How the GAA has come to be leaders in IOT technology

Croke Park is kitted out with sophisticated, smart technology

You may or may not have heard about the Internet of Things. Pretty soon everything in our lives will have an IP address – it’s all big data and analytics. This technology is entering the world of sport, and Ireland is leading the way with this innovation. Croke Park was the world’s first IOT stadium. So, what does that mean and how will it benefit the fans, the GAA and our bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup? I went out to Croke Park to find out more. 

IOT is when everyday objects are connected onto a network. This generates data that’s then analysed to create learnings. These are then used to ensure that services and products work more efficently for us, the consumer. IOT is at play on small and big scales. You may think that you’re not tech savvy and that this doesn’t impact you, but if you’ve a smartphone, an ATM card or a LEAP card, you’re involved.

The most basic, but illustrative example to give is the real-time information provided by Dublin Bus here in the city. They’ve tranformed busstops from just piece of metal to sources of information. They also have the app, which provides users with real time information, to help them track delays on a route.

Two years ago, DCU teamed up with the GAA, Intel and Microsoft to transform the ground from a static building in the heart of Dublin to a living stadium that learns from the behaviours of the humans that use it. I met with Professor Noel O’Connor, Director of DCU’s Information Technology and Digital Society Research & Enterprise Hub, in Croke Park on Tuesday morning and he gave me a broad overview of the project.

These sensors are on the entire time. They have their base line info – so for example when I was there on Tuesday, there was nothing going on – so all the levels would have been standard enough. It’s important to have this kind of data, however, because it gives the analysts something to measure against on All Ireland Final Day or when there’s a gig on.

What I’ve found most interesting about this is that there is a massive payback to the fans that go along to anything in Croke Park. And this payback doesn’t come in two or three years when they’ve had time to learn from the data, this comes instantly. Noel O’Connor gave me further insight into this. 

Everything is up for grabs and the GAA, DCU, and their partners on this project are welcoming of any and all technological ideas to try out. I asked Noel, however, if it’s probable or even possible that we could see sensors placed under the pitch to identify the areas that have the most amount of action during any one game…

This project is all about using Croke Park as a National Accessible test bed for new technologies to be tested, at scale, before being rolled out either nationally or internationally. Ireland is working to become a leader in this innovative space by 2020 and we’re already doing pretty well in that respect.

As I was leaving the stadium on Tuesday, BOD was there filming more stuff for our bid and I was chatting to Noel after our interview about how this technology could help with it.

He was saying that it’s not only an asset to the ground but also to the city as a whole. If the rugby world cup final were to take place in Dublin, it would obviously test every aspect of our infrastructure. The information offered up by the sensors at Croker alone would help ease the stress on the city and ensure that things operate as smoothly as possible.