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Deep learning algo, the latest performance-enhancing drug

By MA SI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-01-01 07:56
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Players take part in an AI-driven contest of go in Fuzhou, capital of East China's Fujian province. LIN KAI/XINHUA

Cutting-edge digital technologies are becoming an important driver of the development of China's sports industry, as the nation aims to raise the sector's annual output to 5 trillion yuan ($766 billion) by 2025, experts said.

Zheng Fang, deputy director of the national sports industry research base of Zhejiang University, said smart sports is an inevitable way to integrate sports informatization and sports industrialization.

The core point is to use deep learning algorithms to mine valuable information based on sports data, so as to improve performance of athletes and coaches, management capability of sports administrators, and decision-making of stakeholders like advertisers, marketers, broadcasters and sponsors.

"With the guidance of government policies, more efforts are being made to promote the innovation and development of various smart sports industries, including building smart sports stadium innovation bases, and guiding existing key laboratories and enterprises related to smart sports to do more research," Zheng said.

The comments came as China is working hard to promote the development of the sports industry, as more people embrace sports as a way of life and a healthy daily habit. According to plans released by the State Council, China's Cabinet, the sports sector's annual output is expected to exceed 3 trillion yuan by the end of 2020.

Huang Haiyan, a professor at the Shanghai University of Sport, said technologies can profoundly upgrade the sports industry in multiple forms.

Virtual reality, somatosensory technology, artificial intelligence, and big data will usher in a revolutionary application period for the sports sector. These technologies will also be a strong driving force for consumption upgrade, optimize the supply and demand structure of the sports industry, extending its value chain and enhancing its competitiveness, Huang said.

Zheng from Zhejiang University agreed, adding that technologies have played an important role in helping people exercise even amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The outbreak has not limited the development of the sports industry. Instead, it shows huge development potential and vigorous vitality, which is enough to show that the strong development prospects of the smart sports industry can be expected," Zheng said.

The fitness trend among stay-at-home people in China, for instance, is booming due to social distancing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as technology companies beef up efforts to provide users with intelligent fitness equipment.

Fitness app Keep, for instance, said its smart exercise bikes temporarily sold out as demand soared during the peak of the pandemic.

A string of Chinese technology companies, including Huawei Technologies Co, Oppo, and Vivo, have unveiled sports-themed smart watches that have great appeal to consumers who are becoming more health-conscious amid the pandemic.

The stay-fit fever is also evident in other countries around the pandemic-stricken world. Though no data are immediately available to show the market size of China's sports equipment sector, a report from the market research company Grand View Research showed that the global smart sports equipment market size was valued at $2.16 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.1 percent in the period from 2020 to 2027.

"Rising prominence of sports as a principal vertical market for the connected objects and the internet of things is popularizing the concept of smart sports equipment. Increasing demand for tracking fitness and athletic performance for evaluating health metrics is boosting the adoption of the product", Grand View Research said in its report, which was unveiled in May last year.

The ability of these products to provide personalized feedback to the users is driving the demand for smart sports equipment. In addition, shifting customer preference for sports as a lifestyle in order to maintain health is paving the way for the growth of smart sports equipment industry, the company said.

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