The NFL’s Next-Generation Statistics

At this year's LIVE! event, Hall of Fame inductee and NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk will discuss the use of RFID technology to gather a level of statistics not possible in the past, as well as what it means for viewers, teams and coaches.
Published: March 23, 2015

Professional sports involves big money and is highly competitive, so it is no surprise that the industry is often a leader when it comes to adopting new technologies to gain an edge. The National Football League (NFL) is the first league in professional sports, to my knowledge, that has tagged every player and is using radio frequency identification technology to collect an unprecedented level of data regarding on-field activities and performance.

I will be hosting a panel on Apr. 15 at RFID Journal LIVE! 2015, with Marshall Faulk, a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and an analyst at the NFL Network; Chris Schaefer, Zebra Technologies‘ RFID market development leader; and Eric Petrosinelli, Zebra’s general manager of sports. The NFL is using the Zebra Sports Solution player tracking system to identify every player’s location during a game to within 6 inches (15.2 centimeters).

The solution delivers what the NFL calls “Next Generation Statistics.” It automatically captures game data that previously had to be captured manually, such as the number of downs, the amount of time players spend in a huddle and so forth. But it also allows the capture of new statistical data, such as how fast a player runs and how far he moves during a play, as well as precise location data—all in real time—throughout the game.

Faulk will discuss how these stats have enhanced the quality of the NFL Network’s broadcasts, by showing viewers, for example, exactly how much ground a particular player covers during a given play and the speed at which he runs. Fans can see the routes receivers run, the distance between players and more.

The stats could eventually be shared with teams and used by coaches, and Faulk will explore the potential that opens up. Representatives from Zebra will speak not only about how the solution works, but also how other types of RFID systems can capture new levels of data, and how companies can use that information to improve performance, lower costs and improve the bottom line.

I believe this is where we are going. One day, businesses will have detailed data regarding the routes that forklift trucks take in their warehouses, and that workers take to get tools needed on the production line, just as the NFL is tracking the routes taken by receivers. Companies will know how long a subassembly has remained at a station waiting for a part to be added, the same way that the NFL knows how long a player stays in a huddle. Retailers will know… well, you get the idea.

When people talk about “big data,” they forget that companies often have no means of collecting valuable data. RFID systems provide that. Join us at RFID Journal LIVE! to hear about the NFL’s current and future use of Next Generation Statistics. I’m sure there will be a lot of other great sessions that will provide value for your firm as well.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.