Sports Feature Article: Combining sight and insight - Football analysis enters the 21st century
Despite the national team’s recent loss in the opening game at the World Cup, football is massive in Germany. 31,645 teams across the country are generating 2,217m euros revenue (2016) and the industry is responsible for 110,000 jobs (2010). For years now, analysing professional sports has been big business and football is no exception. Gone are the days where improvement relied solely upon coaches watching the game for the sidelines and then discussing it from what they saw afterwards. Football clubs now use technology to help them monitor and analyse the game – and Hikvision, in partnership with various other technology providers, has been delivering state-of-the-art camera technology to help premier league Dutch team Ajax to improve its game.
Sheer numbers of tracking data
Hikvision PanoVu and PTZ cameras have been installed at the Ajax training grounds. These provide a simple way for coaches and players to make sense of the huge amounts of data that analysis technologies create. They work, for example, with the RFID tracking technology provided to Ajax by sensor expert Inmotio. This technology sends data from a harness worn by the players about their position and physical parameters based on GPS location. Coaches can see personal data, like heart rate, distance travelled, average acceleration, kilograms but-impact strength suffered, etc to help them to get a full picture of a player’s performance.
With a number of different technologies following a game, the data streams are many and complex. On top of that, there are analyses throughout the process, from scouting and selection to training and the games themselves. All this can be difficult to make sense of in presentation, and that’s where another partnership comes in – the one between Hikvision and software provider GameOn. The sports management software provided by GameOn processes all of these different data feeds together and integrates with Hikvision cameras to display them in a simple way.
“The science applied to sports is starting to deliver information that is so complex that suddenly neither coaches nor athletes were really understanding what it meant. For this project I understood that I lacked an interface layer to connect people and data, and we chose to integrate the layers, using video.” says Max Reckers, Ajax’s Performance Technologist.
Combining oversight and insight
The core of the analytics solutions lies with the Hikvision technology, literally capturing every angle of a game. A 24MP PanoVu (DS-2CD6A64F) is used at Ajax’s ‘Sport Complex of the Future’ training ground which provides a full 180 degree view of the pitch, meaning that all the action can be seen, wherever the players are on the pitch. The camera also provides very clear images – with four lenses of 6MP each, making a total of 24MP - one of the highest definition PanoVu cameras in the industry. The cameras have a frame per second rate of 30, meaning that nothing will be missed.
The feeds from the camera are the base for the GameOn software, which can then overlay the data from all the technology sources together. This makes the data easy to understand and simple to explain – giving coaches and player alike a simple insight into the game and how it can be improved. Essentially, the Hikvision technology is making the numbers visible and palatable, as a simpler user interface.
A separate Hikvision camera – this time a PTZ (or pan, tilt, zoom) device (Network Speed Dome DS-2DF6A836X) brings another dimension to the solution. Because the PTZ has automatic tracking capabilities, it can follow the action as it happens and zoom in when needed. There’s no need for an operator to keep an eye on proceedings and manually track the game.
The use of Hikvision’s iVMS 4200 software and an NVR also means that the footage can be saved, and called up whenever it’s needed in the future. This makes it invaluable to in-depth analysis and strategic planning. Hikvision’s application of the H.265+ codec means that large packets of image data can be transferred at speeds that make lag a thing of the past, when monitoring in real-time, for example.
The system takes the functionality of analysis further, with the use of tablet computers and real-time information to transform the art of following a game. Coaches can see the game on an iPad, for example, at the sidelines in real time. This means they can combine what they see themselves with the extra view of the cameras and the data overlay.
Reckers added: “The PanoVu camera is opening an entirely new world for us in the world of Performance Analysis. Being able to capture the full pitch at high resolution is simplifying our analysis process so much. Being able to provide real-time feedback to coaches and players empowers us even more.”
This is just the beginning – with Deep Learning technology proving a powerful solution for applications like facial recognition to identify players in the stadium or training venue.
Another innovation is the ability to recognise goals – which comes on really handy for fans who cannot watch the match. In fact, the same technology can be used to identify all sort of ‘events’, including corners and free kicks. It can also be used to filter game ‘highlights’ for fans.
Sharing the action
The PTZ camera used is 4K – providing very high resolution images. This makes the footage it records of a high enough quality to broadcast. This has enabled Ajax TV, the main broadcaster for the club, to make use of great live footage from the fixed surveillance cameras, either to supplement outside film crew footage, or even or replace them completely.
Ajax TV is able to make training clips and even live broadcasts for their social networking efforts using the 4K footage. This has a lot of potential for the future, making it easier to film games and to maximise the fans’ enjoyment of the game.
Reckers concludes: “The use of video is essential because at the end of the day, football should not be about numbers, but about sport, and that's what these solutions allow us to do."
Leveraging technology and integration knowhow
Hikvision is using its cutting edge technology to bring the game of football into the 21st Century, as part of its Stadium/Entertainment solution set. This has been made possible by the flexibility and integration with various partners, showcasing another strength of Hikvision. Hikvision’s wide-range of products and reputation for quality and great support make it flexible to think out of the box and deliver tailored solutions, whatever the challenge.
Hikvision is moving towards a broader and more inclusive future, where it aims to explore innovative ways to better perceive and understand the world, and to work with decision-makers to enhance safety and advance sustainable development of the world.
Click here for a video of one of Hikvision’s partnerships in sports analysis.
Click here to check out Hikvision’s DeepinView cameras.