The Evolution of Technology in Sport

The Evolution of Technology in Sport

Technology has improved the accuracy, enjoyment and experiences of both athletes and spectators at sporting events. Discover the key advancements in technology past and present that have contributed to making sport better for everyone. 

 

Athletics 

Tracking Race Times 

1964 Seiko launches its new electronic automated timing system with a photo-finish mechanism, improving accuracy to 1/100th of a second.

1980s Transponder or RFID timing is designed using radio frequency via a chip placed on the athlete to record times at antenna points.

2008 Photo finish equipment captures 3,000 photos per second to track winners in races.

 

Clothing 

1950s onwardsLighter and flatter track shoes are designed to find the perfect balance of optimal grip and comfort.

2012 Athletic apparel starts to measure heart rate, respiratory activity, posture, speed and weight distribution.

2016 New clothing is being designed to wick sweat away from the body by evaporation instead of absorbing it.

 

Neuroscience 

2017 The Halo headband was first released to the public. The technology prepares the brains of athletes for training and a big race by delivering pulses that help neurons fire together.

2020 The Halo 2 is released. Putting the headband on 20 minutes before a race can improve the brain’s ability to make new circuits, making athletes perform better and faster.

 
 
 

Football 

Goal-Line Technology (GLT) 

2012 The International Football Association Board (IFAB) approves GLT and amends the 'Laws of the Game'.

2014 The technology is used for the first time ever in the World Cup and helps award a goal to France against Honduras.

2016 GLT is used only in top European domestic leagues (England, Italy, France, Germany) and major international competitions.

 

Video Technology 

The FutureThe IFAB has confirmed that a trial to use video assistance referees will begin before the 2017-18 football season.

The technology will apply only to key decisions, such as goals, red cards, penalties and mistaken identity.

A final decision to use the technology will be made after a thorough period of testing.

2012 The Video Assistant Referee system (also known as VAR) is tested for the first time in the Eredivisie, with more extensive trials being allowed to follow.

2016 VAR was introduced during a friendly between France and Italy, with the successful trial leading to a pitch side monitor in the FIFA Club World Cup.

2017 The A-league became the first to use VAR in a top-flight professional league, with the MLS, Bundesliga and Serie A following suit.

2018 VAR was used for the first time in England in an FA cup game and La Liga introduced the technology for the 2018 - 19 season. It was also used most publicly in the World Cup with IFAB officially writing VAR laws into the game of football.

2020 VAR will be used in the Premier League and at every stage of the Champions League from the 2020 season onwards for what FIFA deems “game changing decisions”, including the validity of goals, penalties, red cards and offsides.

 

Fan/Pundit Technology 

1997 The first ever large LED screens to be seen in UK football stadia were installed.

2017 The first rotating LED screen in world football was installed at Carrow Road, home of Norwich City.

2017 Sky Sports installed an interactive board in their studio for match analysis.

 
 

Rugby  

Data Tracking 

2010 Bradford Bulls become the first team to use GPS tracking to collect data and stats on player performance.

2016 Sensors are placed under the player's jerseys to track heart rate, field positions, fatigue, rehabilitation and injury prevention.

 

Video Technology 

2001 Video referees are introduced in rugby union to help with decisions relating to scoring a try.

2015 Hawk-Eye video review technology is used by the television match official (TMO) to improve decision making. Previously, the TMO had to ask TV producers to rewind coverage on large TVs in order to find and analyse specific camera shots.

 

Virtual Reality (VR) 

2016 Virtual reality equipment is being introduced in the sport of rugby. A VR app allowed England fans to compare their reaction times against ex-players Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

2020 VR headsets are also being used by some club and international teams to create simulated rugby scenarios such as line-outs, high balls and first-phase attacks. That can improve players’ mental learning, visualisation and decision-making.

 
 
 

Swimming  

Virtual Imaging 

2000 Orad Hi-Tec Systems introduces virtual imaging including its Virtual World Record Line in professional swimming trials and events.

The technology creates a superimposed line on the surface of the water and graphics to show existing world records.

Virtual flags designed by Orad, representing each swimmer in their lane, are also used in swimming events.

 

DiveCam 

2008 The Drop-Gravity 'DiveCam' is developed to steadily film each diver's motion in free fall.

The camera moves up and down a 50ft tube above and below water level and films each diver in smooth, linear motion.

Due to the laws of physics, the camera is always in line with the diver as they descend.

 

Swimsuits 

1950s & 1980s Nylon was developed in the 50s and Lycra in the 80s which enabled swimsuits to be more form-fitting and less water absorbent.

2008 Speedo’s LZR swimsuit designed to reduce drag and increase performance debuted at the Beijing Olympics. 94% of races won and 98% of records broken were done with competitors using the suit.

2009 The International Swimming Federation (FINA) banned full body suits, noting that swimsuits should only use “textiles” and be between the waist and knees for males, not beyond the shoulders or below the knees for females.

 
 

 Tennis 

Hawk-Eye Line-Calling System 

2001 An electronic computer system is developed that tracks the trajectory of the ball and displays its path as a moving 3D image.

The system uses high-performance cameras, which track the ball from different angles.

2006 Hawk-Eye is used in competitions and tennis players are allowed to challenge a number of umpire decisions per set.

 

Radar Guns 

1991 IBM serve-speed technology is first introduced at Wimbledon.

Two radar sensors at the baseline of each side of the court record the speed of the ball once it's hit.

The data for each player's serve is automatically recorded on IBM's central tournament database.

 

Tennis Racquets 

1874 Major Walter C. Wingfield registered his patent for the rules and equipment of lawn Tennis, stating wooden racquets should be used.

1967 Wilson Sporting Goods introduced the first popular metal racquet, called the T2000 which increased racquet lifespan and stiffness whilst not increase weight.

1980 Wooden racquets became obsolete and brands instead made graphite racquets which became lighter and lighter in the 2000s whilst also improving performance.

2014 Smart racquets with chips in the handle to record things such as power and spin, were made in time for Wimbledon.

 
 
 
 

Key Technological Advancements 

Some of the key technological advancements that have been observed for athletes and spectators include improved: 

Time-tracking systems.

Clothing and equipment.

Goal-Line Technology.

Video technology.

GPS data tracking.

Virtual imaging.

Accuracy and decision systems (Hawk-Eye).

Coverage of events around the world via Internet and multiple devices.