Microsoft Bats for IoT Use in Cricket

Could IoT change how we watch the game? Real time analytics of batting motion aims to bring sports even closer to the fans.

Data measured by the Power Bat sensors is analyzed and delivered in real time to fans via a smartphone app. (Image courtesy of Microsoft News.)

Data measured by the Power Bat sensors is analyzed and delivered in real time to fans via a smartphone app. (Image courtesy of Microsoft News.)

It is no secret that sports and engineering are a match made in heaven. But according to Anil Kumble, former Captain of the Indian cricket team and holder of a B.E. in mechanical engineering, the use of sensors in sporting events has so far been extremely limited compared to its potential.

This is why Kumble and his startup Spektacom developed the “Power Bat”—a credit card sized sticker that is engineered to measure the quality of a batter’s swing. Now, Spektacom has brought Microsoft on board to use its IoT platform Microsoft Azure for real-time analysis on the data collected by the batting sensors. The result of the partnership is an IoT ecosystem that can deliver sports analytics directly to spectators as the match is happening.

By measuring just a few parameters, the goal of the Power Bat is to determine how close each swing has come to the “sweet spot”—a type of bat swing in cricket that achieves optimal acceleration. Between the Spektacom sensor and Microsoft AI software, there are three key players that deliver this assessment: the Power Bat sticker, the stump box that acts as an IoT gateway, and the AI analytics in the cloud.

Janakiram MSV from Forbes runs us through the process. First, there is the five-gram sticker, outfitted with sensors that measure the bat swing for speed, angle, and thrust (among other parameters). The sensor data is collected by a nearby Azure Sphere, an “IoT edge” device that gathers data and prepares it to be sent to the cloud for analysis.

After the Azure Sphere has successfully collected the data, it passes it on to the Azure IoT Hub, which acts as a gateway to the cloud. In the cloud, the data is run through a machine learning model which is responsible for analysing the data. The final result is an evaluation of the quality of the bat swing, which is delivered in a special unit of measurement called “Power Speks.” Further stats, which can all be viewed on the accompanying smart phone app, include “the quality of the shot in percentages, the speed of bat in kilometres per hour, and the power while the twist happens in degrees.”

These Power Speks is what Kumble and Spektacom are hoping will transform the way that audiences experience live sporting events. Fans, coaches and commentators alike can view the results on their smart devices in real time, allowing a whole new type of engagement with what’s happening on the field. As well as bagging a Microsoft partnership, Spektacom has also joined forces with India Star—India’s primary sports broadcaster for cricket—who is hoping to incorporate the real-time data into their coverage.

It is easy to see how the Power Bat holds potential beyond cricket. With just a few tweaks, the same technology be easily adapted for baseball bats, hockey sticks and tennis rackets.

“Our vision is to bring sports closer to fans through interesting ways of engagement using real-time sports analytics. At the same time, it is important that the technologies used are seamless and do not disrupt the game or obstruct the players,” Kumble stated in an interview with IANS. “With Microsoft, we have been able to create a secure and effective solution, and with Star India, we have a partner that can stimulate and excite fan engagement.”

If the Power Bat is successful in the Tamil Nadu Premier League, the tech will continue on to be used in further high-profile cricket events. The role of technology in sports is not without controversy, and it is yet to be seen what effect this will have on cricket and the sports industry overall.