How Technology Helps Us Count and Is Changing the Game

Wearable Devices_GPSports

In Major League Baseball today, entire stadiums are decked out with sensors so that the movement and speed of the baseball can be tracked real time the moment it leaves the pitcher’s hand, and the moment it comes into contact with the bat, to the moment it lands in a fielder’s glove or in the stands. (Click on link below for examples.)

Measuring health indicators are becoming the routine for health conscious people who wear consumer devices like Fitbit or UP. When I first wore my Microsoft Band, I appreciated learning about my heart rate while exercising but was surprised to learn how many calories I used while sleeping. (Around 350 to 400!)

At the organizational sports level, teams are using companies like GPSports, Catapult and Adidas to track the movements of their soccer, ice hockey or rugby players, primarily with an aim to understand the correlation of movement and injury. According to this New York Times article, the wearable devices for athletes, which is commonly a tracking device placed at the top of the back held in place by a compression shirt, provide data on the exact movements and conditions of a player. Presumably that data can be correlated to moments of injury, which is explained in greater depth in this Sports Illustrated article on how this data is used in ice hockey.

In the Age of Enlightenment, Europeans learned to better control their environment, and got a better picture of how much Man, not God, controlled one’s destiny. Of course, the scientific mind can get carried away with measurement. Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, developed machinery that could measure the degree to which a meeting was boring by counting the number of times a person fidgeted (perhaps an idea before its time!)

Frederick Winslow Taylor, credited with developing Scientific Management over 100 years Frederick-Winslow-Taylorago, would divide female party-goers into two sets (attractive and unattractive), and use his stopwatch to make sure he spent equal time with both.

Based on such dweebish behavior, it’s understandable people are ambiguous when faced with number-crunchers, particularly those calculating what might be considered incalculable – like a person’s morale, one’s decision-making ability, quality of service, or the return on investment of a training program.

But if truth be told, measurement has gone hand in hand with progress. Johanes Kepler developed the three basic laws of planetary motion thanks to Tycho Brache’s precise calculations of planetary movement. Japanese industry’s turnaround from devastation to world-beaters was in good part due to the statistical process control teachings of Edwards Deming. And how else would I know if everybody loved me if not for the “Likes” I get. (…which aren’t quite enough…)