Team up and connect: an IoT soccer project for good causes

By | 5 minute read | August 11, 2016

Connected soccer

Analysts project that by 2025, data from connected devices will yield insights driving potential economic value of as much as $11 trillion*. Yes. TRILLION. Dollars. The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is still lofty. How do connected devices improve the lives of individuals and society to equate to such a large dollar value?

On June 20th 2016 in Cannes France, on the beach front of the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez, a team of designers, developers, technologists and egalitarians banded together to demonstrate just how powerful connected devices, or better yet, how the Internet of Things changes the game, through a Fùtbol match.

Outfitted with sensors, two teams captained by American soccer stars Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach played to raise money for two different non-profits: The Girl Scouts of America and FLOTUS’ initiative Let Girls Learn. Every step, kick, pass and goal triggered donations from IBM towards that team’s cause. Spectators were able to pick a side, follow the team’s progress on a live dashboard and contribute through social participation. The teams raised $10,000 collectively to donate to each organization.

Connected soccer at Cannes

Connected soccer at Cannes

The connected devices soccer game at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was a powerful metaphor about men and women coming together to achieve greatness. It brought together the physical and digital space to create a dynamic experience that contributed to a bigger cause, and enlightened participants and spectators on the power of IoT.

Teamwork makes the dream work, on and off the field. There were four primary ingredients behind team up and connect:

  • Wearable technology provided by Kiwi
  • Cloud platform to store and crunch the data provided by IBM Watson IoT
  • Strategy, concept and experience design provided by IBM iX
  • Powerful women, men and a few soccer stars provided by The Girls Lounge and their partners: AOL Changemakers

The technology solution and creative juices behind the project were really the all-stars of this great day in Cannes. Let’s take a deeper dive into the HOW.

“Any demonstration of emerging technology has an unseen world, full of great ideas and (perhaps even) greater challenges. The connected soccer match at Cannes is no exception. From the outset, the imaginative minds at IBM iX and The Girls Lounge were envisioning a demonstration of creative collaboration in an unprecedented way.” – Caleb Pedosiuk, Senior Developer, Kiwi Wearables

The two squads suited up to face off in a five on five, all proceeds to charity, beach soccer match. Each team was led by super star soccer captains Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach. With sensors on the back of each leg, streams of raw data were produced from all of the player’s motion activity. While the novelty of this may appeal to some, until the sensor data is accurately understood, it remains incomprehensible (aka: a lot of meaningless noise). This is the point where adding sensor intelligence becomes important. To make this happen, IBM brought in, a machine learning company whose software and team is exclusively specialized in this area.

Shot on goal - IoT sports

Shot on goal – IoT sports

At this point, the challenge was for Kiwi to calibrate advanced motion recognition algorithms to quickly and accurately classify the numerous activities such as running, passing and goals happening throughout the game. These metrics include logging every touch, kick, and step, sending an impressive amount of data (at three classifications per second) to the Watson IoT platform for realtime processing.

“The Cannes connected soccer game demonstrates that the power of IoT can be applied meaningfully to any one of the millions of classifiable movements possible today.”– Ali Nawab, Entrepreneur, Founder, Kiwi Wearables

To further understand what’s involved in creating sensor intelligence algorithms, a deeper look into Kiwi’s proprietary process reveals:

  • hardware selection.
  • data collection and processing.
  • machine learning, feature engineering and neural network development.

All of these processes come together before real world testing simulations are run to ensure highly calibrated accuracy, and implementation into either mobile, cloud or embedded systems.

Kiwi has powerful technology that converts raw sensor data into meaningful events (‘kick’, ‘run’, etc.) that made it pretty straightforward to build the dashboard. The IBM jStart team built the dashboard logic around Kiwi event notifications (each action, such as a ‘kick’ is an event) that were transmitted over the IoT. The app created summaries for each category that translated to the different values on the dashboard. Events are associated with individuals, so IBM could track each individual, and also calculate aggregates and leaders in various categories for each team. jStart also built an algorithm that dynamically adjusts the monetary value of each event over time in the process of calculating the contributions to the charitable causes.

“The appeal of working with Kiwi is that they understood how to publish data to the IoT and were able to do the raw-to-meaningful data conversions necessary to build a dashboard.” – Ted Morris, Solution Architect, IBM jStart

The real backbone of the application is Watson IoT Platform on Bluemix. This was convenient for a couple of reasons; the most important being ease of configuring new devices and monitoring data flows during testing and set-up for the match.

The database is Bluemix Cloudant no-SQL Database. The database is not particularly big, as the volume of data for this application is really quite small. jStart chose Cloudant because they wanted a data store that could write data very rapidly without latency (to accommodate the streaming nature of the application), and that could be adapted easily to changing requirements (a strong suit for no-SQL data stores). The Kiwi team had no difficulty establishing the connection from their devices to IoT. Cloudant turned out to be familiar to the Kiwi team ensuring good cross-team synergy with the core technologies.

The application itself was written in Java and runs in Bluemix on the Bluemix Liberty App server. For the production run in Cannes, jStart deployed four parallel instances of the app in Bluemix based on the number of simultaneous users to expected on the sand pitch on game day in Cannes.

This exciting IoT in sports use case is one of many great examples of translating movement to insight. Watch the highlights video from the Festival of Lions in Cannes, France to see the players and technology in action!

For more information about the Connected Soccer partners and technology, explore the following websites:

* Unlocking the potential of Internet of Things. McKinsey & Company, June 2015.