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Mister Beacon Episode #93

Bluetooth Tags In Hockey Pucks

June 25, 2019

This one is for sports fans! Liiga, or Finnish Elite League in English, is the top professional league in Finland, and the first be deploying Bluetooth technology in an ice rink! Antti Jussi, CDO of Liiga, joins us to talk about the real-time positioning project in their arenas. Antti paints a picture of Quuppa gateways with angle of arrival technology hanging from the ceilings which track Bluetooth tags on players and the puck with incredible accuracy. For the first time, teams and players are given the opportunity to dive into the data and statistics that can be collected by this system, whether it be to improve the teams flow together, their individual performance, or to look at the competition. Check out this week’s episode to learn more about the potential for Bluetooth beacons to enhance the sports industry and the challenges in initial investment as well as implementation.


  • Narration 0:07

    The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Williot, scaling IoT with battery free Bluetooth.

    Steve Statler 0:16

    So, welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This week were in or near Helsinki in Finland at the Cooper conference, and I'm really pleased to be talking to aunty You see, I probably didn't pronounce that exactly right. Maybe you can do so. Okay. Very good. From Lika Can you introduce us to what we get to so Liga

    Antti-Jussi Aro 0:45

    is Finnish word for Finnish Hockey League. So we're their elite ice hockey series in Finland.

    Steve Statler 0:53

    And I hear that Finnish people like us, like ice hockey, it's pretty popular.

    Antti-Jussi Aro 0:58

    It's extremely popular here. You know, by far the most popular sports in all demographics here.

    Steve Statler 1:04

    And how big is the league? How many teams, how many stadiums,

    Antti-Jussi Aro 1:08

    we have 15 teams, 14 stadiums, and that's yeah, we've got over 2 million visitors or spectators in the past season, in total.

    Steve Statler 1:21

    So you guys have really led the charge being incredibly innovative about the use of bluetooth technology and location technology. Can you explain a bit about how you're using it? Yes, so

    Antti-Jussi Aro 1:35

    beginning of next season, we will have all the arenas equipped with Cooper locators. And then, you know, every player has the tag and the puck has a chip. And that kind of makes the infrastructure in the arenas. And then we have a fancy wise hockey, Cloud Analytics on top of that, to you know, real use the real time positioning on the eyes and all kinds of statistics and insights we can get from the game that hasn't been available before.

    Steve Statler 2:06

    This is great, because, you know, we've on the podcasts, we've talked a lot about angle of arrival Bluetooth angle of arrival technology, but you're using it for an application where you probably don't care a huge amount about the physics and the technology. What is it that that Cooper Cooper locators do for for ice hockey, that that is particularly important?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 2:33

    Well, they, you know, as every player has a tag on we have the puck with their their Cooper locators, and they you know, they track the players on the bug 100 times a second. And that way, we can get very, very accurate and precise coordinate data that we then the raw data, we use them to, you know, make all kinds of analytics on the player positions and speed up the puck and position of the puck and all kinds of stuff. So it's that's the key of actually doing that all the cool stuff.

    Steve Statler 3:06

    And what kind of Statistics does that yield? What does viewer presumably this is available through which channels? How does, how does a fan see this information? Well, we

    Antti-Jussi Aro 3:17

    can use it in the arena, and, you know, on the Jumbotron to show the statistics for the fans, we have some teams have applications where we can show some of the data on our league website and install channels, TV broadcasts, shelter data in there in period analysis and replays and highlight clips. So there's a lot of use cases for for the fan experience. And, you know, really sky's the limit for the insights and the stats we can get from really basic shots on on goal to you know, very, very deep analysis of the flow of the game and the performance of each of the team. So it's

    from, you know, from zero to 100, I guess,

    Steve Statler 4:04

    and how many tell us a little bit more about the infrastructure. So we've got a bunch of these locators, they look like small white frisbees with blinking lights. How many of those does it take to cover ice hockey? rink?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 4:20

    Yeah, it's rink, 20 locators and per eats arena. And they're in the in the ceiling of the arena covering the whole rink don't around the rink.

