THE BLOG

APIs: Bringing Athletes and Fans Closer Together

11/03/2014 12:37 GMT | Updated 11/05/2014 10:59 BST

The Premier League, like many sporting events, is followed avidly by fans. Many times have we heard our friends shouting at the television over the referee's decision to give the opponent a free kick. Now we can channel our passion for sport, beyond just watching it on TV; from taking part in fantasy leagues online to monitoring our personal performance. In a world where most of our hobbies, interests and passions have been digitised and turned into a product of virtual reality, the entire concept of mobile applications is no longer just for the computer savvy.

A recent report from IHS found that the sports application market is set to expand by 63 per cent in the next five years, which is hardly surprising when you consider the boom in tablet and mobile shipments over the past decade. In a very short space of time, sporting apps have become an integral part in the daily lives of millions of mobile users, allowing them to use their smartphones to do everything from tracking real-time accurate sports news and scores, to letting fans step in the managerial seat for their favourite fantasy football team. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are the superglue holding these applications together. They transmit information, such as sport news, allowing us the enjoying the excitement of our favourite sports at any time, on almost any device.

From the armchair to the iPhone

This surge of popularity in sporting applications has led to a multitude of sites and applications popping up over the years, helping fans, players and owners get the heads up on their teams. No longer do they have to remain tied to the leg of their armchair watching Match Of The Day to get the low down on their team. API's have given fans the opportunity to track the success of their football clubs anywhere, anytime, by aggregating all of the pieces of information they need into a single mobile device.

APIs act like a universal travel adapter. Just like connecting to a foreign countries power point, an API is a simple way to connect and consume a service from a third-party provider. These services could be anything from real-time football results, match schedules or player statistics. What's even better is the fact that API's allow these services to be consumed through different mobile devices via simple interfaces that are integrated to fit completely in line with the original sites branding, leading to a seamless experience for the user.

For example, fairly recently, FIFA announced the launch of their very own mobile application ahead of the Brazilian World Cup in 2014. This hook-up provides users with plenty of football-related content, including news, videos, photos and match results from over 200 leagues. Not only that, but the application also allowed football fans to watch the live draw from their smartphones.

Measuring performance

APIs however, aren't just for the fans.

Athletes are finding themselves under increasing amounts of pressure when it comes to beating their previous match performance. Sport APIs have given them the opportunity to measure their performance through wearable tech devices such as the Nike fuel band and the Adidas smart watch. Wearable technology as well is providing athletes with a whole new dimension to measuring the data they produce. Recon's Snow2 HUD googles, for example, provide snowboarders and skiers with data on their speed, jump time analytics and the ability to track other people on the snow. For their underwater counterparts, there is Instabeat, a HUD for swimmers to monitor their performance. There are a number of smart shoes on the market now, with integrated electronics and APIs, they are able to monitor performance and afterwards, this quantified data can then be downloaded and shared across social networking sites - allowing team mates to compete and compare their training performance online.

As the number of followers, devices, and applications grows in the sporting world, so does the need to manage these APIs. Sport fans and athletes will only ever get the most from these applications after the flow of data is fully enabled and secured across different devices. With so much data being produced through these apps, consumers will want to know to questions such as "Who owns the data which is being transmitted from these wearable devices?", "How can I be sure of the privacy of this data?" In the coming years, as these products become increasingly popular, sporting bodies, programmers and app developers will need to address these questions and ensure they all have a secure API management system in place, capable of responding to the huge growth expected in applications and data flows and ensuring any user's data is safe and secure. The sky's the limit when it comes to APIs and now we can all have our eyes on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil so it'll be interesting to see how fans, footballers and athletes alike use this 24 hour access to information and personal data in the coming year.