Tag Archives: data collection

Technology In Action—How Professional Sports Are Benefitting

I am always interested in where technology is making a difference in our jobs and in our lives. Lately my thoughts have turned to how technology has changed professional sports. In the U.S., we are heavy into football season and just winding down with baseball. Major league soccer and basketball will start within the next couple of months.

There have been many innovations in how sports are played, watched and officiated, some welcomed and some controversial. Some feel that innovations like instant replay slow down play on the field or court, but others tout the additional fairness and accuracy of officiating. Whatever your position, I think that technology in sports is here to stay and will increase in the future.

That Yellow Line

This is what originally caused me to ponder technology in sports. The trademarked “First and Ten Line” system by SportVision, launched in 1998, displayed a virtual line on a professional football broadcast to indicate the location of a first down. Over the years, other colored lines have been added to represent other things, such as the line of scrimmage. I turned to the very cool website HowStuffWorks.com to find out how it really works. It turns out that it takes four people, six computers, and a tractor trailer full of gear to paint one virtual line. They have to consider the position of all of the on-field cameras and track the movement (pan, zoom, fade) of each so that the line is in synch with the broadcast. The camera view can change at any moment and the virtual line needs to also change.  The size of the field and the slight curvature of the field (for rainwater run off) are factored in and the on-screen color pallet must be constantly recalculated so it is not painted over the top of a player or official and to adjust for changing weather and light conditions, like snow or darkness. These are very sophisticated algorithms that should make any technologist proud.


Hawk-Eye is a ball tracking system first created by engineers in the UK in 2001 and used originally for cricket. It spread to tennis and European football and was used recently at Wimbledon to aid line judges in making calls. This product is mainly used in officiating but can also aid commentating and coaching. It employs sophisticated monitoring to track ball trajectory, impact, and landing.

Keeping Players Healthy

Technology in sports is increasingly being used to keep players healthy. Professional football and basketball teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and Mavericks, are using microchips worn under the jersey during practice to understand and limit injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They also help to refine performance by emitting real-time data on accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, and jumping. This information can help a player understand whether they are favoring one side or the other and can be used to monitor a player in rehabilitation. Using GPS and accelerometers, teams can protect their players as well as seek a competitive edge through data collection and analysis.


These are just some of the ways that technology is being used in sports to enhance performance and entertainment. Many other professional and amateur athletes are using existing technology to track their personal statistics in the hope that the data will yield insights that will help them become the next champion.

Do you personally benefit from technology and data collection? How has it helped enhance your experience of participating in or watching sports? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and professor of practice for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Whose Information Is It Anyway?

In a January 7 Wired magazine article titled “How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet”, the author detailed the Edward Snowden leaks, the US National Security Agency (NSA) revelation of widespread information collection, and the indignant outcry from tech companies. The fact remains, however, that there is a trove of personal information that is scanned and analyzed by governments, private companies, and even those with less than honorable intentions. The NSA claims to do it in the name of national security, private companies claim to help make your life better by predicting what information or product you will need next, and the thieves are just in it for themselves. Nevertheless, it comes down to the fact that it is your information, and the question is—how is it that so many people have access to it?

National Security

In the summer of 2013, former NSA IT consultant Edward Snowden revealed documents that showed widespread data collection by the NSA. He did this, of course, after he was safely out of the country and away from potential prosecution. The documents revealed programs designed to collect information from cell phone metadata and also personal information from Internet records kept by companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yahoo. Some of it was done through secret court orders and some without the knowledge of the companies just mentioned—all in the name of national security for the purpose of rooting out potential terrorism. The question still remains, however, how and why do these companies have your potential information and for what purpose?

Call For Reform

In a December 9, 2013 open letter to Washington, eight tech companies called for reforms on how information is collected and for more transparency in the collection methods. A couple of things strike me as odd about this proclamation. First of all, transparency has never been a hallmark of spy agencies and it seems ridiculous to even suggest that new reality. Second, the companies that collect personal information are now objecting to someone gathering that data from them?

It All Begins With Me

I have no doubt that the NSA and similar agencies have thwarted potential terrorist attacks by analyzing and acting on the data they collect. I believe that some of the methods are suspect but those agencies believe that they are making the world a safer place. Tech companies that provide social media, communications, and search capabilities also believe that they offer a service by drawing inferences from your personal information and steering you toward goods and services that you may like. Most of all, I believe that responsibility for my own information and my own comfort level in sharing that information lies with me. I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to clicking “I Agree” on that End User Agreement without reading the fourteen screens of fine print. I can’t guarantee that I understand the security policy and opt-out agreements of all of the applications that I use, but I am aware of the options I have and which information is being collected. In a sense, the Internet is still the Wild West and we are still trying to grasp the potential and complexity of it all. The first step in understanding is awareness and education. That is our responsibility.


Have you got it all figured out? Do you know the best methods for keeping you and your personal information safe? If so, I would love to hear from you. If not, we can always learn together.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.