    Steve Statler 4:29

    And they communicate some kind of local server presumably, which is doing all of the calculation and when do you get to see the data it's displayed and is it displayed in real time?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 4:42

    It's displayed in real time. Yes.

    Steve Statler 4:45

    So you kind of have a digital view of where the puck is and where the players which I mean, I am not a big ice hockey fan. I am ashamed to admit to you but you are showing some skin In short, so the television coverage and how that's presented. And I have to say I found, I found it really useful, because otherwise, it's just difficult to track where everyone is. And you have that kind of like a heads up display. And you can see all of that, what kind of feedback have you had from your different stakeholders? What do they like about it?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 5:23

    Well, feedback is really positive. I mean, everyone looks at from their own perspective. So we have teams and coaches who really want the analysis of the King game, and then her, you know, as much data as possible from the players and their team and their opponents. But then for the fans, it's more about the visualization. I mean, we have so much data that we need to think about how to present that we can't really overload people with with some people really like statistics, they want the numbers and they want a lot of tables, and they can read all day. But you know, normal fan wants to you know, easily digestible piece of information. That's, that's really what maybe is our biggest challenge how we feed that to the to the fans so that they get a lot of added value, but it's, you know, overwhelming. In terms of amount of data.

    Steve Statler 6:14

    I think you guys really pioneered this space. I'm not aware of any other sports league, the IRS done exactly what you're doing now. Is that the case?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 6:26

    That is the case? Yeah, I mean, some of the football leagues, and some of the major leagues in the states have done like NFL have some done some chip based tracking. But you know, hockey is a different game, because the puck is really small, and travel is extremely fast. So it's a different game than than football or, or any other kind of slower sport where the ball is bigger. And you can use optical tracking as well but named for for the hockey, we're the We're the first to actually achieve this NHL has a lot of talks about it. But we haven't seen anything yet.

    Steve Statler 7:00

    I can't imagine how a Bluetooth beacon survives in a park that is being slammed really hard going at incredible velocities. But do these things? Do these things break? Or what are some of the what are some of the challenges with making all of this work?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 7:18

    Well, that has been the challenge, but not at the pucks, you know, broke down last season. So they are extremely durable. And the wise hockey guys who was you know, provide the solution for us, they made an extremely great shot with the puck, because that's their, their priority puck that they provide for us this achievement, the puck and it has to, you know, it has to survive, shot on the goalpost 100 miles an hour, you know, the whole whole night, and that's none of the pucks have broken down. So it's extremely. That's, that's, that's past been the biggest challenge, I guess for you know, thinking about how to get the chip in the puck and make it survive. Of course, it's a physical game, so players bump into each other quite a lot as well. So, you know, the tax on the players has to be durable as well. But so far, everything's going very well.

    Steve Statler 8:10

    And how about the players? Do they? How do they feel about being tracked?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 8:16

    Well, some players like it a lot, some players maybe not that much. And most of them probably don't even care that much. I mean, they know that this is part of that being part of the entertainment product that the league is and they mean, you know, there might be some questions in the future when this is more a more advanced system. And we can provide a lot of data to different parties. And there might be questions from players how we're using it. And of course, we need to make sure that players association is aware of that, and we have a good, you know, good relationship with them and with the players, but, but I think most of them don't really even they know they have a chip, but that doesn't really bother them at all. 

    Steve Statler 9:01

    So one of the challenges of going first and pioneering is you need to convince the skeptics, you know, within your own organization, presumably, some people thought it was a great idea. Others must have had some reservations, how do you how do you make that case to an organization that probably doesn't see radio technology as being its core business?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 9:26

    I know and that's when we show this to the teams and we show the board of directors of League of course we talk about the value the business value and commercial value that we can get out of this system. We don't talk about the technology that month so of course they need to know a little bit about that but you know, it's that's why we did a pilot of four arenas to validate the system and show the value that is actually works and this is how we can use this. A team's going to use it for for commercial purposes. They get new opportunities for their part errors. And there are sponsors that sampled Liga and we can save money, you know, doing statistics, automatically the future we can provide more data to coaches and players. So there's so many use cases for this. And we I mean, it's a it's a it's a big investment for us as I saw the ICA, but yeah, that was a lot of change management still problem that when we want every every team to be in part of this year.

