Big Data takes over the NFL


In the past, I have written about how Big Data was changing professional sports.  It is being used extensively in Hockey to allow coaches to better understand how players move around the ice, how well they are positioned and to show how valuable a player is in ways other than their actual game statistics.  It is being used in a similar way in Basketball, as video images are taken many times per second to evaluate the effectiveness of particular offensive or defensive schemes.  And, in Baseball, it is taken to a whole new level.  The reason is that unlike the first two sports, all plays start from a similar position, so is it easier to get comparison statistics from every play. 

Now, Big Data takes on the Gridiron....and, it could not come at a better time.  With players getting bigger and faster, it is not only becoming harder for coaches to view each player's positioning during each play, it is becoming tougher to keep them safe. 

Injuries at the College and Professional levels are becoming more prevalent and severe.  This is especially true when it comes to brain trauma, such as the link between head injuries to CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).  While the NFL has only recently begun to acknowledge the link between playing the sport and long-term brain trauma (perhaps the fact that "Concussion", a movie starring Will Smith about NFL brain injuries, has drawn attention to it), IoT solution providers have been working on solutions for a while. 

How can IoT help the game of Football? 

Sensors are being placed under the shoulder pads of each NFL player this season, up from about half of the players last year.  Using these sensors, data is able to be gathered on each play.  The data ranges from the amount of running that a player does to what kind of impact they may have taken to their exact positioning on the field. 

This information has a lot of effective uses: 

1. It helps to truly understand the effectiveness of a player

Traditional statistics work well for many positions in the NFL.  There is no shortage of great statistics for most offensive skill players.  However, it can be difficult to analytically determine the value of an offensive lineman, as an example.  Sure, they can keep track of how many times a defender gets by them and tries to drive the quarterback through the ground, but it may not always be apparent how effective they were against different types of defenses, different size defenders or after they are tired.....this is where Big Data can help. 

2. It should improve player safety

Some players may have energy to burn on the field, so they never really get tired.  Others are not so lucky and can get quite tired on the field.  Most times when a player is fatigued, in addition to their performance going down, their likelihood of injury tends to go up.  Coaches will now be better equipped to look for signs of fatigue to allow them to more effectively replace players to improve performance and safety.  This should help to reduce serious injuries including head injuries that have been well covered in the media as of late. 

3. It allows for better planning and in-game adjustments

One of the aspects of football that I love is both the amount of preparation that is done by the coaching staff before the game and what is done during the game.  Before, overhead shots from the top of the stadium were used to see how effective certain plays were and adjustments were made based on the results.  However, they were mostly just a string of still shots, so it didn't always give a great understanding.  By having real time data that can be analyzed in seconds, coaches will get much better information about what has happened early in the game.  This will allow for better in-game decisions. 

As well, forward thinking coaches will be able to better focus their limited planning time using better information than ever before.....this should make the great coaches even better! 

The Bottom Line

Considering how much money is involved (from both a revenue standpoint as well as a gambling one) with each NFL game, it only makes sense that they would use better tools to gain an advantage over their opponents.  Big Data allows you to see more than ever before while making the game safer.  

Let's face it, football is a violent game.  Big men running into each other on every play is always going to have a high level of injuries.  If fans of the game want to see this game played well into the future, we need to encourage that measures are taken to keep players healthy and not just because of Hollywood making a movie about it...

IoT – Making couch potatoes even lazier…

In prehistoric days, life was definitely easier in some ways.  I mean, they did not have to worry about commuter traffic, what to bring for a Christmas party and how frustrating it is when places don't provide free WiFi.  All they had to worry about was not starving to death, disease from food and being eaten by large animals.  Yes, life was must simpler. 

Thanks to our friends in the world of IoT, we are going to take one of the worries out of life....falling asleep and missing part of your program on Netflix. 

As athletic as I try to be, even I get so into a show that I end up "binge-watching", and Netflix is often on when this happens.  Ranging from "House of Cards" to "Narcos", they have some of the most addictive shows available anywhere.  It makes sense that you don't want to miss any of it, and now thanks to your socks, you won't. 

Wait, did you just say SOCKS?  I really wish that I was making this up, actually....

netflix socks


A Do-it-yourself product is available through Netflix (click here if you think I am kidding
).  It allows you to build a pair of socks that will detect when you are asleep, as opposed to just lying there motionless while Daredevil fights Wilson Fisk.  If it detects that you are actually counting sheep, a signal is sent to tell your Netflix to pause.  In the event that it thinks you are asleep (but you are not actually snoring), it will warn you first.  All you have to do is move slightly and it will continue on... 

