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Scaling With Data and Automation

Our industry has the tools and data it needs to scale solutions to systemic challenges. Empty stadiums should top the list.


Stephen Smith


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Looking at last week’s sports news it’s clear we’ve entered the age of performance intelligence: analytics, automation and deep-learning technology are helping organizations scale in ways we’ve never seen before. If the emphasis of the last decade was digitizing information, today, organizations are adopting en masse the modern business practices essential to better integrate and collaborate, applying new tools to harness past data to scale, adapt, and adjust plans based on objective insights linked directly to on-field goals.

But what about off the field goals? In the age of performance intelligence, can organizations apply these same tools to industry wide challenges from COVID-19? Absolutely — and bringing back stadium-safe fans should top the list. To see how, let’s first get a quick sense of how organizations are already leveraging analytics and automation to speed their processes.

Let’s start with Purdue Athletics’ work to enrich their fan experience. Undergraduates at the university’s Data Mine determined the optimal times of day to post on various social platforms to maximize fan engagement during the pandemic. They also analyzed previous seasons’ ticket purchasing trends to identify the most-desired seats and find ways to improve others in anticipation of fans returning. Students gain real-world experience and the department saves time and money – critical for an organization that doesn’t take university or taxpayer dollars. As Director of Business Intelligence Brian Fordyce explained, “We realized if we wanted to be efficient, we needed to be able to pull information and organize it more quickly, basically automate some of our manual processes.”

Last week saw a similar boost for resource-constrained football clubs with news of Track160’s single-installation camera system. The deep-learning tech automatically detects and captures critical on-field moments, freeing up analysts who would otherwise have to manually capture and share the clips. As company VP Amir Shani powerfully put it, “Everything’s fully automatic. Talking about the youth club coach that doesn’t have time — he doesn’t need time.”

In the same vein as Perdue’s work, the PGA’s partnership with WHOOP last week highlights another way automation is enriching a fan experience by matching heart rates with video highlights. WHOOP CEO Will Ahmed points out this is only the tip of the iceberg of the physiological metrics that could be made available, but it’s also just the start of what can be accomplished with those metrics.

Real-time analytics and automation can perform much heavier lifts for teams than just driving fan engagement; they can tackle bigger, more complex challenges. And right now, there’s no challenge as complex or urgent as safely getting fans back into stadiums.

Making fans Stadium Safe

Arsenal’s £120-million loan from the Bank of England last week powerfully underscores the financial hit organizations are taking from COVID-cleared stadiums and reinforces that safely getting fans back in is one industry’s biggest and most urgent challenges.

Last week the Buffalo Bills took a huge step by implementing America’s first large-scale fan testing since the pandemic. They tested more than 6,700 fans at Bills Stadium several days in advance and required negative tests for entry on game day. Fans paid for tests and received results by email.

This is a terrific start, but fans had to visit the stadium twice and the organization had to spend time administering tests. As well, the Bills could only bring in fewer than 7,000 people. Scaling the testing and screening process to return tens of thousands of fans across hundreds of stadiums will require leveraging existing data for far greater levels of efficiency, similar to how Purdue and clubs using Track160 have done within their spheres. This is absolutely possible in the age of performance intelligence

Using Data to Get Fans Back in Stadiums Sooner

With the right tools, it’s possible to access critical reservoirs of electronic medical data and harness the right information to get healthy fans back in seats sooner.

At Kitman Labs, we developed a platform to do just that by leveraging existing secure healthcare data integration technology to automatically verify tests results or proof of vaccination. Our Stadium Safe platform connects to more than 35,000 unique healthcare facilities and offers over 90% coverage across U.S. healthcare systems.

By integrating into existing ticketing and ticket delivery processes, fans can get tested or vaccinated wherever they like and teams can be confident they are supporting a safe environment for fans and employees.

We’re extraordinarily excited to bring this capability to market; it’s also just one example of how the age of performance intelligence can arrest the age of COVID-19: Organizations can reopen stadiums sooner, bring fans back earlier, and get revenue flowing again for teams and local economies.

I’ll be sharing thoughts on sport’s most impactful developments and news on an ongoing basis. I welcome your feedback on Twitter or at



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  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen is Kitman Labs’ CEO and founder. He was previously Senior Injury Rehabilitation & Conditioning Coach at Leinster Rugby Club. Stephen holds a BSc in Sport & Exercise Rehab and MSc in Football Rehab from Edgehill University.

    CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs


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