The NFL is expanding its use of RFID technology to all 31 stadiums this season in order to capture expanded real-time statistics for all games. Last year data was used to elevate statistics packages during limited games.
This season the data collected from the RFID tags embedded into each player’s shoulder pads will be used to generate stats during all CBS football broadcasts. For the first time, coaching staffs will have access to the data from the tags to measure player performance.
For now, coaches will not see real-time data during games, but will have total access to data after the game, adding a valuable post-game element akin to watching game film.
“This year teams will start to see and use the data from an operational standpoint and get information as far as player performance metrics over the course of a game,” says Eric Petrosinelli, general manager of Zebra Sports. “The vision for 2016 and beyond is to provide the sideline of the future, where the surface tablets use Zebra’s next gen stats to see real-time athlete performance metrics, such as how far a player has run and if their speed has slowed during the game.”
In the future, the NFL has plans to embed tags into footballs for similar stats, such as ball rotation and speed. However, the tags won’t be used to track where footballs are before a game, a ruling issue that the NFL is grappling with following the Deflategate issue from last season.
“We tested balls with RFID at last year’s Pro Bowl and we are going to the next generation of that test at the 2016 Pro Bowl,” says Petrosinelli. The NFL is working with ball manufacturer Wilson to further research embedding tags into balls.
Last year the NFL used RFID on more than 2,000 players and officials. Nearly 6,000 tags were deployed in full, for officials, yard markers, pylons, and other stadium infrastructure. Nearly 1.7 billion player sets of XY player coordinates were transmitted, and 68 billion bytes of player position data.
Aside from using RFID to generate stats, fans can also see all the data at home on a new NFL 2015 app created for Xbox One. Petrosinelli says that among other things, that the app will display player speed as the game unfolds, will allow users to switch back and forth between players, and keep track of the actual yardage a running back has compiled during a game.