According to stereotypes, live sport is not a particularly nerdy affair.
The truth, however, is that behind the scenes of any televised sporting event, there is a host of cool technology bringing the action to life.
Over at The Verge, David Pierce takes a peek behind the scenes at the technology used to telecast an NFL match in the US:
It’s 90 minutes to game time in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and [commentator] Troy Aikman’s not speaking to anyone.
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Around him, a dozen or so crew members, assistants, and friends chatter as they finish last-minute preparations, making sure Gillette Stadium is ready for football. They’re testing cables and video feeds, rechecking stats, and setting up the fabric “NFL on FOX” backdrop that will turn this bland, gray, carpeted room into the tiny booth millions will soon see on TV.
Of course, being an American football match, there are hours of live television with no action that need to be filled – as anyone who has watched an NFL match recently will testify. This is where technology comes into its own:
To watch a football broadcast is to see much more than a football game. There are only about 11 minutes of actual action during a three-hour game, which means 95% of the time there’s something else going on. The graphics, replays, highlights, and analysis that make a football game into the at-home experience millions of people know and love — it’s all from Fox, and it’s all done on the fly. Nearly everyone on the crew says that while they broadcast the game, what they really do is make television.
Pierce discovers that each regular season NFL match also functions as a real-life dress rehearsal for arguably the biggest event on the American television calendar, the Super Bowl:
This Fox crew will broadcast the Super Bowl in February, and every week leading up to it is an experiment with some new tweak or technology. Most are tried and ignored, or integrated only in small ways. “Ultimately, when it comes down to it,” says [Fox director of technical operations Kevin] Callahan, “everything that we’re trying to do is about telling a story, and giving the producers and directors the tools that they need to tell that story.”
Last year, Fox focused on integrating the parabolic mics that now roam the sideline, pointing at players and plays to get hyper-focused audio. Previously it’s been graphics, and in 1996 it was the Fox Box — Fox was the first network to have the score displayed at all times in the top corner of the screen, and even other networks refer to it as the Fox Box. This year it’s 4K, as Fox seeks a perfect and incontrovertible replay system.
For the production crew, playing with the latest tech toys is just part of the job on any given Sunday.
Ancient IT tools and tasks from 2003
If a year is a long time in corporate IT, a decade is an eternity.
It’s a point that has led IT expert Ryan Faas to examine how new technologies, such as cloud computing, smartphones and tablets, have fundamentally reshaped the way enterprises go about designing IT systems:
As Ron Miller and I were comparing our professional backgrounds over lunch, I described my last full-time job as an IT leader as being an organization that would today be a poster child for cloud and mobility solutions.
The conversation led me to an interesting thought experiment: contrasting the choices I made when I took over as that organization’s IT director with the decisions I would make were I taking on that job today. In the process, I realized how dramatically different the pre- and post-consumerisation approaches actually were.
For example, a decade ago, a key IT job was setting up a virtual private network (VPN) to connect various medical sites, even where the remote facilities had relatively modest computing needs:
Easily the biggest (and most expensive) task was connecting all the facilities together. Most of the residential facilities had just a couple of PCs in the staff office and one PC for clients to use. Larger programs that shared office space also shared a network resources and server space. There was, however, no connectivity between each site — something my team resolved with a mix of solutions including site-to-site VPN.
However, between the cloud and devices such as tablets, Faas says there is increasingly little need to undertake such a project:
While you could argue this is still a core need today, there’s also a compelling argument that it isn’t. The residential facilities had very modest computing needs – entering case notes, maintaining log books, documenting medication adherence, and reviewing or updating treatment plans. It’s easy to contemplate these tasks being accomplished completely from a smartphone or tablet rather than a desktop PC.
It’s easy to see HIPAA-compliant cloud services delivering most of that in one form or another. In fact, Box’s tagline “use Box as infrastructure” embodies the approach that I would take.
And as Faas explains in his article, there are other IT tasks and technologies that are now becoming obsolete.
Dr Google in surgery
For many years, people suffering strange coughs or rashes have sought the advice of Dr Google.
Now, thanks to Google Glass and the miracles of augmented reality, the search and mobile giant could find itself a legitimate niche in your local emergency room:
In October, UCSF’s Pierre Theodore, a cardiothoracic surgeon, became the first doctor in the United States to obtain Institutional Review Board approval to use the device to assist him during surgery. Theodore pre-loads onto [Google] Glass the scans of images of the patient taken just before surgery and consults them during the operation.
Already, tech start-ups in the health sector are developing a range of apps to take advantage of the new device:
A Stanford-affiliated startup called VitalMedicals is developing a system that would automate doctors’ access to patient images and medical records using Glass by syncing them automatically via Wi-Fi. VitalMedicals’ debut app, VitalStream, sends live vital signs and alarms to the operating surgeon’s Glass device during conscious sedation. It gets the vital signs from its integration with the ViSi mobile vital sign monitor, which Singularity Hub also recently covered.
Overlaying medical information over a real-time image of a patient has some important advantages over traditional computers or displays:
Surgeons do already have access to patient images, but they must sometimes peer behind other monitors or re-scrub after touching files or devices. The voice-activated Google Glass makes it that much easier for surgeons to consult those materials in the course of the procedure.
Google Glass is set to launch in the middle of next year. That said, it looks like the medical profession will be fertile ground for the new invention.