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How the NHL can benefit from RFID-enabled hockey pucks

RFID continues to be integrated into sporting events, although most use cases to date involve ticketing or issuing cards to season ticket holders to use at concession stands. In  the wake of the NHL lockout, the SportingNews is looking at how technology – particularly RFID – could change the game.

NHL player lockout, NHL strike, sports technology

As pointed out in the SportingNews, the NHL could benefit from RFID in several ways.

Aside from consumer-facing apps for RFID at sporting events, such as the Tampa Bay Lightning issuing RFID-enabled team shirts to season ticket holders, the technology could make a major impact in eliminating controversial calls in many sports. Imagine a football that carried RFID tags and yard markers with embedded readers. The technology could guide officials for crucial ball placement and determine first downs more accurately.

Hockey, according to the SportingNews, stands to benefit even more so by placing tiny RFID tags on pucks and even on the skates of players. As the article points out, it’s nearly impossible at times to determine if a puck has crossed the goal line during a pileup in front of the net. With RFID, there would be no question at all.

Here is an excerpt from the article, which outlines many use cases. But first, the NHL needs to resume playing hockey. Then, they can look at deploying RFID.

With RFID-implanted pucks, the NHL would be the first major professional sports league to use technology to ensure correct scoring decisions. While soccer, the global game and the top challenger to hockey’s Big Four status in North America, wrestles with the decision of whether to even use cameras on the goal line, hockey could move well ahead and begin to stake its own claim as the “Sport of the Future.”

Combining RFID pucks with tags on each player’s skates, the NHL could also use technology to make infallible decisions on offside and icing plays, and end controversy once and for all on too many men on the ice penalties. By programming a rules violation to automatically trigger a sound or a notification to a referee to blow his whistle, the NHL could theoretically take its linesmen off the ice, freeing valuable real estate on an ice surface that stays the same size as players get larger through the years.

In addition to taking factual decisions out of the hands of mistake-prone humans, RFID-equipped pucks and skates have another application that can turn into another great leap forward for the NHL, and that’s in the load of data that they can record.

Thanks to the tireless work of the NHL’s Real Time Stats crews at all 30 arenas, we know that Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell played 2,205 minutes and 31 seconds last season, the most ice time in the NHL. But which skater put in the most mileage on ice? The holy grail of hockey statistics, passing numbers, could be within reach with further application of technology. Using location data to create heat maps for teams and individuals would help forward-thinking teams to plot their strategy based on players’ actual tendencies rather than observations on scouting reports and video.

For diehard fans, answers to questions like “who’s the best player in the league at scoring top shelf?” would have factual answers. Analysts who track scoring chances would be able to rely on RFID data instead of guessing at whether a shot was attempted from within the scoring-chance area—this human variance is one of the greatest obstacles to scoring-chance data being applicable on a more widespread basis. The possibilities for RFID applications from a hockey data standpoint are endless.

Click here to read the full SportingNews article.

READ MORE ABOUT HOW RFID IS BEING USED IN SPORTS 

 

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