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NFL players to sport RFID next season to enhance in-stadium experience, statistics tracking

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Football players are known to wear uniforms that have huge shoulder pads. Soon, these shoulder pads will have quarter-sized chips embedded within to help track the player’s moves accurately. 
( Mike Morbeck )

The National Football League (NFL) has partnered with Zebra Technologies in order to take advantage of the latter’s real-time location system (RTLS) for sports. In the upcoming 2014 NFL season, all 17 stadiums will be equipped with the said technology in order to gather location based data, otherwise known as “Next Gen Stats,” of players and officials.

Zebra’s installed receivers in the stadium will likewise communicate with another set of transmitters known as radio-frequency identification (RFID) which would be placed inside a player’s shoulder pads. The system will be able to capture real-time data such as speed, position, and distance which shall be registered and saved in a database. The saved data can then be outputted in order to generate new real time experiences based on added data.

“Working with Zebra will give fans, teams, coaches and players a deeper look into the game they love,” says NFL VP Vishal Shah of Media Strategy. With the help of Zebra’s tracking technology, a player’s overall performance shall be assessed accurately in order to come up with new ideas on coaching, scouting, and evaluation. At the same time, teams and game partners will have the chance to enhance the viewing experience of fans.

The 17 stadiums that are taking part in the program include Baltimore, Chicago, Green Bay, Denver, Jacksonville, New England, St. Louis, Oakland, Atlanta, Caroline, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Washington. Some stadiums, such as Detroit and San Francisco, had started to use the technology and tested it on a live game during the last season.

Referees are getting the same tags just like the players and game officials. For the first time, this type of technology will enable the NFL to accurately track real-time player statistics such as total distance run and acceleration. Since it is real-time, end users will be able to gain immediate information on what is actually going on in the field.

“Zebra’s legacy of providing visibility solutions to a variety of industries gives us extensive knowledge in how to collect important real-time data that helps organizations make smarter decisions,” Chief executive officer Anders Gustafsson of Zebra Technologies, said.

There are around 20 receivers that will be placed in the selected 17 stadiums for this year’s games. Placed strategically around the bands between the stadium’s upper and lower decks, these receivers will provide cross-section of environments while ensuring that everything else is operational prior to their full deployment.

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