The NFL is making a move to integrate RFID-based activity-tracking tech to give fans, coaches and players more information about what exactly athletes go through during each game. The Zebra Technologies tracker systems will mount to player shoulder pads and communicate with receivers installed in 17 stadiums during the 2014 season. They will provide information about each player’s position, speed, distance travelled, acceleration and more.
Zebra’s system will provide real-time analytics that can even offer information like the distance between two players, e.g. a wide receiver and the defensive back assigned to cover him. This info will be used for real-time information streams piped to fans watching at home on TV, as well as for teams themselves, who can make use of the data to change up game strategy on the field and evolve their game over time.
Sports are becoming more connected. More data could lead to big changes in the way the game is played, as teams increasingly rely on data-gathering sensors instead of imperfect powers of human observation. You can easily see how this might be used to fuel the development of second screen apps and experiences that sync up with live football broadcasts. And imagine how this newfound stream of information could impact research into the health impacts of playing professional sports.
Football has always been the professional sport seemingly most open to adopting new tech advances, so it isn’t surprising to see this partnership hit the NFL first in terms of U.S. pro athletics. It’ll be interesting to see how this catches on in other fields, too, and also how it changes stats-driven fan activities like fantasy football and video games, each of which have extremely dedicated fan followings.