Sunday 8 August 2021

Veo 2 - Sports Analysis interesting! (updated 2021-09-30)

@VeoCamera Veo announced on Thursday 5th August their new "Veo 2" sports camera as per with a video

As someone with a keen interest in sports still & video images, and as someone who is regularly "up the tower" enjoying the best view in the house behind a video camera for field hockey match analysis, I've been keeping an eye on the emerging world of club level intelligent & automated imagery. I'd looked at Veo previously, so the v2 was of interest.

The first thing to say is that this sector is immature, now please don't take that as a bad thing, in fact it is developing and growing rapidly - with companies and many different exciting features & functions emerging rapidly. We're also starting to see some hockey clubs and schools take steps with systems in these areas, vary systems and often pilot projects; but there's definitely something that can be learned & leveraged from other larger sports (eg football & cricket).

To my rough eye these companies might break down into 4 groups:

1) Pro - companies moving their professional grade solutions down to the club level

2) Analysis - companies widening their analysis solution portfolio to encompass more elements of the workflow solutions. 

3) Club - companies widening their club management portfolio to encompass more elements

4) Video - new to market companies focusing specifically on club video analysis, breaks into a couple of types

    4a) All in one solutions - providing full hardware and software solutions

    4b) Component solutions - providing specific elements of the new solutions (gimble platform, masts, IP cameras etc)

Some of the companies include the following: 

Whilst I'd love to have a 20+ 8k camera, fully AI referee assist & match analysis solution like some of the category 1 companies, that 6+ digit budget money simply doesn't exist in the amateur club level. So the area that most excites & interests me right now is the category 4a companies like Veo...

To me, in an emerging market the key elements in an emerging market are solution & commercial flexibility (so you can change as things evolve), time to value, and openness on integration & data portability.

At the moment the industry standards for data, meta-data, imagery and tagging assets haven't yet matured in this level, so it's a matter of looking for eco-system relationships & cooperation rather than technology standards & interoperability. There's clearly some overlap and jostling going on between imaging companies, analysis companies, streaming companies and club / game management companies.

Features I'm most interested in:

  • Autonomous filming of field hockey matches - mainly outdoor 11v11, but occasionally outdoor. (To remove the requirement for a volunteer camera operator)
  • Ability to remotely control the camera recording & streaming (from anywhere around pitch & club)
  • Portable platform, with option for permanent install & mounting
  • Ability to work both 'end-on' and 'side-on' to the pitch
  • Live streaming to audience, with option to feed to other platforms (YouTube, Twitch, Scorrd etc)
  • Ability to live feed to other screens around the local club (eg dugout, clubhouse), including rewind & replay options
  • Match overlay graphics (scorecards, teams, sponsors etc)
  • Automated hockey event timeline tagging (goal, side-line, free hit, long corner, PC, shuffle, stroke, player substitutions etc)
  • Automated generation of post match analytics (heatmaps, player trackers, formation trackers)
  • Visual analysis tools (draw on screen, directed highlights, full pitch view and broadcast view)
  • Feed to open match analysis solutions
  • An affordable pricing model

After last week's 5th Aug announcement from Veo, as well as being super interested I was left with a sack of questions, including:

  1. Can we control & mute the audio? both for live streaming, and for post match analysis & assets...
  2. Can we concurrently forward / export the live stream real-time to other platforms? (eg YouTube? Facebook?)
  3. Integration with Pitchero and SportLomo?
    1. I can see that Veo & Pitchero had had some relationship so far, but I'm looking for integration of teams & fixture info, allowing the Pitchero app to update the Veo score etc.
  4. The LiveStream FAQ says "You can live-stream at 1080p with 10 Mbit/s and 720p with 4 Mbit/s." but elsewhere in the FAQ it also says "Streaming in 720p video quality requires a 4Mbps connection. To stream in Full HD, you need an 8Mbps connection." - so is HD 1080p 8Mbs or 10Mbs?
  5. Integration with and/or export of events & video to CoachLogic & Hudl?
  6. Given the 'local processing of images' can I later use Veo 2 as a camera without the full subscriptions?
  7. Does the Veo 2 automatically upload / backup the locally processed videos to the Veo service? and can it securely send the files automatically to other locations?
  8. What happens with Veo 2 when the 128GB storage fills up?
  9. Is there a 'permanent mounting kit' that would allow us to securely mount the camera (in a secure enclosure?) to the pitch side fencing and keep it powered and network connected full time?
  10. Details as to how the new software & hardware work with Field Hockey? football is nice but not relevant for my requirements...
  11. Confirmation of all functionality working over Ethernet & Wifi without the need to use the in build 4G cellular network?
  12. An ability to auto zoom in on a penalty corner or flick during live stream?
  13. Is there a digital zoom function for analysis?
  14. Is there a slow motion function for analysis?
  15. What is the supported distance from camera for app control?
  16. Can I get access to all of the content without needing any physical connection to the device?
  17. How is the security access to the device & service managed?
  18. What roles & control granularity are available for the camera & service management application? (can I give coaches & managers some control but not full config admin etc?)
  19. Approval / affiliation with England Hockey as the NGB, to allow us to use promote the solution as part of the player pathway program
  20. Does the match app allow for:
    1. "stopping the clock" as per hockey rules? (ie no extra time, but clock stopped on incidents)
    2. Quarters & Halves, both with varying durations
  21. Can we expand the live streaming (and recorded) graphics overlays to include:
    1. Team introduction player lists
    2. Club & sponsor logos
    3. Graphics info pages to be shown as overlay before & after matches
    4. Graphics info pages to be shown at quarter & half-time breaks
    5. Event animation overlays (eg driven from buttons on the match app re 'goal', 'green/yellow/red card', 'penalty', 'home win/loss)
    6. Graphics overlay for player substitutions (eg from app type list of player #s on/off - show on screen and record in event timeline)
  22. Can we export the automated & manual event timeline to 3rd party match analysis packages (eg CoachLogic)

