This year's football season is set to begin in September, and for the first time 17 National Football League stadiums will employ radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to better track how players move on the field during games. The league has partnered with Zebra Technologies to use its quarter-sized RFID sensors inside the shoulder pads of players. These sensors will track not just where players are on the field, but also how fast they get going, and what their acceleration was like on the way there — all in real-time.
Not all stadiums will be equipped
All this information could show up as part of information shown on TV or in stadiums during games, and on second-screen game apps. Imagine something like the lines TV sportscasters draw on the screen to track a receiver's route, but done using the tags instead. The NFL also plans to hand the data over to teams so that they can analyze it, but not initially. USA Today notes that the league plans to do some testing on the data it's gathered before making it available to teams, and that all NFL players agreed to wear sensors as part of their collective-bargaining agreement in 2011.
The first set of stadiums that are a part of the program include Atlanta, Baltimore, Caroline, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington. Some, including San Francisco and Detroit, used the technology as part of a live test last season, as did the University of Washington's football team. In its current iteration, the technology is accurate up to 6 inches, which means it can't be used by officials to help measure plays. However, next year's model will be able to measure things like heart rate, temperature, and even lung capacity.