A major annual football event is looming large on the screens and in the hearts of football fans everywhere. And while many are immersing themselves in the seemingly endless festivities, I find myself thinking of how technology has radically altered the playing field. Technologies have been transforming NFL over years but with accelerated technology development in broadcasting, high fidelity video playback, virtual or augmented reality and live data analytics, NFL games have been touched in every aspect. Fans are now moving to an era of augmented, 3D, 360-degree football experience.
Instant replay: Today, instant replay is reviewed by both referees on the football field and the officiating staff at NFL’s Art McNally GameDay Central (AMGC) in New York City who are hundreds or thousands of miles away, depending where the game is played. The replay videos from the best available angle from the telecast are compiled and ready for review when the referees arrive at the review booth.
Game play: Coaches now make or change their playbooks and game strategies more confidently and accurately, assisted by live analytics of their players’ performance and the plays devised by the opponent team. Meanwhile, 3D, 360-degree comprehensive game play is delivered to the big screen, on the field, and to television screens in fans living room via the NFL’s FreeD 360-degree replay system.
Fantasy Football: Analytics can now be fed to the game in real time. Rich stats also enable data mining used for scouting (remember “Moneyball”?) and to refine training. In addition, real time reporting and mobility means fans are just a click away from scores, stats and player news. And with digital cameras all over the field, fans can make that highly disputed call all on their own.
All the uncompressed, raw data streaming from cameras throughout the stadium (3K/4K/5K video capture) are fed live to the broadcasting truck on the field, then transmitted to the production studio, and finally broadcast to the review room of the AMGC in NYC for instant replay, and to televisions and portable devices for football fans worldwide. And game stats are produced and analytics, also live, are fed to audiences in the meantime
To cope with all these advancements on the field and in the view room, the broadcasting infrastructure is now undergoing a transformation to an IP-based, flexible, future-proof platform at large scale. Starting from packetizing the SDI payload of audio, video and ancillary data into IP, broadcasters are deploying real-time broadcast systems on today’s Internet infrastructure. However, challenges remain. The live, 3D, 360-degree video streams are extremely sensible to synchronous timing and high bandwidth, and very susceptible to signal delay and packet loss – this is where the Mellanox Ethernet solution shines with its lossless network, consistent high throughout and ultra-low latency, 100G today and 200G soon.
Big data analytics, mobility, e-commerce, social media, and the cloud have all already had a huge impact on the games we watch and play. Technology innovation has not only radically altered the way we interact with sports but it continues to change the sports themselves. Of course, the only thing technologies cannot control is which two teams will show up on Feb. 4, 2018. That’s exactly the beauty of sports, isn’t it?