Cheering for baseball and the Internet of Things

  • Data-hungry fans are being fed like never before by on-field sensors and cameras.

  • Wearable tech isn't game-legal yet, but is already helping players optimize their game.

  • Injury reduction and durability are also in the lineup.

The hot dogs are boiling, the Cracker Jack bags are rustling, and the bats are in full swing. The Major League Baseball season is underway. But although some of you may be thinking about playing hooky and taking in a game, I’m thinking about work more than ever. That’s because the modern game is just as fixated on the Internet of Things (IoT) as I am.

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Move over, scorecards

Just about everybody connected to the game loves statistics, from players and coaches to upper management. And IoT devices—like MLB’s Statcast system—are churning out an amazing range of new detail. Statcast was introduced during the 2015 season, so 2016 will be the first year fans and clubs can analyze the gritty details over the entire 162-game regular season and beyond.

Special positional sensors collect thousands of data points per second. They’re aided by high-resolution, high-frame rate cameras that can break down the tiniest inefficiencies in play. Behind the scenes, code reconciles all the data from these smart devices into fascinating insights about every player on the field.

Statcast is revolutionizing the field of defensive analysis in particular. The first wave of baseball analytics was much stronger and more accurate with offensive output. With Statcast, fielder running routes and throwing decisions can be dissected to the most minute detail. And it helps pitchers get better results by focusing on ball rotation, not just placement and velocity.

For fans, there’s no better way to take part than with a mobile screen (or two!), which today delivers a wealth of in-game details in real time. When it’s time to take a break from the intricacies of advanced fielding metrics, in many stadiums you can also use mobile apps to have concessions delivered to your seat—no more standing in line for $12 beer.

Hey batter, nice sensors

Wearable sensors aren’t legal in regulation games yet, but teams have a wealth of opportunities to track players’ movements in training and exhibition settings. Motus Global hides sensors in compression sleeves and other unobtrusive articles of clothing to measure and evaluate motion and velocity for pitching, fielding, and hitting tasks. Another company, Zepp, is building a sensor that can be embedded in a bat, giving the most reliable breakdown of a batter’s swing yet.

Most professional teams have deployed some form of these on-field trackers for training and coaching. For beer league types, a startup called Scoutee can turn a smartphone into a pitching radar gun and video scout for a modest fee.

Sensors aren’t just about playing better. They’re about playing smarter. IoT devices are better able to record, detect, and report early signs of fatigue than the naked eye. Athletes are trained from an early age to push through soreness, pain, and fatigue, but as they tire, the chance of making a career-altering mistake increases. Having hard data about when athletes are dangerously exhausted is helping teams create better rest plans for their crucial performers.

You see why baseball season is so difficult for me? My friends are trying to focus on the game. I keep geeking out every time I spot an IoT device in action. Fortunately, there’s plenty of room for everyone at the old ball game.

Jason Compton is an internationally published writer and reporter with extensive experience in enterprise technologies, including marketing, sales, service, and collaboration. All opinions are his own. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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