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RFID Drafted to Track NFL Players' Every Move During Games

The system, from Zebra Technologies, has been installed at 17 football stadiums throughout the United States.
By Beth Bacheldor

All of the collected data is stored on a hub connected to the MotionWorks server, where it is correlated with the correct player, position and team, as well as information about the specific play, the player's speed, and the location and orientation of other players involved in that play. In less than a second, the analysis is shipped to the NFL Network, and can be displayed as graphics on the broadcast within the standard two-second delay.

According to Stelfox, the initiative is about providing fans with entertainment and information. "Zebra and the NFL believe we are changing the game, and we both really mean that. Insiders on any team have always had a lot of this statistical data, but fans haven't had access to it," she says. "Now they will. They'll be able to see how much farther a wide receiver had to actually run. They'll be able to see how long the longest run was to get the smallest official forward run. And they'll be able to see how fast a player needed to run to avoid being tackled."

Zebra's solution will be installed at the 15 NFL stadiums that host Thursday Night Football games (in Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Green Bay, Wisc.; Houston, Texas; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami, Fla.; Oakland, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; San Francisco, Calif.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Seattle, Wash.) as well as in Detroit, Mich., and New Orleans, La. The solution will capture information from the teams at all 32 of these locations.

The MotionWorks solution is in use at other sporting venues as well. Two NASCAR drivers are using it to track the movements of crew members and equipment during pit-stop training, for example (see RFID Revs Up Pit-Stop Training for Crews of Two NASCAR Drivers). In addition, businesses around the globe utilize the UWB system to track assets and individuals in enterprise applications.

Stelfox, however, says the NFL application may be the "coolest" implementation yet. "Our engineers tune the system at each stadium before every game," she explains. "So one day they are RF engineers, and the next they are hanging out with the quarterbacks of their favorite teams. I think this is a great way for the entire RFID industry to get a boost."

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