So many questions come up... 

1. What a useless piece of crap this is, why bother?  I guess to some people, this is actually a problem that needed to be solved...

2. If what you are watching is so riveting that you can't bare to miss a second of it, why are you falling asleep anyways?

3. If you have enough skill to do something like this, might you want to put your skills to something more useful....like a system that automatically notices when your cat is doing something cute, films it and posts it on YouTube? 

Bottom Line

While I always like when an IoT-related gadget gets news attention, this one makes me shiver.  I am almost not sure if it is real, as I am hoping this is just a really weird and early April Fools joke from our friends at Netflix.  It also is a great example of a "First World problem", in the same manner that most people know the "Hot Coffee at McDonald's" as a quick example of a frivolous law suit.  However, if it helps to bring joy to people's life, I guess it is harmless.

Buying an IoT solution? Think like you are buying a car.

Like many people, my wife and I tend to keep our cars for a while.  While we aren't one to tell stories about how our car "rolled over 250,000 miles", it is not uncommon for us to keep our cars for 10 years or so.  However, eventually, even the best cars need to be replaced, so we are starting to look for a new one. 

Part of the reason why I was relatively successful as a salesperson was that I tried to always do my research, and this is something that I continue in my personal life.  As part of this, I started to look at what were the best selling cars of the past couple of years, a list that seems to echo what I see on the street.  Among them are the usual suspects....Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and others.  It got me to thinking....why are these still among the market leaders after being around for so long and why aren't lower cost models knocking them off of the Sales "podium"? 

It turns out that when it comes to cars, consumers don't mind paying a bit more for what they perceive is a better overall value.....in this case, years of reliable service and an above-average resale value when they decide to move on. 

I only wish that more customers would think the same way when it comes to buying an IoT solution... 

I often hear this from customers...."I have some vital pieces of equipment in the field that I need to gather information from....what is the cheapest unit that I can use?"  Makes you wonder, why do they value the car that they drive the way that they do but not use the same mentality for something that may be just as vital? 

Instead of focusing on just one aspect of the solution (cost), they should be focusing on: 

Cost vs. longevity  

A $200 device may seem like a great bargain compared to a $600 one, but what if I told you that the $600 device would last 10x longer....is it still a bargain when you would have to spend $2000 on low cost devices to last as long as a single $600 device? 

Reliability vs. downtime costs

In some cases, there may not be a huge cost for downtime.  If your employee can reach over and hit a reset button to bring a solution back up in a matter of seconds, chances are that you aren't too concerned.  But, what if downtime of a device costs you thousands of dollars each MINUTE that it was down....and what if the device was located an hour's drive from your nearest worker?  Something tells me that you would be willing to put a bit extra money into a device that would save you downtime. 

Expandability vs. fixed solutions
 

One of the biggest reasons why LTE/4G solutions are taking hold in the world of M2M/IoT is that they give people a longer life than some 2G solutions (as those 2G networks may see an end in the next few years).  The same goes for products that offer expanded solutions, such as the ability to add a WiFi or GPS card after the product has been purchased.  This provides more flexibility and may save a device from being obsolete much sooner. 

Ability to capture data easily

Some devices are only part of the offering from a manufacturer....some actually help you gather data from them easily.  So, while you may only be thinking about using a modem for Internet connectivity, you may wish to look at a manufacturer that will allow you to add the ability to capture new data from your devices. 

The Bottom Line

While I can't say that I love car shopping, I find that if you go there prepared, you can usually get a good deal on a car that meets your needs.  The same goes for a modem....buy what you need now and in the future for a better overall value.

‘Prettier’ mousetraps key to wearables long-term success

I was at a corporate event a few weeks back and they had the usual "prize table grab". Numbers were called and people got to come up and grab the prize of their choice. Before the great parade of people, I went to check out what was donated and it was interesting.
The event was held by a company in the technology space, so it makes sense that not only were the gifts that they provided heavily focused on technology but many of the attendees brought technology-focused gifts as well.....and no gift was more popular than the FitBit.

wearables

I stopped counting at 15 Fitbits, and they were not the only ones represented, as products from Garmin, Polar, Nike and others were all there.  One could have started their own technology store with the haul of devices if one was so inclined. 

