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2014 World Cup Tech Report

Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win. - Gary Lineker

Tech Winners

Rank Winner Description
1 Germany Training App Mostly kept confidential to protect their competitive advantage, here are a few bits that we know. There are at least 2 modules - for scouting and for feedback - in a client-server architecture. Every player and coach has a mobile device which runs the app.
On the backend there's data, metrics, and video footage of every opposition player they might face, going back up to 4 years. They update it daily with the previous day's match footage. The scouting module can be quickly searched for key scenes of any opposition player (even the one about to step on the pitch). It allows clever searches for player combinations: find all Brazil matches without Neymar and Silva. And the results come back with quick, meaningful clues with video.
The feedback module condenses the key learnings for each player into a few video spots (doing away with those group sessions of 90+ minutes to watch tape of their last match). It's all mobile, so they can run the app at breakfast, in the ice bath, or on the beach.
2 Brazuca (by Adidas) The "most engineered ball ever". This ball more than makes up for the failure of their last World Cup ball. Improved grip, touch, and aerodynamics. It has better aerodynamics / more stable flight / fewer knuckle-balls through seam geometry - the thermally bonded panels leave minimal seams. The reduced panel count (only 6 panels - all identical) means fewer defects and reduced water uptake. And not only is it still round - it's more round than ever! (Yes there's a specification for this - it keeps its shape).
3 Free kick foam This foam, chosen from among hundreds of compounds tested, revolutionizes the positioning on free kicks. There are no more squabbles! Works great. Saves a few seconds per kick, and maybe a yellow card here and there.
4 Keyboard short cuts With the recent proliferation of mobile devices, there's a greater need and this is the answer. 3 main uses for a shortcut: a) when you're going to say the same thing over and over again (like "USA defense clears the ball");
b) to simplify writing a word or phrase (like names of Greek players Papadopoulos and Karagounis);
c) do a map - input the jersey number and the name gets inserted automagically (like "kr10" => "Park Chu Young"). It beats trying to memorize them, and helps to crank out some of the record-setting thousands of tweets (See Twitter, #10).
5 Heat Maps From the USA team's Nike jersey design to players' positioning and tactics, we're seeing a lot more of these this time around. See Neuer's (Germany GK) against Algeria. Should earn the Golden Broom to go with his Golden Glove award.
6 PackBots (by iRobot) Former role: clearing bunkers and minefields in Afghanistan and Iraq. Latest role: checking suspicious packages and providing surveillance at the 12 Brazil World Cup stadiums. Looks like their job was a success.
7 Campo Bahia Can't find a training facility / hotel to meet all of your team's requirements ? Build one! That's what Germany did. Fine-tune the location, training pitch, fitness facilities, telecom facilities, even relaxation near the beach. All they need to stay loose, but focused. To be turned over to youth soccer training and tourism after the tournament.
8 Jerseys (by Nike) For the US team, Nike has created their "coolest ever" soccer jerseys to help manage the conditions in Brazil. To do this, a new heat map of the athlete's body, laser-cut ventilation (boosts airflow), and ultra-lightweight materials were developed. Also features the words "One Nation. One Team" visible only in UV light. (in keeping with the "coolest ever" theme I suppose).
9 Goal Line Tech (by GoalControl) It works. Should have been picked up 8 years ago, but FIFA isn't exactly on the cutting edge.
10 Twitter In 2010, their servers crumbled every time Donovan or Iniesta scored a goal, and in other big moments of the tournament. Pretty shameful by new media standards. But they learned.
By 2014, not only are their servers intact, but they're embracing the millions of users a bit better, using the World Cup as an opportunity to expand the twitterverse.
The Germany vs. Brazil semifinal set a series of all-time tweet records. (peak tweets per second - mostly during a short, 6-minute span in the first half).

Tech Losers

Rank Loser Description
1 City of Belo Horizonte Public Works (Roadway Overpass) It was supposed to be done in advance of the World Cup, to help ease traffic around the Estadio Mineirao. Instead - it failed in about the worst possible way - actually blocking traffic as it completely closed the road underneath. Caused a list of casualties.
2 Ghana banking system I don't have full details on this. But it seems like they should be able to just wire money. Loading a charter jet full of Ghanaian cedis (cash currency) to send to the team in between matches? It wasn't enough stop the team's internal pay disputes - there's got to be a better way. As if there's some place in Maceio (their base in Brazil) where they can exchange large volumes of Ghana cedis.
3 Bite detection There is none, but they need some sort of a litmus test for this. There's clearly a market for it, as long as Suarez plays, and as long as the kids who follow him have such a lousy role model. Photos and video of Chiellini's shoulder were unconvincing. Who knows - maybe it was just a kiss? Equip the 4th official with a bite detector.
4 Hooligans with lasers Their team may call them fans, but spectators wielding laser pens from the stands have no place in sport. Coach Capello complained about it when Russia played Algeria. This echoed Asia teams' experiences in qualifying: too many losers with lasers in the stands in some countries. It's very dangerous to the eyes.
5 City of Recife Public Works (Drainage System) The city hosted several matches in this year's World Cup. On the final day of play for Group G, the city was host to USA vs. Germany, but a torrential rainstorm hit just hours before kickoff. Areas of the city near the stadium were flooded - photos showed places more than knee deep.
Thousands of fans, some having traveled across continents to get there, couldn't make it the last ten miles through the flooded streets. Somehow the teams and match officials made it to the stadium, the surface of the pitch was playable, and the game could go on. Even some of the players' families gave up and settled for watching on TV from their hotels.
6 Fifa medical stretcher Brazil's Neymar goes down in the quarterfinal with a knee to the back. Turns out, he's broken his back (a vertebrae). They lump him in the spacious stretcher - with no belt. Maybe FIFA have gotten complacent with the number of fake injuries they deal with - they figure they can dispense with belts.
It's only 18th century technology (estimated). Compare the Fifa stretcher photos to the helicopter stretcher photos and you'll see why this is one of the tech losers.
7 Opening Ceremonies: the sound system It may have been fun, but fans who were glad Jennifer Lopez showed up would have been pretty bummed that the sound was broken and they couldn't hear her.
8 Air Force One President Obama scored some points with sports fans for making time in his busy schedule to watch the USA's 3rd group stage match (vs. Germany). The time coincided with his domestic flight on Air Force One. To take nothing away from the President's patriotism, from a tech standpoint the effort left a little to be desired.
At least 2 key elements are missing from his AF1 media system: A second screen (for viewing the other simultaneous group match, which ultimately was the one that sent USA through the "Group of Death") and a remote control for managing his channels. I hope the system they use doesn't interrupt the pilots (when he asks to change channels because he doesn't have a remote).
Maybe he keeps the remote hidden in the armrest, but there's no second screen hidden there.

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