How AI is revolutionizing sports: NFL's approach to enhancing experiences using technology

How AI is revolutionizing sports: NFL’s approach to enhancing experiences using technology

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As technology rapidly progresses, various industries are embracing artificial intelligence to improve efficiency and effectiveness. 

The sports industry is also following suit. In the National Football League, AI has played a crucial role in prioritizing player safety, enhancing fan engagement and equipping teams with data-driven information to make informed decisions. The use of AI has revolutionized the way the NFL operates, ensuring a safer and more immersive experience for players and fans alike while empowering teams to make strategic choices based on valuable insights.

Combining advanced technology partners and multiple data sources, the NFL aims to create a more immersive fan experience by synchronizing live game data with live broadcasts in near real time, according to Aaron Amendolia (pictured), deputy chief information officer of the National Football League Enterprises LLC.

“I think a lot of what we’re doing with AI — we’ve been doing AI for many years at the NFL — but now we’re on this new era of AI, with genAI and machine learning starting to emerge,” Amendolia said. “Some of those things really come to maturity on game day, on the field, as well as for what we do with fans.”

Amendolia spoke with theCUBE industry analyst Rob Strechay at Supercloud 4, during an exclusive broadcast on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio. They discussed using technology to enhance the fan experience, improve decision-making in officiating games, and prioritize equity and integrity in designing experiences for teams.

Faster information flow

Enhancing the fan experience and decision-making in the game is important, and it is crucial to balance it with not interfering with the on-field action, according to Amendolia. AI can aid decision-making in the officiating of football games by supplying information faster and more accurately. However, it must be able to function effectively in various environmental conditions.

“Our officials, our skilled people in the field, that’s where the decision’s going to happen. But how can we take some factors of information, supply it to them faster, supply it to them more accurately,” Amendolia said. “Do we have wearables or other types of devices that we can pipe information to officials, you know, potentially to other people who have aspects operating the game. That’s what we’re looking at.”

The emergence of AI allows for the integration of multiple data sources, such as sensors on players’ pads and optical tracking cameras, to enhance decision-making and fan engagement in near real time.

Equity and integrity

The NFL aims to recreate the same game experience internationally in countries such as Spain and Brazil without reducing technology or limiting their efforts, Amendolia explained. Creating portable kits with the best technology and relying on partnerships with companies, such as Extreme Networks and Verizon Communications Inc., is crucial for the National Football League to ensure efficient and cost-effective wireless communication in stadiums worldwide.

“Now all these stadiums, as many know in this industry, it’s not inexpensive to place all of the radios and equipment that you need to cover the places that we cover. So, we actually look into … a patchwork of solutions that are unified together,” Amendolia said. “We might have to lean on one for the primary and fall back to another, depending on what market we’re in. But it’s very important to be agile and to have multiple options across these.”

Considerations for testing and implementing future technologies in the NFL include ensuring consistent experience under various conditions, equal access for fans regardless of carrier, reliability, functionality, performance, resilience and portability, according to Amendolia. It is extremely important to have an agile, effective and resilient infrastructure that can operate in various locations, whether it be edge compute or the cloud. The technology used in the NFL must be portable and able to be set up and operated within 24 hours’ notice, regardless of the location, he added.

“We start with designing these experiences with equity and integrity so the operation of them is transparent, the experience of them is equal. We are able to manage and monitor that they’re secure, that everybody feels that this is a secure and reliable solution,” Amendolia said. “And then we’re going to make sure that, again, it’s something usable. You know, the technology, if it can’t be adopted by every team equally, if it can’t be used by every team equally, then why are we doing it?”

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of Supercloud 4:

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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