A significant sports event for the region, the SEA (Southeast Asia) Games opened on 5th June till 16th June to much fanfare. If you were in the city-state during the period, it is impossible not to feel the heat and excitement that were built up to the event.
With 402 events in 36 sports featured, and approximately 4370 athletes from 11 participating nations in the Games, it was indeed an unforgettable experience for both the athletes and spectators.
But besides dazzling ceremonies and adrenaline-pumping sports – made possible by friendly volunteers and dedicated staff, did you know that there was also a team who worked hard in the sports analytics department?
Kept fairly busy throughout the games, the High Performance Sports Analytics Technology team of the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) worked quietly behind the scenes to give the games a technology-edge by providing athletes and their coaches with HD quality games video for sports analysis.
WHAT IS SPORTS ANALYTICS?
Not entirely new in the sports world, coaches and sports analysts have been using sports analytics to improve athletes’ performance for the longest time. Back when we did not have advanced AV and IT technology, sports analysis was done manually.
But with better technology available, sports analytics has become much more sophisticated. Instead of using manual means to analyse data, sports analysts now use computers, videos and specialised analysis software.
For the SEA Games, the High Performance Sports Analytics Technology team of the Singapore Sports Institute incorporated the Dartfish software which is a video solution that helps provide visual feedback to the athletes, coaches and referees. The software enabled the coaches to view, edit and analyse the performance of their athletes through HD quality videos.
Using a private online platform, coaches were able to access the videos using computer or mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. The software combines technical, tactical and statistical analysis as well as annotation functions that allow coaches to highlight certain executions such as the athlete’s knee angle as he or she is running etc.
As we welcomed the Big Data Age, data analysis became even more important. After all, what is the use of having data if we can’t use them? In the growing field of sports analytics, athlete’s performance data and videos collected during competitions and trainings are analysed by sports analysts and churned out as figures and graphs for coaches to work on.
Other than optimising athlete’s performance, sports analytics is also used to determine an athlete’s worth during talent spotting and screening. At times, the results can also be used to guide coaches’ decisions during games. Coupled with wearable technology, sports analytic is expected to reach a new level in the next decade.
Importance of Recording Good Quality Video
However sports analysis wouldn’t be possible if analysts are not able to record good quality videos of the athlete’s performance. To do so, a good ICT infrastructure is required for fast video transmission and luckily for the team, Singapore was prepared for that.
At this year’s SEA Games, the Singapore Sports Institute saw the opportunity to record quality video as the city-state is equipped with high speed fibre optic connection. Making use of the country’s advanced infrastructure – also one of the first few success cases in Southeast Asia, the Singapore Sports Institute’s sports analytics team set up an operation room at the Singapore Sports Hub for that purpose.
Tapping on Singapore’s high speed fibre optic cable connection, the team made use of Riedel’s cutting-edge signal transport processing technology, MediorNet, to create a real-time network of video, audio and data communication within the Kallang cluster. The said cluster consists of the Singapore National Stadium, OCBC Arena Halls and OCBC Aquatic Centre. Some of the recorded games within the cluster include: Netball, Basketball, Table Tennis, Badminton, Tennis, Swimming, Diving, Water Polo etc.
For this installation, a total of six MediorNet Modular frames were used. Using two pairs of fibre at each location, two video feeds from each locations were fed into individual MediorNet Modular frames. Each frame was connected to two CWDM-8 channels card in a ring topology. For games happening at the National Stadium, the videos were fed via Mediacorp’s OB trucks.
At the main operation room where all the video feeds were gathered from the four locations, there were two units of the MediorNet modular frames with 5 links connected between the two frames and eight uncompressed HD video outputs to the workstation for recording purposes. Providing more than just simple point-to-point links, MediorNet allowed the team to send any incoming signal to any output or even to multiple outputs.
All feeds were live-recorded and had at least two different point of views of the same event. For example in swimming events, one feed was recorded from the moving camera that followed the athletes, while another is a more closeup angle of the moving swimmer.
In this instance, recording video is made easy and convenient, with zero to little latency – a feature the team greatly appreciated. In addition, MediorNet also helped the team to reduce the number of fi bre optic cables that is usually required in such a set-up by half.
The Singapore Sports Institute Says
A multiplex solution, the MediorNet network enabled the sports analytics team to monitor and record the multiple games simultaneously in a centralized location. All videos were recorded realtime and in uncompressed HD quality. “(MediorNet) is easy to install and operate.” said Benoit Ammann, Deputy Director, High Performance Sports Analytics & Technology, Singapore Sports Institute. “Everything is connected and it is within the same ecosystem.”
Before the days of fi bre optic transmission and advanced signal transporting processors, sport analysis often involved more hands-on video recording.
“(The whole ecosystem installed here) saves us on manpower, where we no longer need to send someone on the field to record live feeds. We can easily tap on existing camera feeds and record them,” said Benoit, on the key benefit of the network. And what were the responses from the coaches who were the end-users of the solution?
“They like it. This is an advanced service usually provided only at higher level sports meet like World Cup and Olympics, so being able to bring it to a regional game has greatly brought up the use of technology in sports analytics in the region.”
“Furthermore, the rise of mobile technology has also given sports analytics an extra edge as coaches can now playback the video on their tablets and smartphones.”
Of course, these were all only made possible with good ICT infrastructure and advanced processing technology that was able to handle all that huge bandwidth of uncompressed, HD videos.
*This article was first published in August-September 2015 issue of Systems Integration Asia.