Maple Leafs Transform Sports Experience with Amazon Cloud Technology

By: Lee Rickwood

March 7, 2022

New technology and applications will deliver real and virtual engagement experiences for sports fans whether they’re cheering in the stadium, watching at home, or interacting in the metaverse. MLSE Digital Arena image.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) and Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS) will create high-tech cloud-based sports experiences for at-home and in-arena fans of Canada’s more popular sports franchises—the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Football Club (FC), and Toronto Argonauts.

New technology and applications will deliver real and virtual engagement experiences for sports fans whether they’re cheering in the stadium, watching at home, or interacting in the metaverse.

MLSE has selected AWS as its official cloud provider and official provider of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning cloud capabilities, including advanced analytics, computing, database, and storage services.

Plans call for at-home and in-stadium mixed-reality experience to be developed by combining visual data from cameras around the arena with sensors in players’ jerseys and the puck or ball. Fans can track their favourite players in an app, access enhanced game insights in real time, take part in free-to-play gaming, and participate in on-demand sports betting.

Not just for fans, the partnership is also designed to support how the teams themselves perform on the pitch, ice, court, or field. Data analysis can help players stay healthy, help sports franchises operate successfully, help coaches make better in-game decisions.

MLSE will be able to process and analyze video footage from cameras at team training facilities and game venues in real time. Important game data, stored and analyzed in the AWS cloud, can be viewed by coaches on the bench to help them strategize the next play. Teams will use big data techniques to help individual player selection and overall line-up composition and strategy.

The new tech partnership builds on an already-accomplished track record at MLSE of digital developments and fan engagement.

(Its hockey team tallied the highest average cross-platform engagement of any NHL team in 2021 − despite or perhaps because of an all-too-early playoff exit).

Under the leadership of Humza Teherany, Chief Technology and Digital Officer at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the digital team is responsible for digital strategy, technology, IT, mobile apps, data science and development − including the new esports team, Raptors Uprising Gaming Club.

The MLSE digital unit has developed front-end IP that visualizes the NHL’s puck-and-player tracking feed, so fans can follow players’ speed and path on their mobile devices. The app offers personalized camera selection, advanced stats, trivia and predictive contests, arcade games and both public and

sports app on smartphone

Sports apps offer personalized camera selection, advanced stats, trivia and predictive contests, arcade games and both public and private chats. MLSE Digital Arena image.

private chats.

“We built Digital Labs at MLSE to become the most technologically advanced organization in sport. As technology advances and how we watch and consume sports evolves, MLSE is dedicated to creating solutions and products that drive this evolution and elevate the fan experience. We aim to offer new ways for fans to connect digitally with their favourite teams while also seeking to uncover digital sports performance opportunities in collaboration with our front offices,” said Teherany when announcing the MLSE / AWS partnership.

Prior to MLSE, Humza gained over 20 years’ experience at Compass Group North America, Allstream, and Bell Canada.

MLSE, as are many pro sports franchises these days, heavy into NFTs. So the MLSE Digital Labs team built a proprietary NFT platform, Drop Shop, using the framework Ethereum-compatible blockchain networks called Polygon. The NFTs can be a wide range of digital collectibles including imagery and digital art created in collaboration with well-known artists. The NFTs also have smart contracts or digital connections that are triggered by real-life sport events such as an in-game goal being scored.

MLSE will use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to power what it calls the “Game within the Game” digital experience, building up platforms such as Digital Arena (known as Game Time in the MLSE teams’ mobile apps), with its interactive, second-screen experience where fans can share and chat with other fans, alumni, and team mascots. The experience also includes a virtual T-shirt toss and trivia game, allowing fans running Digital Arena in the cloud to connect with each other.

Amazon also announced plans for two dozen more AWS Availability Zones and eight more AWS Regions globally, including Canada, where discrete dedicated data centres serve specific geographic areas.

 

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