Seattle Seahawks beef up AI tools with Amazon deal

With most NFL teams pivoting toward more data-centric approaches to the game and analytics, the Seahawks announced a new pact with Amazon.

How machine learning and advanced analytics are transforming the NFL TechRepublic's Jason Hiner explains how big data and AI are changing how the NFL is played, how the Super Bowl is broadcast, and how fans watch the game.

Artificial intelligence is penetrating every field and is now finding a home in sports. With the onset of Moneyball-obsessed executives running pro teams, the analysis of data has grown in prominence, particularly in the NFL.

Amazon Web Service announced on Monday that it was partnering with the Seattle Seahawks to provide the team with cloud services, machine learning tools and artificial intelligence capabilities. 

The Seattle Seahawks has been ahead of the curve within the NFL and can point to its Super Bowl win in 2014 as proof of the method's success. The new deal will allow the team to store troves of data, sort through it and provide deep analysis of not just statistic but also game footage, officials said. 

SEE: Amazon Web Services: An insider's guide (free PDF (TechRepublic Premium)

In a statement, Amazon said its tools will "inform game strategy, improve operational efficiencies, and accelerate decision-making to advance team performance game-to-game."

The team will also be able to meld its data with the granular information available through the weekly NFL Next Gen Stats player tracking data, which tracks the position of the ball and every player 10 times per second.

Chip Suttles, vice president of technology with the Seattle Seahawks, said the team chose AWS because of its focus on innovation, broad array of machine learning serves and experience in supporting sports organizations and enterprises worldwide at scale.

"As our official cloud provider, AWS will enable the Seahawks to become a data-driven organization that uses the power of technology to fuel future championships," Suttles said.

"AWS' breadth and depth of services will help us to extract and pinpoint every possible advantage from the vast amount of data we collect, delivering the actionable insights we need to positively impact our decision-making," he added.

The Amazon tools will not only help with the on the field product. The Seahawks plan to use the AWS system to provide business insights as well about fan behavior and stadium offerings.

Team officials said they are pooling their data to build a comprehensive data lake populated with NFL data, team statistics and other information including player health and wellness data, scouting information to provide deeper visibility into player capabilities. Coaches will get real-time statistics on players and team performance.

Amazon's ML Solutions Lab is allowing the Seahawks to create a massive, cloud-based video analytics platform that will pore through footage from practices and games. In addition, Amazon Rekognition, a deep learning image and video analysis service, will help the team track and categorize offensive and defensive strategies of other teams. 

"Data has become a competitive differentiator for sports franchises, but these organizations need the most complete and fully featured set of machine learning and analytics capabilities to analyze and take action upon that data to impact player performance and drive championship caliber play," said Mike Clayville, AWS vice president of worldwide commercial sales. 

"The Seattle Seahawks are using AWS' deep portfolio of ML and AI services to power their cloud-first strategy and take their gameplay to the next level," Clayville said. "We look forward to helping the Seahawks develop greater insights that will continue to propel them forward as a world class sports organization."

SageMaker, Amazon's other machine learning platform, will allow the NFL team to gain more insight from data on the number of hurries, knockdowns and sacks, giving them visibility into how certain teams or quarterbacks react to pressure. 

With this, defensive players will know how to respond to offenses based on other player actions on the field. The data-heavy approach is now dominating the MLB and now the NFL. It is now common to see tablets being passed around by teammates on sidelines every week. 

"We strive to be a consistent championship-caliber team on and off the field, which includes equipping our football operations with the best tools possible to win," said Chuck Arnold, president, Seattle Seahawks and First & Goal Inc. 

"We are thrilled to collaborate with AWS and their unmatched analytics services to leverage the power of data and make an instant impact on our team."

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Image: CBS