It is that time of the year, well, technically that time every four years when the national teams in European football come together to see who deserves the right to be named European Champions. As the World Cup takes place at the same four-year rate (but on a different four year cycle) there is international football tournaments taking place at least every two years. However, in the world of technology, even two years is a very long time and that does mean that with each cycle of the World Cup or the Euro championships that take place, there are many notable technological improvements. Euro 2016 is now in full swing and this tournament is no different and technically, is the most advanced yet with virtual reality, wearables and more, all playing their part.
From the spectator perspective, virtual reality will be playing a fairly big part in the proceedings, as it has been reported that UEFA are permitting the use of Nokia OZO cameras to film some of the content. These are not your usual VR cameras of course, and instead are much more industrial-based cameras which are largely purpose-designed for occasions such as this and ones which reportedly cost about $60,000 to purchase. Either way, these cameras will give home spectators the option to enjoy UEFA Euro 2016 content in splendid virtual reality with a full 360 degree field of view. Not all games are said to be able to make use of this technology, but it does seem all of England’s initial groups games will be. So look out for them during England’s games against Russia (June 11), Wales (June 15) and Slovakia (June 20).
It is not just the spectators who are embracing the connected world though, as this year’s tournament will also see both the players and the officials being kitted up as well. In terms of the players, they will be making use of more technological-advanced wearable clothing. That is kits with various sensors which provide feedback to the team's management and medical staff on how players are doing. This use of player tracking will allow the backstage teams to better understand (both on and off the pitch), the current status of players and presumably, allow the management to know which players are fit for which matches. This is likely to be of even more importance in national matches as while all players want to play, when it comes to playing for your country, that want is typically a lot greater. This use of technology will make sure that players really are fit enough to play without having to compromise on their health or pre-existing injuries. Not to mention as the tech monitors aspects such as acceleration, speed, distance and step balance, management will be better equipped to tactically ensure the right players are on against the right teams. Sometimes it is not the best player in left back you need, but the right player in left back, against this particular team.
Not to be left out, you will see various officials making good use of wearables too. In many domestic leagues, goal line technology (known as Hawk-Eye) is already in play and this information is relayed back to officials via a wrist-worn wearable. One which can immediately inform the officials when the ball has crossed the line. This particular aspect is likely to be welcomed by all involved in the game, as there has been numerous instances in the past where there were those ‘was it or wasn't it a goal’ moments. This is the same technology which is used in various other sports like Tennis to deal with in or out challenges from players.
So while Euro 2016 is playing out, it seems various new forms of technology will be making their presence felt. While some, like the virtual reality aspects are more in the testing stage than aspects like Hawk-Eye, which has been in used in professional sports for quite some time, the overall impact of technology on international football is growing substantially. It will be just as interesting to see how technology develops in the next two years and what new products and platforms are used during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.