Got me to thinking two things....First, how many of these will still be on someone's wrist at Christmas?    The second thing is....if we don't pretty these up, this trend is going to end. 

What is wrong with the current generation?
I wrote in another blog about how I had moved towards a different device, the Withings Activite, for its simplicity.  While I do want to keep track of my health, I don't always need something flashing at me or beeping.  As well, I have enough ways for people to get a hold of me now, so the idea of true SmartWatch does not appeal to me. 

Based on the less than stellar response to the Apple Watch, I am not alone.  Sure, Apple sold a ton of them, but one only has to look at the lacklustre reviews of the product to see that Cupertino did not hit a bullseye with this product. 

So, what will make it better? 

Better aesthetics will help 
Fitness trackers look quite cool...in the gym.  They are not all that cool when one is wearing a suit.  I guess at first, the people that wore them were seen as trend setters, so in that way, they were cool, but nothing looks out of place more next to a business suit than a plastic wrist strap with a big LED display on it.  The Apple watch was a good move towards where the industry needs to go.  Devices from companies like Alpina, Tag Heuer and Frederique Constant will also help, at least for the higher end market.  Look for companies like Swatch and others to take care of the lower end market.

 Improve battery life  
One device that always seems to make its way back onto my wrist at some point when I am testing some of these devices out is my Garmin Vivofit.  Why?  Because I don't have to charge the battery, it uses a watch battery.  No serious watch wearer will put up with charging a battery every night.  This is part of the reason why most wearables get put in the drawer....people forget to put them on after they are charged and end up leaving them at home.  After a while, you figure that it is not worth it....

Use sensors and a smartphone instead  
Ok, I guess you can determine by this statement that  I am not an investor in Fitbit.  Their approach, while they talk greatly about software, is still too hardware-centric for my liking.  One thought that I had is that since most of us carry around a smartphone when we leave the house (and are usually close to our phones at home), would it not make sense to move towards some sort of sensor solution that better utilizes our smartphones?  Withings seems to have embraced this, as they use the camera on the phone to check your pulse, but I think we can do so much more.  People will leave their home without their Fitbit, but rarely without their iPhone. 

The Bottom Line
As someone who is in their 3rd year of wearing some sort of device, I have long made it past the trial phase and won't be giving mine up anytime soon.  However, most people don't think the way that I do, so manufacturers need to do a better job or face extinction.  This may make the gift table look a bit different....can you really go wrong with a good bottle of wine?

Why my life is going to become a little less smart…

For anyone who has read some of my previous posts, it is pretty fair to describe me as a bit of a "techie nerd".  I try to chalk it up to my work....I mean, I am an owner in a Technology company, so I really should use this stuff, but the reality is that I would likely be using it anyways. 

Like many people, I got pretty heavy into the world of wearable technology.  I was fascinated by the amount of data that I could get....even if most of the actual data really had no meaningful impact on my life.  If you have seen me over the past 2 years, you've likely seen me with some sort of new device on either my wrist or my belt (or both) to keep track of virtually all movement I ever make.  In fact, there are many movements that I make to simply prevent the inactivity alarm on my device from going off.....or to make sure that I hit all 10,000 steps in my daily goal. 

Well, I'm ok with becoming a little less smart for a while, without having to go "cold turkey" on the device side. 

Enter my newest device, the Withings Activite...

Sure, I haven't given up on the whole idea of monitoring my activity.  This device (which happens to be stunningly beautiful, by the way) while it looks like an ordinary watch, does keep track of my activity.  It will tell me how many steps I walked, how much I slept and even some of my runs/swims.  However, it does it without being intruding like most devices.  It won't bug me to get up and it won't buzz at me for no apparent reason.  

As well, it won't do what many other watches will do....it won't tell me when I have an email, when someone bid on something I posted on EBay or that my aunt likes the latest picture of my kids on Facebook....and, that is good with me! 

The Bottom Line

In a world where I have too many emails accounts, a number of social media accounts and even multiple phone numbers, I simply have hit the limit on how "smart" my life needs to be.  I still value keeping track of the data in my life, but no longer need it to control my life.  I am ok to go back to a simple watch-like interface that lets me check on my data when I want to.  If I want to have something interrupt my life with information that doesn't affect me all that much....well, I have a talkative 4 year old for that!