Geek days in Barcelona
The last two weeks, I finally allowed myself a few days of shameless procrastination from my “official” MBA duties and attended two very interesting conferences held in Barcelona. Being the geek I am, I’ll write down a few of my favorite things from each.
Barcelona Sports Tech Symposium
Held in Camp Nou, this symposium brought together very interesting people from the sports tech industry. Everything from performance improvement to talent identification, smart stadiums and new digital business was covered by leading practitioners in their fields.
I really thought the Golden 1 Center of the Sacramento Kings was really impressive. This is what happens when you merge tech with entertainment! They are also doing a great job of staying prepared for the future, with excess computing capacity.
The Formula 1 showcase of how they use data was another highlight. I knew data was a component of the game, but never really realized just how much it was used in real-time strategy. It is definitely a competitive advantage in a sport where seconds make the difference.
The Red Bull Futball Akademie was also very impressive. They are actually using data to assess mental fitness of players, improving how and what they see drastically. Again, a great competitive advantage that shows on the field.
Finally, the All Blacks (New Zealand Rugby Team) taught us how it’s done against all odds. With very few games a year in a geographical corner of the world, they are pushing engagement with fans in pretty awesome ways. A good digital strategy is helping them achieve this.
Key takeaways from these experiences:
- Data is becoming more of a differentiator in sports, both for results and profits
- The sky is the limit in ways in which teams can now engage with fans through digital initiatives
- A world body governing data standards in the industry is urgent. FIFA and UEFA are working on it, but what about all the other leagues?
Smart Cities Expo
The icing on the cake was the Smart Cities Expo, a topic I am deeply passionate about. Thanks to the very generous support of Pilar Conesa from Anteverti, I secured a ticket and made my way to the visitors area.
The first thing that caught my eye was Microsoft’s facial recognition software. Error rate? 1 out of a billion. The live demonstration also proved how fast it picks up a human face from the background.
Off course, there are much larger, filosofical, issues when dealing with facial recognition, but no one can deny the technology is impressive.
I also found Dog Parker, a pretty interesting business idea. Although in it’s early stages, I would think it merits some attention in the future.
The afternoon stroll took me through the Dubai (tons of investment in infraestructure and pretty amazing police capabilities), Swedish (nothing-goes-to-waste garbage management) and Tel Aviv (listen to every citizen platform) stands. I was amazed at the willingness to share learnings with others, which I think is more or less a characteristic of this industry. Cities, especially in different geographies, don’t have an incentive to compete as fiercely as companies do.
The following day, I heard some interesting talks from Liberty Bell and Citi Logik (awesome!) before hitting the Catalan exhibits. I was especially interested in Citibeats and Barcelona Open Data.
Key takeaways from these experiences:
- Technology to drive tangible improvements for citizens is now relatively easy to acquire (thanks Google Maps)
- I felt a sense of competition amongst vendors (which might lead to cheaper implementations of solutions?)
- The most successful cities in becoming smart have professional staff dedicated to this objectives
Which begs the question, why aren’t more cities embracing smart initiatives? I’m very interested in the industry, but still a newbie, so I’ll leave that question to the experts.