Baseballs
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Who owns athletic performance data?

Protocol Enterprise

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: how baseball players are using AI tools to improve without full control over their data, Atlassian endures a multiday Jira outage at a bad time, and this week in enterprise tech moves.

Spin up

We’re getting near a cloud computing inflection point, according to research released Thursday by Foundry. Over the next 18 months, 63% of IT organizations expect to have “most or all” of their workloads running on cloud servers, up from 41% who have reached that status today.

Put me in, neural network

Purdue University outfielders Cam Thompson and Curtis Washington Jr. are among thousands of college baseball players with access to more data-juiced tech than ever to use in the hopes of getting to the majors.

“I was the slowest on the team,” said Thompson in a video describing Purdue’s use of 3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT) technology developed by Intel, which captures video footage and applies computer vision and deep learning to digitize an individual player’s skeletal data and calculate biomechanics. The data and analytical insights gave Thompson and his coaches information revealing that he was bent over just slightly when launching himself from a base.

  • For college players like Thompson and Washington Jr., as well as pro athletes throughout sports, the use of data showing how their bodies move, breathe, sleep and recover from injury is becoming commonplace.
  • In fact, while money was at the heart of the excruciatingly prolonged negotiations this winter between Major League Baseball and its players’ union, a clause in the final collective bargaining agreement addresses the data reflecting players’ bodies as another form of currency used to assess their value.
  • The new Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it illegal for the MLB and any of its teams to sell and/or license any player’s confidential medical information, personal biometric data or any non-public data.
  • Right away, bettors and sportsbook companies saw the new data rules as a clear sign that players were recognizing the potential for their bodily data points to be used by gamblers to predict the performance of specific players or teams.

The use of data measuring players’ agility or injury recovery progress — or revealing the impact of nutrition, sleep and hydration on their performance — has implications not just for betting, but an athlete’s entire career trajectory. Those athletes have little control and few rights over the data associated with the very bodies that dictate their futures.

  • “Very few organizations cover it in their union contracts,” said Kimberly Houser, a professor specializing in emerging technology law at the University of North Texas, who studies athlete biometric data use.
  • Even the MLB’s recently settled contract with the MLB Players Association does not mention the device-makers facilitating data collection and analysis, Houser said.

Access to the 3DAT system has nothing to do with betting for John Madia, director of Baseball Player Development at Purdue.

  • It’s about helping the university’s players improve and giving its recruiters a leg up on elite schools, many of which not only can afford to outfit athletes with physical sensors to track their body movements, but already might collect and monitor their blood, urine, sweat and/or sleep patterns to evaluate their nutrition status in the hopes of maximizing performance and injury recovery time.
  • “I look at dozens of things a day that I go, ‘So what? How does this translate to winning?’” Madia said. “From a recruiting standpoint, this is such a cool thing for Purdue to have.”
  • In the past, old-school techniques such as timing a player’s speed using a watch or gauging the velocity of a throw with a radar gun only offered insights into which skills players needed to improve, but not how.
  • And unlike earlier technologies that required players to wear sensors that could impede their natural movements, one benefit of Intel’s technology comes through its use of standard video footage captured using a mobile phone camera.

But while representatives of Intel and AiScout tout the potential benefits for AI-based phone apps to level the real-life and figurative playing fields for athletes and non-athletes alike, future uses of the data gathered and created by these systems are largely unknown, leaving unanswered questions around data ownership, control and privacy risks.

  • For example, if a physician or team medical staff or another entity covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act were using the data, it would likely be subject to protections associated with that federal law, said Kate Black, a partner in Hintze Law’s health and biotech privacy group.
  • However, when makers of wearables or other devices collect and analyze data about someone’s body or health characteristics, the data might not be covered by HIPAA, said Houser.
  • It’s also unclear how state privacy or biometric data laws might apply. For example, while the Biometric Information Privacy Act in Illinois is centered on the use of identifiable physical characteristics such as retina/iris scans, voiceprints and fingerprints, it also covers “a scan of [a] hand or face geometry.”
  • “It’s very likely, in my opinion, that cases will be brought under the state biometric laws,” Black said.

