is working with AWS to power its player tracking programme, which is called Next Gen Stats (NGS). It uses sophisticated tracking technology collected via RFID devices in the shoulder pads of every player and embedded at each of its stadiums. These devices capture data about which players are on the field at a given moment, their location to within inches, and the speed and direction in which they move. This treasure trove of data represents a tremendous resource for the league’s 32 teams, multiple media partners and approximately 180 million fans worldwide.

Powered by Amazon SageMaker, the NGS platform allows the NFL to quickly and easily create and deploy ML models capable of interpreting gameplay. One example is NGS’s Completion Probability metric, which integrates more than 10 in-play measurements, ranging from the length and velocity of a specific pass to the distance between the receiver and the closest defenders – as well as the quarterback and nearest pass rushers.

Using Amazon SageMaker to build, train and run these predictive models helped reduce the time it takes to get to results by as much as 12 hours down to 30 minutes. The results help fans understand why some passing plays are more difficult than others and provide a more meaningful understanding of the game itself. These insights can quickly be used by the NFL and its media partners to enhance broadcasts and online content, or even to educate and excite fans inside the stadium.

Additionally, the NFL can then take these insights and apply them to different parts of the organisation, helping coaches create better game plans and finding ways to improve player safety.

Tell us about your work with Kayo
Kayo is offering new kinds of viewing experiences, such as personalised live streaming and video catch-up functionality, using AWS services – including AWS Elemental Live encoding and Amazon CloudFront.

For example, Kayo SplitView offers up to four events or camera angles on one screen on selected devices, while Kayo Key Moments captures highlights from matches, so sports fans can get straight to the action they want to watch.

Kayo provides a new way for Australians to experience sport, offering over 30,000 hours of content and game-changing features, with more than 50 sports events steamed instantly from Australia and other countries for viewing on iOS and Android mobile devices, laptops and PCs, and on TVs with Telstra TV, Apple TV and Chromecast Ultra apps.

The Kayo network is powered by Fox Sports Australia, ESPN, and beIN Sports.
What will sport look like in the future?
The future of sports will increasingly be more data-driven and powered by cloud technologies. With fans becoming more digitally connected, they want to be the first to be in on the action, follow their favourite teams, and consume sports from anywhere and on any device.

Cloud technologies provide the scalability to stream events live or host heavy data workloads and draw actionable insights through analytics.

Where can this technology take us?
We see this technology as an enabler in improving customer outcomes and ensuring sporting organisations remain relevant.

We’re entering a golden age of AI and ML and believe AI will revolutionise almost all aspects of technology – making it easier to do things that currently take considerable time and effort, such as deriving data insights to increase fan engagement and enhancing athlete performance.

It can also power everything from personalisation, language understanding, and computer vision, to big ideas like self-driving cars.

The cloud has spurred researchers and developers to experiment with new algorithms in deep learning and we’ll see advances in reinforcement learning and the auto-tuning of models across a wide variety of domains, even beyond the sporting arena.

Originally published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 1

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