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Drones, Bat Sensors & VR: ICC Champions Trophy 2017 Is The First ‘Smart Cricket’ Tournament

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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ICC and Intel will look to improve play and engage fans with IoT, VR and future technologies at the ICC Champions Trophy

The 2017 ICC Champions Trophy will be the first ever ‘smart cricket’ tournament, with in-stadium Wi-Fi, drones, batting sensors and virtual reality all deployed to assist the planning of the event, allow players to improve performance and engage fans. 

The competition involves eight teams and will take place at The Oval in London, Edgbaston in Birmingham and Sophia Gardens in Cardiff over the next couple of weeks. 

ICC CEO David Richardson said the organisation wanted cricket to become the biggest sport in the world and that despite the game’s tradition, it had been a pioneer in many areas, most notably the Decision Review System (DRS). which comprises audio, video and hawk-eye analysis.

“If the technology is available to enhance the cricketing experience, then over the years we’ve shown a willingness to support it,” he said at an event at The Oval. “Our long term vision is to make cricket the world’s most popular sport and we need to engage the fans. We need to offer premium content and use technology.” 

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Smart cricket 

Intel has been signed up as the ICC’s official innovation partner and the company will be delivering three major components for the Champions Trophy. 

The first is the use of drones to determine the state of the pitch, the analysis of which is fed back to broadcasters who can use the information to inform viewers. Captains might also benefit from a greater understanding of conditions, which can affect team selection and bowling strategy, and these can also change as a match progresses. 

The drones can detect grass density, grass health and topography, all of which can inform bowlers, batsmen and viewers on how a wicket might behave. One of the more traditional ways of testing a pitch involves sticking a key into the wicket, but Intel says this isn’t sufficient. 

“Until now there has been very little information available and it has been limited to intuition, but this doesn’t give you enough,” claimed Intel’s Anuj Dua. “At this Champions Trophy, Intel Falconeye drones equipped with hi definition cameras and infra-red cameras will give reports available to broadcasters.” 

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Cricket IoT 

The second component is VR. A booth at The Oval will let fans play a game that simulates what it would be like to face a ball from a professional bowler and the provision of Wi-Fi, supplied by The Cloud, at all three venues is the first for an ICC tournament. 

But perhaps the most revolutionary element of the partnership is Batsense. A tiny device equipped with Intel’s Curie SoC is attached to the handle of a bat to determine angle, power and speed. This is fed back to an application via the cloud, showing data on a mobile application through the use of batting algorithms. 

At the Champions Trophy, engineers have installed a wide-band network for data to be transmitted from the device to be analysed. 

This, the ICC and Intel claim, will help commentators articulate elements of the game to new and existing audiences – and improve player technique. 

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