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Best New Product: Zebra's Next-Gen Technology Powers Next-Gen Stats

The National Football League adopted the Sports Solution to track players during games and training.
By Paul Prince
Jun 24, 2015

Tracking mobile assets can be challenging. But pinpointing the locations of high-value assets moving at speeds exceeding 20 miles per hour can be daunting—especially when those "assets" have two legs each and travel in tight formations. That's why the National Football League adopted Zebra Technologies' Sports Solution to monitor players, and installed the real-time location system (RTLS) at 17 stadiums during the 2014 season.

A total of 2,358 NFL players were tagged and tracked during games and training this past season. Each player had a quarter-size battery-powered RFID tag placed in each shoulder pad. The tag uses an ultrawide-band (UWB) signal to transmit its ID more than a dozen times a second to RFID readers. At each participating stadium, an average of 20 readers were mounted between the upper and lower decks. During a game, the readers captured tag data from all 22 players on the field, identifying their locations accurately and precisely, within inches.

Players had a quarter-size battery-powered RFID tag placed in each shoulder pad, which delivered real-time location information.
Zebra's software pinpoints a player's position and clocks his speed, acceleration and distance traveled in real time. Algorithms aggregate players' statistics from the data and display them on analytics software, to provide context.

The RFID RTLS is delivering what the NFL and Zebra call "next-generation statistics." More than 100 million fans, including viewers of CBS Sports' Thursday Night Football TV lineup, saw Zebra-powered graphics and data in 2014.

"It makes my job a lot easier," says Marshall Faulk, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and Thursday Night Football analyst. "The stats provide a better way of looking at the game, of analyzing the game, so I can tell you who has a better chance of winning, who's wearing down, what players are performing at a higher rate than others," Faulk says. "It makes me look smart!"

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