FIFA cybercat tech is disguised as a soccer scoreboard

Written by Staff Writer Editor’s Note — Bernard Esquivel is CNN’s Latin America’s chief correspondent. This article is part of a special series that explores the front lines of climate change. At the Stadium…

FIFA cybercat tech is disguised as a soccer scoreboard

Written by Staff Writer

Editor’s Note — Bernard Esquivel is CNN’s Latin America’s chief correspondent. This article is part of a special series that explores the front lines of climate change.

At the Stadium of the Americas, in the city of Santa Clara, California, on Saturday — the home stadium of the Earthquakes soccer team — a hybrid robot — or lei or haikus — is manning the scoreboards and the TV cameras.

This is not just a traditional crowd control setup. It’s part of a groundbreaking solar-powered, geo-controlled system designed to broadcast live soccer games from the US to the homes of 50 million viewers across the globe.

Bernard Esquivel. Credit: Charles Treeline

A worldwide tournament of sports? It might sound dreamy — particularly coming from Silicon Valley, with its idyllic climate — but there is a complex technology behind what is truly the cutting edge of gaming.

Baseball may be America’s game. Soccer has more people. But soccer is the game on a grand scale, the one with real impact on the world.

During the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, 37 million people tuned in live. Every 3 minutes one third of the world’s TVs were tuned in. And 1.5 billion people watched games online.

Is FIFA about to be exposed to digital pollution?

Global brand hype

To be seen in stadiums worldwide, players have enormous on-field following. For example, Neymar de Souza, the Brazilian who has been Brazil’s poster boy, scores a goal in 27 seconds, turning a tournament into a flash mob. And regardless of the brand behind the team, there are millions around the world buying into the hype.

Perhaps nobody is riding the wave more than the online streaming company, FIFA.

FIFA is in the early stages of its digital transformation. Supporters, sponsors and fans are increasingly turning to the Internet to follow every thing from new World Cup Qualifiers to the finals.

Yet the 2017 World Cup in Russia — the 22nd — is showing cracks in the brand.

Football stars and sports personalities who star in TV commercials, YouTube video series and online videos, are increasingly backed by promotional content heavily branded with FIFA. Many of these athletes are using their public personas as a platform to promote FIFA while working closely with FIFA’s marketing partners.

Questions around a link between powerful brands and the global soccer organization come as even some of FIFA’s biggest fans are asking whether this is a campaign effectively linked to a valued corporate partner.

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