Tracking Professional Athletes

I used to read about technology to allow computers to track a single person’s movements from video footage. We’ve seen this shown in Hollywood movies, where casinos can take a picture of a person and backtrack all their previous movements throughout the day. I have no idea if this is possible, but if it is, it’s a scary proposition.

However in specialized, controlled circumstances, we can track people very well. The NBA (with SportVU) is tracking all player’s movements and gathering more data that can be analyzed to better evaluate player’s performances. I expect in the next year or two, players will start to review this analysis and learn how to better adapt to the situations on the court.

The NFL is also starting to use sensors to track their players, but with different goals. They are monitoring workloads, trying to ensure the health and peak performance of players. It remains to be seen how else they might use this data, but in the linked article, there are perhaps more implications for us as data professionals.

Can you imagine more tracking data, for any movable object available? People, machinery, who knows what else will be tracked, and what else we might need to analyze. I thought spatial data had tremendous possibilities when I first saw it introduced in SQL Server 2005. However across the last decade I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of what location data might mean for applications, using it mostly for mapping locations and routes. If this data does become useful, that means that learning to aggregate, trace, and analyze location might just need to be a valuable, if not core, skill set for the DBA and developer in the future. If you want to get started, maybe run through this article on your system and see what you think.

Steve Jones

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