What the Internet of Things Is Doing for the NFL

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(Newswire.net — September 14, 2015) — It’s true that American football has been around far longer than the television, but that doesn’t mean that technology isn’t an integral part of the game. In fact, technology has changed the game so much that it now has an influence on how football is played. Strategies have become smarter, recruiting is more widespread, and now the Internet of Things is coming to the NFL.

Digital Connectivity In NFL Equipment

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase used to explain the way that everyday objects are equipped with connectivity. This allows them to send and receive data to the cloud, increasing the capacity for big data used across the world.

In the NFL, IoT is emerging in the form of RFID sensors created by Zebra Technologies embedded into the shoulder pads of every player on the field. It’s being officially tested with the New England Patriots, who will be hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Gillette Stadium in the first game of their 2015 football season.

These sensors are approximately the size of a quarter, and they’ll emit specialized radio frequencies to 20 receivers within the stadium that will enable designated field monitors to pinpoint each player’s position, distance traveled, speed, and acceleration in real time. One sensor will be embedded in both shoulder pads of every player in order to identify the facing of each player.

Use of the Data

The NFL has several plans for the use of this data. It will connect with the NFL 2015 app made for Windows 10 and Xbox One, enabling fans to check out instant replays and learn facts and statistics of players that aren’t typically included in the normal highlight clips played in the app.

“We’ve always had these traditional NFL stats,” Matt Swensson, Senior Director of Emerging Products and Technology for the NFL reported to CIO. “The league has been very interested in trying to broaden that and bring new statistics to the fans. Along the way, there’s been more realization about how the data can be leveraged to make workflow more efficient around the game.”

Swensson also reported that the information will make it possible for fans to keep track of the players’ performance in real time, giving away their position and current stats.

The data will provide a more efficient way for broadcasters to commentate on the game. Games will become much more interesting and players will receive more recognition for their feats when real-time statistics are at play.

“Every NFL stadium is connected to be a command center here in San Jose,” according to Jill Stelfox, Vice President of Zebra Technologies. “That command center has to operate as sort of a central command of all the data. When the data is collected in the stadium, it’s sent in the stadium to the broadcaster in the stadium — it never leaves the stadium from a broadcaster perspective — but it’s also distributed out to the NFL cloud.”

Though the data will not be available to coaches and players during the game, they will be able to use the data afterwards to work on improvements with the team. Players can evaluate their individual strengths and weaknesses and learn where they can improve, and coaches can adjust trainings and certain plays to fit the needs of their players. In the future, coaches are hoping for real-time data regarding player performance during the actual game. 

The sensors have been in preliminary testing on more than 2000 players in the 2014 season, and it’s finally been deemed ready for an official test with the Patriots. The NFL is hoping that the sensors and data emissions will be available with the upcoming 2015 season.