Kickoff is just days away and NFL* fans from around the country are descending upon Houston for Super Bowl LI.  But there’s more at play than a game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. This year – and now more than ever – the Super Bowl is becoming the ultimate in real-time, digital entertainment.

The Super Bowl is always a showcase event for the NFL – appealing to avid and casual fans alike.  In this world of big ratings, the NFL continuously rises to the occasion by capturing the true value of the game. And with the flood of data and a burgeoning digital transformation, the bar is set even higher for this year’s event.

There’s no escaping it. The technology transformation is having a direct and immediate impact on every industry, from financial services and health care to entertainment. Gaining a competitive edge today demands fully exploiting the growing digital infrastructure and the accompanying flood of data.  This shift means businesses can now embrace innovation and deliver highly customized services. And the impact of technology and this new digital environment is clearly playing out in professional sports.

The NFL touts this year’s Super Bowl as the most technologically advanced contest in its 51 years. It all begins with data.  Viewers don’t just watch the game, they want to be a part of it.  Beyond simple stats for fantasy football, fans demand real-time data on player performance, game history, and record-holders.

Effective use of big data is becoming instrumental with the broad array of new Super Bowl apps at work – serving an expected 30,000-plus connected fans. Reports indicate more than 4 TB of data is readily consumed during each and every NFL game today.  Addressing this demand, the Super Bowl is now leveraging sensors across the stadium and inside players’ helmets and shoulder pads to funnel critical information as requested. Data is then made available instantaneously and on-demand from the cloud.

The league is also embracing virtual reality for this year’s game.  Cameras on the field are being bolstered by “inside-the-helmet” video across nearly 40 HD cameras, providing 360-degree views from nearly any player position.  Additionally, broadcasters at Fox are leveraging augmented reality cameras to immediately mark and highlight field position in real-time.

Of course, the broadcast is catering to the “anywhere-anytime” fan. More than 80 hours of programming covering every angle before, during and after the game is being produced. Fans who cannot get enough of coverage on national TV can also stream audio and video online. The signs point to a high turnout, with those watching online expected to surpass 1.5 million.

It’s almost time for kickoff and technology has never played such an instrumental role in a professional sporting event. Driven by the digital transformation, cloud and big data – technology improves our game day experience. To learn more about enabling a digital transformation at your organization, talk to a technology expert today.

SOURCE: Forbes by Scott Brindamour – CenturyLink