    Steve Statler 10:29

    And so part of this is putting infrastructure into stadia. You mentioned, I think, 14, presume presumably you don't delete does the legal in the state of order, other separate entities that own the

    Antti-Jussi Aro 10:44

    structure? They are separate entities? It depends. It might be the city that owns owns the stadium? Usually the team is that main. Okay, keep up off that break. And they have a lot of saying what to put there. But yeah, I mean, we have a lot of broadcasting infrastructure in place and arenas as well. So So I mean, that's just, you know, putting a few locators in the ceiling. So that hasn't been a problem at all. It's if you play in the in the league, you need to have this in your arena as this.

    Steve Statler 11:17

    But what would you say the biggest challenge has been in getting this project done? Well, I,

    Antti-Jussi Aro 11:23

    I would say now, the biggest challenge has been the buy in to actually expand this league wide. Because it's sad. It's a huge investment. For us, although we have good resources, but it's still something that we wouldn't do this big investments every year, and now it's a five year deal with with wise hockey. So it's more about getting the buy in from the teams and the board of directors and you know, justify the investment that we can actually make it positive business case out of this. Technology. It's more about justifying that.

    Steve Statler 11:57

    And how do you go about that? That's I mean, you've sort of answered it already. But I'd love to hear anything else that you can share on selling that because I think the whole industry is filled with great ideas that never go anywhere. And is it just a spreadsheet where you kind of add up the revenue or?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 12:17

    Well for for some people? That's that's the answer. So we just need to show numbers. And we probably, yeah, hopefully we show green numbers. Plus as in, but, you know, some people want to know more, and they want to know that whitehawk is the system that should go I mean, this is where the sports is going. Everyone knows that we're you know, this is how we're evolving and but now what technology actually is to put your money on and what to invest on. That's maybe the biggest question that the you know, if this is something that we should do, everyone knows we should do this, but are we now you know, betting on the right horse,

    Steve Statler 12:58

    any lessons learned any benefits that you weren't anticipating that you've got out of using this technology?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 13:08

    Well, I think we're first started from the only from the fan perspective and immediate perspective. But once you know, the system got better and better. And the algorithms get more intelligent, we saw the kind of the coaching side and the team management side and I mean, then it started to make sense because it's the fan engagement, the media and and betting, that's probably where the money is. And that's what you know, pays the bills. But you know, the coaching side, we know that teams spend a lot of money on all kinds of coaching tools, and some of them are not that valuable. And now we can provide the whole league, every team in the league, we can kind of not level the playing field, but at least give up the same data set for all the teams to you know, and they can use it however they want to gain competitive advantage, I guess.

    Steve Statler 13:59

    Well, it's wonderful. I am really fascinating to hear about your application of this technology. It's always good to hear from end users and congratulations on being the first and doing this.

    Antti-Jussi Aro 14:12

    Thank you. Looking forward to next season.

    Steve Statler 14:15

    Yeah, good luck. Thank you all right. What three songs you take on a trip to Mars any? You do you enjoy music?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 14:30

    I do. I do. I'm a semi professional musician myself.

    Steve Statler 14:35

    I really do play a fantastic time.

    Antti-Jussi Aro 14:37

    What do you play? Guitar? Yes. I enjoy that. I'm a rock guy. So I think those are I think, three songs to really think about but you know, I think stairway to heaven would be the first one. I mean, that's an obvious choice. Classic and then you know, for the naming right? I would say a song called disguising neighborhood by the Foo Fighters. Okay kinda the name was and then my all time favorite song is Green Days basket case so I can listen to that. Alright day in day out so that's my third

    Steve Statler 15:13

    does it have like a memory associated with it or did you just like this?

    Antti-Jussi Aro 15:19

    Well there's of course a lot of you know, memories growing up listen to a song and the whole record but also Yeah, I like the song. It's it's a great song.