November 14, 2022 | Updated: May 11, 2023
The 2022 World Cup will be notable for its widespread use of innovative technologies to improve the fan experience, expand accessibility, better take care of players, and optimize officiating of the game.
Innovative technologies that will be on display include:
- Al Rihla, the official match ball for the event, which utilizes IoT-based technology to relay real-time data for Video Assistant Referee (VAR) officials.
- Semi-automated offside technology that integrates with Al Rihla to assist referees, enabling them to make accurate, fast and reproducible decisions throughout the tournament.
- An innovative solution that converts digital content into braille, will be made available to enable visually impaired fans to enjoy the event to the fullest.
These technologies, many of which will be rolled out for the first time at the 2022 World Cup, are poised to provide the world with a glimpse into the future of innovation in sport – for players, officials, staff, and, most importantly, fans.
Al Rihla, Connectivity, and Automation
Al Rihla, which means “the journey” in Arabic, is inspired by the culture, architecture, iconic boats and flag of Qatar.
The official match ball of the 2022 World Cup, Al Rihla will use what is being called connected ball technology to bring an unprecedented level of data and information into the game on the biggest stage of all.
“Football is a sport wherein some rules can pose complex challenges for referees and their assistants, particularly in relation to the verification, in real time, of game situations,” said Raul Colcher, IEEE Senior Life Member and Brazil fan.
“Recently, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) feature was introduced, enabling matches to be analyzed following a passage of play. However, this often requires the interruption of the match, much to the detriment of the spectacle and the annoyance of fans. Utilizing Al Rihla in tandem with IoT sensors and functionalities will serve to minimize such interruptions – and, when they do occur, make them much shorter and less disruptive.”
Beyond optimizing VAR, officials equipped with technologies like smartwatches will be provided with comprehensive information, enabling them to make more accurate decisions in a shorter period of time.
For example, if Al Rihla crosses the goal line, the match official will be notified by his or her smartwatch in real time, ensuring that a goal is awarded – and that celebrations can commence.
Improved Accessibility and Fan Engagement
Football. Futebol. Fútbol. Fußball. كُرَةُ القَدَم. Soccer.
The World Cup is for everyone, and the introduction of a gadget named Bonocle could fundamentally alter the way visually impaired fans access digital content. The easy-to-use electronic device, which utilizes bluetooth technology to transform digital content into braille, is a next-gen assistive technology that aims to provide unprecedented digital access to fans while maintaining a user-friendly experience.
IEEE Member and Netherlands fan Qiqi Wang is most excited for Bonocle.
“The current solution is focused on providing accessibility to the visually impaired, but I believe that a more evolved version of this technology that helps to convert visual and auditory information to other senses can have great applications,” said Wang.
On the other hand, Colcher is most excited for the widespread deployment of 5G at the event.
“The new 5G cellular communication features, which were not widespread in the 2018 World Cup, will certainly contribute to a richer fan experience,” said Colcher. For remote spectators in particular, the improvements introduced in imaging technologies will certainly provide a more detail oriented view experience – fans will even be able to see players’ expressions while watching at home!”
Additionally, according to Colcher, one of the most promising technologies poised to impact the fan experience throughout the World Cup is the emergence of augmented and virtual reality resources.
“Immersive technologies will enable fans to experience one of the greatest sporting events in the world up close, despite the fact that they won’t be on site,” said Colcher. “In the future, immersive technologies and, in particular, the introduction of metaverse-like environments, has the capacity to profoundly revolutionize the fan experience.”
Many of the technologies that you see that bring the World Cup to life would not be possible without technology standards from IEEE. If you’d like to learn more about how standards have made smart stadium technology possible, please view the IEEE Standards Association’s interactive experience below.