One of the major and most long-awaited world events this year was definitely the World Cup 2014. Millions of football fans around the world have been waiting for four years for the event. And the game didn’t disappoint its fans. Hot football matches and great competition increased already high Brazilian summer temperature. Everything happened during the tournament - top rated and less-prepared football teams meeting on one field, unexpected victories and crushing defeats. Some people think that victory and defeat are 'brothers' but I doubt if any Brazilian fan would agree with this statement. 'Shame of shames', 'The biggest shame in History', 'Catastrophic result' and many similar words were told about Brazilian national team after the biggest fiasco in match against Germany (Brazil 1 - 7 Germany). But these kinds of facts make football world's top sport.
Apart from unexpected results and incredibly hot emotions, the World Cup 2014 went down in a history as most hi-tech football event ever. It is worth mentioning that high technologies were widely used both on playing fields and far beyond them.
Here are only some of innovations that made the FIFA World Cup truly technological event.
Goalline technology (GLT)
Goalline technology debuted at FIFA World Cup 2014. This technology is based on 14 cameras set up around the rim of each host stadium. 7 of these cameras focus on 1 goal, while the other 7 focus on the opposite goal. They are connected to a central mainframe computer which analyses each shot on goal. When the match ball crosses the goal line, the referee will feel a vibration and receive a visual sign stating: “Goal”. How does he feel the vibration and see “Goal”? Simple, by wearing a special watch connected to the mainframe computer. The main aim of using GLT is to support the match officials and to install a system in all stages, pending the successful installation, and pre-match referee tests.
In a bid to prevent teams from illegally gaining ground at free-kicks, referees at the tournament were armed with small canisters of vanishing foam. The biodegradable white substance should be sprayed on the pitch to mark where free-kicks should be taken from and the 10-yard distance that the opposition's defensive wall must observe. Known as Aero Comex Futline, the substance dissolves within a minute. "Players respect it," says Australian referee Ben Williams. "It's a great innovation and I'm looking forward to using it."
England's players have each been equipped with iPads containing personalized information about their group-stage opponents. The Football Association has designed a scouting app that allows Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and their team-mates to access personal data and video footage of the specific opponents they were going to come up against at the tournament. But as we already know, this could not save the Three Lions from shockingly unsuccessful appearance.
In Brazil modern technology was apparent even before fans were entering the stadium thanks to a team of US-built Packbot 510 robots. Programmed to investigate suspicious packages and to signal any unusual behavior, they were assisting the human guards in ensuring the safety of the thousands of people that gathered to see the games every day.
Another big technology for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil became 4K. The 4K, also known as Ultra High Definition, is a new technology which boosts resolution approximately four times higher than conventional High Definition television and requires a satellite network capable of handling 100 megabits of data per second. The tournament is seen as a trial run for the technology, which is not yet widely available. The world leading satellite operator SES together with European Broadcasting Union (EBU) broadcasted 2014 FIFA World Cup to audiences throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia in Ultra HD and HD via SES satellites and with that provided unique experience for football’s fans.
Far beyond the football field
More than 4 million fans from all over the world were in Brazil to watch these historical games of World Cup 2014. Except for those four million people who were in Brazil, there were more than 3 billion TV viewers who were receiving TV broadcasting signal from 12 championship stadiums via SES Astra satellites all over the world. That’s almost half (!) of the population of the planet Earth.
The World Cup 2014 was certainly the largest sporting event that SES – world leading satellite operator - has covered in the last 10 years.
Enormous energy, time and money are needed to be spent to prepare the TV translations of 64 football matches ideally. Usual lead time that is needed for broadcasters to plan major events such as the 2014 World Cup depends on the location and the demands of the event. Most of broadcasters start planning such events 12 to 18 months before the start date. The 2014 World Cup, for example, has been planned during two years. For major events, broadcasters look to secure the capacity well in advance in order to ensure the transmission and to plan the event properly.
Leading broadcasters from around the world have secured a lot of capacity aboard SES’s satellites to deliver 2014 World Cup broadcasts to audiences throughout North America, Latin America and Europe. Broadcasters also utilized other SES spacecraft together with strategic ground infrastructure to extend the distribution of World Cup coverage into other regions, including Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
Xavier Lobao, Head of Future Telecommunications Projects at ESA stressed the role of space in watching the games: “No matter what the technology that is used at the homes to receive the television, satellites are being used.”
Thanks to satellites located 36 000 km up into space, people all over the world can enjoy same moments of the game almost simultaneously and be like a one big family. “You can imagine that after the goal is scored in Rio, people living in the north of Siberia will see that goal about a second to a second and a half later,” said Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer at SES.
The history shows that The World Cup and new technology has gone hand in hand ever since the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The 1970 World Cup was the first to be broadcast in color. The Mexican games were the start of a relationship between new technology in television and the World Cup. More recently, the 2006 games in Germany were the first to be broadcast in HDTV and the South African games were available via Internet streaming, while some games were even available in 3D television. As we’ve mentioned, this year one could have witnessed Ultra HD broadcasting of the World Cup. Probably soon we will not have to be surprised with wearable technology when football players will wear cameras and TV viewers can choose in that case to see a striker, and see the view from the striker when he is attacking. Or if there is a penalty or a free kick, people can see the view from the goalkeeper. It is always a question what the next World Cup will bring us in terms of technology and let’s wait patiently for more innovations to come!