Some concerns include:

  • Strong support for field hockey, whilst the website mentions field hockey, there aren't any example videos on the site or Youtube channel - I certainly want to see how the upgraded cameras work with the small & fast hockey ball
  • Strategy feature that most concerns me is that, at initial glance, it appears Veo may be going down the "walled private garden" route for content & streaming - we use multiple other systems already and whilst some might be replaceable not all are, so the ability to work & integrate with other platforms is of value
  • Veo Analytics - is an extra cost, and current only supporting football - need to know when this will support field hockey? (surely 2D-radar & heatmaps should work easily?)
  • There aren't any manuals online - small thing but always bothers me
  • The page listing the current v1 Platform and videos is littered with "video not found" - yes I know the future is v2, but v1 is still current, and web quality issues like this are always somewhat unnerving.
  • Some of the initial functionality will require cabled Ethernet not Wifi initially, with a software update planned before year end

I'm also looking to see what Veo do for their existing v1 camera owners re hardware upgrades/trade-ins and contract options, as this is a good indicator of a companies' approach to their customers...

At this point I've not mentioned costs, you can see the Veo 2 pricing here - assuming a 'club' subscription with analytics & live streaming it's circa £1000 per year subscription, and £1000 for the initial hardware - so not trivial but equally a viable cost for many clubs if you're using it well.

Do I want to get hold of a Veo 2 and do some field trials with hockey, very much so! Lets see what happens next...

RIP #FixturesLive

So it's only been a week since it's closure and I'm already missing the website for hockey fixture management :(

Like any good friend it wasn't perfect, at times far from it, but it was always there and supported us in some many ways, quietly getting on with the things that needed to be done - the unglamorous linchpin of club sport for so many, utterly indispensable for hockey competitions. 

I've just spent a few hours adding the families' junior & senior fixtures for the season into our family calendars, and boy this is painful, especially finding the venue location information (why do so many clubs manage to hide their pitch locations on their websites???)

Well just what am I missing right now?

  • Sync - The ability to simply synchronise a team's fixtures into my Google calendar seamlessly - the one click that instantly added (and kept updated with changes) dozens of fixtures into our schedules
  • Fixtures - The ability to easily synchronise a team to a league and have all the fixtures automatically added into the club's Pitchero membership system - and then later seamlessly have the results appear
  • Info - Easily and simple place to locate other club's venue locations and people contact information easily - yes I know the leagues have this but it's much easier for players / parents to get it without needing to engage with leagues
  • History - The history archives, whilst reviewing the coming season it's always important to look at the league's historic and fixture results over the years. Not just a historic archive of fixtures, players and events (including many current GB Elite squad player records from their early careers), but also a real treasure trove of information for current game prep.

Like all solutions, their demise reminds us of a couple of key topics:

  • Data - Who owns, curates and safeguards the data in the sport? Leagues & clubs were advised multiple times to download their historic fixture & player data (although looking at the extracts not all data was possible to be exported), It will be interesting to see what happens to these fragmented archive records. As times move forward it's going to be increasingly important for participants to take accountability for their own 'player passport of data', especially when the sport overall doesn't have a data strategy.
  • Resilience - Is the provision of any key solution/service within the sport secure, protected and resilient? The things we rely on to run and participate in the sport need to be there when we need & use them, don't just assume it's somebody else's responsibility to ensure they are!

With the upcoming new England Hockey centralised Game Management System (GMS), based on SportLomo I believe, I'm looking forward to seeing how it addresses the different user journeys of the sport's participants - hopefully it's going to focus on the needs of the many not those of the few.

The key to the benefits of such systems is not the app or the web user interface, it's not how many niche complex features it can address, BUT rather it's that many people use it, that it addresses the basics well for all and makes life simple for the various participants. An advantage that the new GMS should at least have is that it is required for use with all England Hockey affiliated competitions, so should have even more people using it, making it's information ever more usable & useful.

Equally with a revised, hopefully harmonised, set of competition rules from the AGM Governance works over the last few year (over)due for release from England Hockey for the new season in a few weeks, I'm going to be very intrigued as to how eligibility, data ownership & rights and image rights are addressed within these new rules.

So it's time to say a big thank you to those that originally conceived, developed, supported and maintained #FixturesLive - an essential tool/service that will be missed but not forgotten.

And of course time to look forwards, in hope, that the new system is at least as useful as FixturesLive was! (and yes I'm hoping that the history archive resurfaces somewhere soon)