Tonight, the Internet of Things will play on the world’s biggest stage: the Super Bowl XLIX.
After years of evaluation, the NFL finally partnered with Zebra Technologies, a Chicago company, to bring sensors, activity tracking and big data to professional football. Both the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots players will have sensors embedded inside their shoulder pads. Thanks to those small radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors, Zebra will be able to provide real-time, location based information such as field position, speed, distance traveled, acceleration and relative proximity to other players. The use of two sensors instead of one allows Zebra to determine not just position, but orientation. Heart rate can also be tracked, but for now it is only used during practice. Finally, 22 sensors have been lined up along the catwalk 150 feet above the University of Phoenix football field, each gathering data from the chips on the players as well as in the game balls.
“From an RFID perspective we can manage the frequency it travels on with great reliability, as well as giving some really cool additional data points for use in the broadcast or for fan engagement.” – Michelle McKenna-Doyle, SVP and CIO for the NFL.
The data, which is gathered in real time, has already been available to coaches and staff for most of the 2014-2015 season, but this is the first time such technology will be used during the Super Bowl to augment NBC’s broadcast of the event.
The technology Zebra has developed over the last decade is usually used in retail, healthcare, manufacturing or supply chain industries to support enterprise asset intelligence and organization visibility. But when it comes to enhancing fan experience, improving player safety, and better developing in-game strategies, there is no more fitting technology for the professional sports industry than the Internet of Things. In fact, more than 2,000 players were already tracked during games in 2014, and over 68 billion bytes of player position data have been gathered so far. Eventually the NFL intends to equip tags on just about every movable object on the field – officials, balls, sticks & chains and pylons.
Collegiate and potentially amateur sports are likely to embrace the technology in the not to distant future. Think about the potential for teams to recruit or draft talents based on the data that would suggest who the best players are on the field.