How 2 Brilliant Upstarts Angled Their Way Into The World Cup

Monday, July 2, 2018

  By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire

In short:

  • At the 2018 World Cup, some of the planet’s most advanced and entertaining sports technologies are on display.
  • Specifically, Goal Line Technology and virtual reality are setting new standards for gameplay and viewing.
  • The companies behind these products secured Cup presence largely because they offer a specific kind of value that Cup officials seek.

The 2018 World Cup has blessed fans with a number of surprising moments: quality play from underdog squads like Mexico, big misses from superstar Lionel Messi, and an early Golden Boot race leader in England’s Harry Kane.

Off the field, another unlikely topic has taken over: tech.

A lineup of innovative products is increasing the accuracy and entertainment value of the world’s most popular sport. And of course, the World Cup is the place for breakthrough companies to showcase all they can do.

The World Cup showcases the planet’s best players… and its best tech.

A suite of products angled their way into this year’s Cup, and their applications will blow your mind.

For the first time, on-the-field referees are working alongside video assistant referees, a literal team of officials who use video playback to determine erroneous calls.

Meanwhile, coaches, analysts and medical teams are tracking players with electronic performance and tracking systems. This combination of cameras and wearable tech for players measures their passing movements, speed and positioning.

Some fans are watching with more clarity than ever. BBC’s Ultra HD offering is a super-clear stream of the game that only works on certain TV models. Of course, you’ll need BBC’s iPlayer service to watch in this quality, and access is limited to each game stream. Talk about sales tactics.

Even the Cup’s official match ball is tech-enhanced, featuring a smart chip that allows fans to see “specific details of each ball” and “unlock exclusive content” from their phones, per the FIFA media release.

(Image credit: Adidas)

Growing businesses are leading the charge.

Of course, the future of tech will shape the future of soccer and sports in general. And at the Cup, small to medium-sized businesses are on the front lines.

Below, meet Hawk-Eye Innovations and LiveLike. The former is responsible for providing arguably the most helpful tech to World Cup referees. The latter allows a viewing experience like no other, ushering World Cup viewing into the virtual realm.

Goal Line Technology ensures we don’t scream “GOOOAL” at the wrong time. 

Goal Line Technology (GLT) is on-hand in Russia, helping referees accurately track when a ball crosses the goal line. Produced by Hawk-Eye Innovations, GLT was first used in World Cup 2014. It famously awarded France’s Karim Benzema a goal on a header in a game against Uruguay, when eyes alone might’ve failed.

GLT uses seven cameras in each stadium -- most on the roof -- to get the best view of the ball as it nears the goal line. The cameras track the ball and send a signal to referees. The system’s tracking is accurate down to the millimeter, which makes GLT perfect for determining close calls.

Based in the U.K., Hawk-Eye is growing its business by expanding their GLT tech to global leagues including the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Dutch Eredivisie and Italian Serie A. They also implement beyond soccer, making their tech a fixture in more than 20 sports including tennis and basketball.

Forget the flat screen. Experience the Cup in VR.

Virtual reality business LiveLike is another company to watch in the Cup.

The company's virtual reality platform allows fans to watch matches in a virtual box suite, with access to game stats and highlights and the ability to chat with friends online. LiveLike’s partnership with Fox Sports means fans can access its offering through the Fox Sports VR App. All they need is a smartphone, as the headset experience is optional. Fox Sports VR is available on the iOS, Android, GearVR, and Oculus Go platforms.

To get an idea of how this technology works, check out LiveLike's YouTube.

LiveLike made its name showing high-profile sporting events like Super Bowl XLI and India’s Premier League Cricket Championship in virtual reality.

The product simulates a real-life game-watching hangout in ways that other products do not, said Lawrence Chan, the company’s Director of Finance.

“[LiveLike’s VR] brings in the entire modern sports-viewing experience,” he told Grow Wire. “If you’re watching the game at home, then you’re checking stats on your phone, you're interacting with a friend, and you’re watching a video that gives you a different understanding of a player or a team. That's all held seamlessly inside our experience.”

Plus, it’s designed for accessibility.

“Many people, even to this day, don’t have a VR headset, or one is not readily available,” Chan added. “We wanted to give a sense of what it’s like, but one you can access anywhere.”

BBC is also running VR coverage of the Cup: After downloading an app, users can “enter the BBC’s virtual World Cup lounge,” per the network’s website. As of last week, the app had been downloaded more than 325,000 times.

Integrated tech is the future of the Cup, but only because it enhances the game.

FIFA has adopted sports technologies, but only because they serve a specific purpose: they add value to the Cup experience. GLT, for example, gives referees, teams and fans more accuracy during the match. VR platforms offer a better experience when watching the game.

Thus, the companies that produce these products -- Hawk-Eye and LiveLike -- are growing primarily because of the concrete value they offer. These businesses have developed valuable solutions for the Cup brand, its players and its fans. Remember this when designing and pitching your own product, and you’ll score a “GOOOAL!” of your own.

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