Tech specialists at the University of South Wales (USW) have helped a former Wales international footballer and his business partner to develop a system that will revolutionise working practices for sports commentators.
The experts at the USW-based Centre of Excellence in Mobile and Emerging Technologies (CEMET) have been working with Cardiff City legend and current football commentator Nathan Blake, and Tim Wilson, co-founder of business Temporal Junction, on a system that will help commentators to retrieve important player information through a digital interface.
Rather than relying on the traditional method of storing player data, through manual notetaking and filing, the app developed by CEMET supports commentators pre-game and live.
Instead of combing through numerous websites and collating data themselves, the app provides a central point for in-depth information and statistics about players, teams, and fixtures within a user-friendly interface that allows for information – such as a player’s goalscoring records, and teams’ home and away form – to be easily accessed.
Commentators are also given the ability to quickly capture notes via speech-to-text technology for match-day. And with live in-match commentary they are now provided with relevant match, team, and player data, and can record and input match events as they happen in a live timeline.
Mr Blake said the idea for the online system was born after he was asked to get involved in in broadcasting and writing newspaper columns after retiring from football in 2007.
“I took the opportunity and began working for both types of media in 2010, It turned out to be something I enjoyed very much, but there was a downside to the job – research became very time consuming and most of my peers still worked with pens, pencils, felt tips, erasers and paper, which began to make me think and ask the questions ‘Why is there no tech for this job?’ and ‘Is this the best and only way of doing things?’,” he said.
“So I searched the internet high and low for a digital tool I could use, but they were few and far between and none of the websites were able to do what I needed them to do.
“Over time the tablet and laptop have become more prominent in sports broadcasting, but still there was nothing that myself or any of my colleagues could use that would be deemed useful for all broadcasters, irrelevant of how the commentator works.
“So, the idea of The Journo App was born in my head around 2014/5, and it was then about meeting the right people to be able to bring my ideas to fruition.
“Thankfully, after some discussion with CEMET, we agreed to collaborate and build the first version of The Journo App – it was only the prototype, but to see my idea move from my head to now being on a working digital platform was very exciting and extremely satisfying.
“We can’t thank CEMET enough. They have been great to work with, and their invaluable help won’t be forgotten by ourselves in future.”
Will Warren, Senior Programmer at CEMET who worked on the project, said:
“Sports commentators are accustomed to using antiquated methods of recording and organising their match notes, the research sources that they use to gather these notes and statistics are a collection of disparate web pages.
“Temporal Junction approached CEMET with a plan for addressing these issues and worked with us to develop a proof-of-concept application that used audio transcription and data visualisation to present football commentators with access to the statistical data that they need, in one a centralised platform, while also allowing them to dictate and capture contextually aware notes that become organised at the point of capture.
“This means that, when game day arrives, commentators will have ready access to notes directly related to the fixture that is being played, the teams involved, and the players participating, directly from their tablet rather than having to leaf through handwritten notes.”
Mr Wilson added:
“Having looked at multiple avenues for help and funding we were getting quite frustrated with the process when we were introduced to CEMET through Business Wales
“Immediately we were met with a group of people who didn’t close the door on us but asked us to take a seat at the table, listen to our ideas, advise on those ideas, and even challenge items that needed to be challenged.
“Over the next three months CEMET was able to design our user journeys, build a live prototype app that became the foundation for us to then take it to the market to live test with journalists.
“This was an important step in validating some of those ideas and, because of the work CEMET did for us, we are now in a position in where we are currently looking at funding options for launch.”
CEMET enables eligible SMEs to access funded collaborative research & development via a unique three stage R&D process, which transforms an innovative idea into a high-quality product. The process ensures that entrepreneurs are best placed to capitalise on the collaboration, with the aim of stimulating business growth.
CEMET is based at the University of South Wales, within the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science, and is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government. ERDF funding aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU.