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A special guest post by cricket legend and founder of Spektacom Technologies, Anil Kumble. This post was co-authored by Tara Shankar Jana, Senior Technical Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft.

While cricket is an old sport with a dedicated following of fans across the globe, the game has been revolutionized in the 21st century with the advent of the Twenty20 format. This shorter format has proven to be very popular, resulting in a massive growth of interest in the game and a big fan following worldwide. This has, in turn, led to increased competitiveness and the desire on the part of both professionals and amateurs alike to take their game quality to the next level.

As the popularity of the game has increased, so have innovative methods of improving batting techniques. This has resulted in a need for data-driven assistance for players, information that will allow them to digitally assess their quality of game.

Spektacom was born from the idea of using non-intrusive sensor technology to harness data from “power bats” and using that data to power insights driven by the cloud and artificial intelligence.

Before we highlight how Spektacom built this solution using Microsoft AI, there are a couple of important questions we must address first.

What Differentiation Can Technology and AI Create in the Sports Industry?

In the last several years, the industry has realized the value of data across almost every sport and found ways to collect and organize that data. Even though data collection has become an essential part of the sporting industry, it is insufficient to drive future success unless coupled with the ability to derive intelligent insights that can then be put to use. Data, when harnessed strategically with the help of intelligent technologies such as machine learning and predictive analytics, can help teams, leagues and governing bodies transform their sports through better insights and decision-making in three critical areas of the business, namely:

  • Fan engagement and management.
  • Team and player performance.
  • Team operations and logistics.

For many professional sports teams and governing bodies, the factors that led to past success will not necessarily translate into future victories. The things that gave teams a competitive advantage in the past have now become table stakes. People are consuming sports in new ways and fans have come to expect highly personalized experiences, being able to track the sports content they want, whenever and wherever they want it. AI can help transform the way sports are played, teams are managed, and sports businesses are run. New capabilities such as machine learning, chatbots and more are helping improve even very traditional sports in unexpected new areas.

Spektacom’s Solution

What Impact will Spektacom’s Technology Have on the Game?

Spektacom’s technology will help in a few critical areas of the game. It will:

  • Enhance the fan experience and fan engagement with the sport.
  • Enable broadcasters to use insights for detailed player analysis.
  • Allow grassroots players and aspiring cricketers to increase their technical proficiency.
  • Allow coaches to provide more focused guidance to individual players.
  • Allow professional cricketers to further enhance their performance.

This technology has the capability to change the face of cricket as we know it. Prior to the introduction of this technology, there has not been an objective data-driven way to analyze a batsman’s performance.

Let’s take a closer look at the solution Spektacom has built, in partnership with Microsoft.

The Spektacom Solution

Introducing “power bats”, an innovative sensor-enabled bat that measures the quality of a player’s shot by capturing data and analyzing impact characteristics through wireless technology and cloud analytics.

This unique non-intrusive sensor platform weighs less than 5 grams and is applied behind the bat just like any ordinary sticker. Once affixed, it can measure the quality, speed, twist and swing of the bat as it comes in contact with the ball, and it can also compute the power transferred from the ball to bat at impact. These parameters are used to compute the quality of the shot – information that both professional and amateur players (as well as their coaches and other stakeholders) can use to improve player performance via instant feedback.

The Spektacom solution is powered by Azure Sphere, Azure IoT Hub, Azure Event Hub, Azure Functions, Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Machine Learning.

The data from the power bats gets analyzed with powerful AI models developed in Azure and get transferred to the edge for continuous player feedback. In the case of the professional game, the sticker communicates using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) with an edge device called the Stump Box which is buried behind the wicket. The data from the stump box is transferred and analyzed in Azure and shot characteristics are provided to broadcasters in real-time. Since cricket stadiums have wireless access restrictions and stringent security requirements, to ensure secure communication between the bat, edge device and Azure, Stump Box has been powered by Microsoft’s Azure Sphere -based hardware platform. In case of amateur players, the smart bat pairs with the Spektacom mobile app to transfer and analyze sensor data in Azure.

Microsoft makes it easy for you to get going on your own innovative AI-based solutions – start today at the Microsoft AI Lab.

ML & AI Blog Team



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