Building Smart Sports Solutions with NTT DATA

For centuries, organizers of live sporting events have competed to deliver increasingly exciting and memorable experiences for fans inside the venue. In today’s digital era, competition is at an all-time high. Governing bodies and organizations seek to increase broadcaster revenue, market share, and fan loyalty, and so they must modernize the way that fans can engage with the sport. With that pressure has come the demand for Smart Sports Solutions: innovative technology that can transform the way fans experience live events.

Read on to see Smart Sports Solutions in action at the FIBA World Cup, the Tour de France, the MLB, and more.

Pearl, the Philippines’ First Conversational AI Avatar

In August 2023, with nearly half a million basketball fans gathered for the FIBA World Cup in Manila, attendees met Pearl, an interactive, AI-powered ‘Digital Human’. Pearl combined speech recognition and ChatGPT’s natural language processing and conversational AI to have fluid, real-time conversations with fans.

When developing Pearl, we consulted with our clients and developed her appearance from scratch – with the initial concept being a character loved in the Philippines. Pearl is not a scan of an existing person, but an ideal individual built from the ground up.

A first of her kind in Asia, Pearl responded to questions in both English and Filipino. Her answers were complete with natural language and detailed facial expressions, providing fans with the latest game results, statistics, leaderboards, and upcoming matches – as well as information about the venue and Manila itself.

Pearl is the next step in fan engagement: a Smart Sports Solution that helped FIBA create a friendly, interactive experience between basketball enthusiasts and the event itself. NTT DATA, PLDT Inc., MediaQuest Holdings, and Cignal TV worked together to bring Pearl to the Philippines and integrated her into the live event, elevating the fan experience.

Read more about Digital Humans on display at The Open, revolutionizing the fan experience at the world’s oldest golf tournament. However, there is a whole world of Smart Sports Solutions beyond Digital Humans. Let’s explore some of the most exciting examples.

Smart Sports Solutions

NTT DATA is working on innovative technology solutions across a spectrum of sports that will enhance fan experiences, including:

  • Media Walls
  • Digital Twins
  • Connected Stadiums
  • Digital Humans
  • Ultra Reality Viewing
  • Mobile Applications

At their core, these initiatives all take advantage of best-in-class data collection, analysis, and insights to help organizers get closer to their consumers. NTT Group has introduced Smart Solutions at various sporting events, such as the Tour de France, IndyCar Series, and Major League Baseball.

Tour de France

Every year, the cyclists competing in the Tour de France cross over some of the most remote parts of France. This represents a significant networking challenge, making it difficult to keep fans all over the world informed and engaged. As Official Technology Partner for the past eight years, NTT DATA has implemented Smart Sports Solutions to digitally transform the world’s greatest cycling race.

Our current focus in Smart Sports Solutions is creating new sports experiences in the metaverse. One of these projects of which we are most proud is the creation of a digital twin of the entire Tour de France to provide real-time insights for fans and race organizers alike. However, this could be used not only as a simulation, but also as a way for fans to visit the world of the digital twin – creating an entirely new experience.

This boundary-pushing solution is made possible by capturing data from tracking devices on cyclists and race vehicles. Our data science team has used this data to develop machine learning models and an analytics platform that provides detailed insights and allows us to create the world’s largest connected stadium.

With these solutions, we deliver enhanced storytelling and visualizations through broadcasts, social media, and fan products such as the Tour de France Fantasy League. This ensures fans are more a part of the race than ever before.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

Major League Baseball, the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, has 30 member clubs that participate in the highest level of professional baseball worldwide. NTT, as an official partner of MLB, shares the league's vision of using technology to help organizations and communities reach their goals and enhance fan experiences.

NTT is the Official MLB Fan Experience Partner for Ultra Reality Viewing. Our parent group has leveraged its research and development advances to create a Smart Sports Solution that synthesizes five different views from 4K camera footage to create a real-life sense of presence for remote fans who may find it difficult to visit the stadium.

INDYCAR SERIES

At the iconic NTT INDYCAR SERIES, our work with Penske Entertainment transformed data into an exceptional fan experience. We created an innovative mobile application to deliver fans trackside insights and visibility into the race using real-time telemetry data from the cars.

This app delivered enhanced data like head-to-head driver battles and pit stop performance to over 55,000 unique viewers. Additionally, NTT helped turn the Indianapolis Motor Speedway into a smart venue by implementing AI and sensors to give operations teams a comprehensive, real-time view of traffic flow and congestion. This improved fan experiences not just inside the venue, but both before and after the event too.

The Open

As the official IT provider for The Open, the world’s oldest golf championship, NTT DATA has continually brought innovation from various industries to The Open over their decade-long partnership. This includes advanced analytics through ShotView, real-time shot tracking software, and the NTT DATA Wall, enriching engagement on the ground. These Smart Sports Solutions create personalized, interactive fan experiences and capture data to inform decision-making for organizers.

Do you need a Smart Sports Solution?

The future of immersive, interactive fan engagement will be driven by partnerships between cutting-edge technologists like NTT DATA and major sports and entertainment brands. As seen in the innovative Smart Sports Solutions implemented for the Tour de France, MLB, INDYCAR, and more, emerging technologies can revolutionize the live event experience.

From AI-powered digital humans to real-time data analytics, the possibilities are endless. If you'd like to know how we can help you design a Smart Sports Solution tailored to your needs, take a moment to explore the website of your local branch of NTT DATA. With our proven expertise in data, AI, IoT, and human-centric design, we can work together to create the next generation of fan experiences.

Akira Taji
Senior Manager, SMART Business Office, SMART Business Department, Digital Assets Sector, NTT DATA, Inc.

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