2013
03.28

I have to admit I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to baseball. I don’t particularly like when a ballpark has a giant screen in the outfield or interactive games. Rather, I simply enjoy watching the sport. Still, if the day comes—and it is coming fast—where embedded M2M technology throughout the ballpark makes the experience more comfortable and convenient, I think that might be something I could get behind—as long as it is discreet.

The Washington Nationals are one such team offering smart cards for fans, and I imagine the smart-ticketing concept will soon follow at other major league parks across the nation. The Ultimate Ballpark Access, as the team calls it, allows fans to simply tap the card to a turnstile to enter the park and redeem rewards points.

Beginning this year, the card will also include an “E-Cash” feature that will enable game attendees to load money to the card via an online account and then use the card for all purchases at the ballpark, providing fast cashless transactions at concessions and retail stores.

This next generation of smart customer service will allow lines to move faster and enable fans to get back to what they enjoy—watching the sport. Now that is the kind of technology I could appreciate in a ballpark.

These types of smart cards are also being deployed at theme parks, cruises, concerts, and festivals, and as such it only makes sense that M2M would ultimately make its way to the ballpark as well. In many cases, these smart cards are embedded with RFID and/or NFC in order to enable contactless payment and access to the attractions.

While this is one of the more recognized ways baseball is becoming connected, and a trend I believe will sweep many ballparks across the nation, there are still a number of other ways the sport can get an infusion of M2M.

Could M2M be the new umpire? While this is likely still a ways from hitting the major leagues, if ever, the University of Maryland, in partnership with Spessard Manufacturing, developed a baseball home plate that will detect balls and strikes by sensing the height, lateral position, and speed of a baseball passing over it.

The Electronic Home Plate is targeted for youth, scholastic, and collegiate baseball and softball leagues. What’s the purpose of the plate? Well, I know for one when my husband was playing recreational baseball, players and fans frequently got aggravated at the ump for making a bad call. The plate is designed to alleviate some of that tension.

At another university across the country, technology is also being developed to help athletes develop the perfect swing. Noel Perkins, a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, is researching sensors that can analyze and teach fine motor skills required in sports. Sensors embedded in equipment, such as a bat, allow for wired or wireless transmission of data to analyze the athlete’s performance.

Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of big screens in the ballpark. However, much of the embedded technology won’t necessarily distract from the game and will actually provide a better overall experience for park attendees. As M2M, RFID, and NFC continue to proliferate further in objects, sports will surely be one venue to become connected.

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