Player data gathered, combined and analyzed over time could create unintended consequences for athletes, Black and Houser said.

  • “Data silos are continuing to break down,” Black said. “Putting together health or fitness assessments of an individual that combines their medical history, X-rays, biometric data, genetic information — I don’t think it’s too far off from creating a performance score or an individual risk score that could be used to inform [an athlete’s] recruitment to be used in any sport.”
  • “If someone can infer that an athlete’s physicality is degrading, they could use that against an athlete,” Houser told Protocol.
  • And, because there is often no bargaining organization representing college players in such situations, they could be compelled to waive their data rights in exchange for maintaining their scholarships, she continued. “They’re in a much worse position than professional athletes.”
— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)

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High-priority issues

Outages are a fact of life for cloud service providers, but in general, it’s best to avoid them to whatever extent possible during a big week for your company.

Atlassian found itself in that situation this week, enduring a multiday outage to its key Jira bug-tracking tool that started on Tuesday and was still ongoing as of Thursday afternoon, according to its status page. TechTarget reported that Atlassian blamed the outage on “a routine maintenance script” that went awry and “a small number of sites were unintentionally disabled, which resulted in them being unable to access their products and data.”

Any outage stretching more than a day is bad enough, but this week was also Atlassian’s big Team 22 conference, during which it introduced several new products and hosted customers in Las Vegas. The company told TechTarget that “hundreds” of engineers were involved in the recovery effort, which will lead to Atlassian adopting automated recovery processes in the future.

— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)

Upcoming at Protocol

Net zero. Carbon offsets. Scope 3 emissions. These are just some of the terms you’ll find in Big Tech’s climate plans. Understanding what they actually mean is vital to ensuring the industry is meeting its goals — and understanding whether those goals are the right ones.

Join Protocol’s Brian Kahn for a virtual event on April 19 at 10 a.m. PT, where he’ll talk with some of the people responsible for setting those goals and experts who are monitoring them to find out what tech companies are really doing. Joining Brian will be Suzanne DiBianca, the chief impact officer at Salesforce, and Jamie Beck Alexander, the director of Drawdown Labs and Project Drawdown.

RSVP here.

Enterprise moves

Over the past week, Micron added new C-suite members, Nutanix gained another exec from VMware and Anaplan added new leadership after its purchase by Thoma Bravo a few weeks ago.

Mark Murphy is the new CFO of Micron Technology. Murphy was previously the CFO of Qorvo, and held leadership roles in electronics at MEMC Electronic Materials and Praxair.

Fran Dillard is now the chief diversity inclusion officer for Micron. Dillard formerly led diversity efforts at Lockheed Martin Corporation and Texas Instruments.

David Tuhy is now VP and GM of Intel’s Optane Group. Tuhy has held various leadership roles at Intel in the data center and AI, storage and desktop products groups, among others.

Shyam Desirazu joined Nutanix as head of Engineering. Desirazu was formerly VP of Engineering at VMware and helding engineering roles at BlueTalon and Zynga.

Mark Micallef joined Anaplan as SVP for Asia Pacific. Micallef was formerly the VP of Asia Pacific and Japan at Cloudera, and held leadership roles at Citrix.

Kuntal Vahalia joined ThoughtSpot as SVP of Channels and Alliances. Vahalia was previously a VP at MuleSoft and worked as a director at Salesforce.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

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Around the enterprise

Shortages of chipmaking tools continue to exacerbate the chip shortage, as wait times for chipmakers trying to expand production have stretched out to 18 months.

IBM was sued by investors claiming that former CEO Ginni Rometty and other executives used revenue from its mainframe division to prop up other divisions the company was trying to emphasize.

Early reports that Russian hacking efforts in Ukraine were relatively few and far between are looking premature as more information about Russia’s offensive operations comes to light.

Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

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