Wednesday, April 26, 2017
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Need Even More March Madness? Check Out This Basketball Sensor Hardware

Last week we made some predictions for the NCAA Tournament using big data. Some of the predictions stayed true to form – No. 12 Middle Tennessee knocked off No. 5 Minnesota, and a First Four team did emerge victorious from the first round ­– while others were disappointments. Here’s looking at you, SMU.

If your bracket is busted, you can settle back and enjoy the games purely from a basketball standpoint. Or you can put big data to work in another way, by getting real-time analytics via a cool new piece of hardware.

Meet ShotTracker, the Kansas City-based startup that can track and collect analytics in real-time for an entire basketball game. The company demoed its product for the entirety of the NAIA D1 Men’s National Championship tournament – 31 games in total over the course of five days.

The product works via a small sensor tied to each player’s shoelace. There’s also a sensor embedded inside the basketball, and the court has elevated sensors surrounding it that track the location of both the ball and each player on the court. The end result: a real-time tracking and analysis of the ball and all 10 active players using it.

While it’s interesting to see the how the players and ball interact with each other, the real strength of this lies in the analytics. Users have access to everything – from shot attempts, to assists, to steals – as soon as they happen on the hardwood. It can also gather deeper data, such as player efficiency ratings and possession stats.

Obviously, that’s an important tool for coaches and managers, but it’s also pretty cool for fans in the audience to stay up to speed via ShotTracker’s app. Additionally, it’s a great way to automate a process of collecting data that previously had to be gathered manually by a handful of people watching the game, which can result in some inaccurate statistics.

ShotTracker began as a way for amateur players to improve their shooting skills, and is endorsed by players like Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson. However, the sensors can also be utilized at a much broader scale. The NBA already has the SportVU spatial tracking from STATS, LLC, The tracking cameras are in all 30 NBA arenas, but don’t be surprised if teams install ShotTracker in places like practice facilities, since the costs are far less than SportVU.

Using the data gathered from spatial tracking, teams can learn where they might have a competitive advantage. In fact, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the D-League affiliate of the Houston Rockets, have already determined that they’re at their best when they’re either taking three-point shots or layups. They’ve almost entirely eliminated any other options because they’ve found their two most efficient methods of scoring. It’ll be interesting to see how other teams – and other sports ­– utilize the data presented to them.

ShotTracker’s tagline of “you can’t improve what you don’t measure” rings true in any use of big data. There’s a lot out there to sift through, which is why it’s crucial to know what you want to measure and ensuring the data you’re collecting is helping you and your organization reach your goals.

What other ways are you seeing big data and analytics being used creatively? Feel free to drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook.

About David Lucky

David Lucky
As Datapipe’s Director of Product Management, David has unique insight into the latest product developments for private, public, and hybrid cloud platforms and a keen understanding of industry trends and their impact on business development. David writes about a wide variety of topics including security and compliance, AWS, Microsoft, and business strategy.

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