Iris Córdoba: “Technology has made sports and well-being accessible to all”
Twice recognized as one of the most influential women in sport, Iris Córdoba (Buenos Aires, 1975) has witnessed the growing female presence in the sporting industry, from her vantage point as Managing Director of the Global Sports Innovation Center powered by Microsoft (GSIC).
Through this center, which operates with a non-profit business cluster philosophy, she herself leads by example and tries to give maximum visibility to the women behind the companies that are part of its ecosystem. When the GSIC opened in 2015, she was invited to events to add a female touch. Today, she doesn’t attend events that don’t include other women. “Whether in sport or otherwise, we must inspire young girls to achieve whatever they want.”
While women have been becoming more and more present, the head of the GSIC has also witnessed the evolution of technology in sport, and plays an active part in it. Her aim is to try to “reduce the gap between big and small companies, and create opportunities and new business models in this industry.” Both at the business and sports level.
In this sector and as in many other fields, Big Data is used to measure performance and make decisions based on data. As regards business, she focuses on sport management itself (relationship with sponsors and fans, sale of rights etc.), in order to grow through engagement with various actions.
Digital transformation—she explains—provides the possibility of generating new sources of revenue and improving relationships with fans by being able to offer them more (and personalized) experiences, as well as getting to know what they like: what, how and where they consume. “Today, fans use multiple devices. When they are watching the game and they are using a tablet, a smart watch or their social networks, they are content generators. So, being able to find out what fans’ preferences are allows us to enhance their loyalty. And, at the same time, it allows us to offer information to our sponsors and, therefore, increase the value of our relationship with them, but also to simplify and streamline day-to-day processes within a sports entity,” said Iris Córdoba.
“Technology has made access widely available, it’s no longer just something exclusive for first-class clubs or for professional athletes”
Adapting to Covid-19: putting a stop to it and as an alternative to gyms
Inevitably, the pandemic has forced us all to use technology in order to try to prevent infections and provide safety. One of the GSIC’s tasks has been to identify solutions to support sports entities based on existing technologies.
Machine learning and artificial vision techniques—already used in systems such as video arbitration (VAR)—with facial biometrics are making it possible to find out, for example, who is wearing a mask or not. Other thermal imaging camera solutions are used to take temperatures, prevent injuries, and measure social distancing in a stadium or swimming pool.
Iris Córdoba points out that what lockdown has driven the most is all things well-being: “Technology has made access widely available, it’s no longer just something exclusive for first-class clubs or for professional athletes; these days many people wear a smart watch that counts steps or a t-shirt made from quick-drying fabric, or we go to a gym where we have a key to open the locker, we sign up, we book our class in an app, we have a platform to follow the teacher. This makes it possible for innovation and technology to infiltrate, from grassroots sports through to well-being and wellness, in terms of both health and the practice of sport in general.”
What’s more, this online well-being and telefitness boom is here to stay: Between 60 and 80 percent of American consumers say they will probably continue to use their favorite devices to train after the pandemic, according to a McKinsey study.
As the director of a specialized center that provides a meeting point for technology and sport agents, Iris Córdoba sees virtual reality and augmented reality as two great allies for the future, both in terms of training to improve performance and in terms of getting entertainment experiences without leaving the house. By combining virtual reality with streaming, sporting competitions can be enjoyed live from your sofa, by yourself or with a friend. “These technologies have a long history of being implemented and monetized.”
Likewise, numerous projects have been carried out within the GSIC to make sport more inclusive in terms of practice and also in terms of fan experience. One such project involves blind people following a game with braille on their tablet. Another involves people with autism being able to listen to the game, without the usual crowd noise of a stadium, in rooms adapted to their needs. “There are so many inclusive options that allow us all feel the excitement and appreciate the valuethat sport brings us.”