June, 2004 One of a number of technologies set to revolutionise how sport is viewed, prepared for and played, is the German Cairos system which involves putting miniature transmitters in the soccer ball and in each shin-pad of every player and umpire on the pitch, with a view to tracking every movement on the field of battle. Trials are underway in an attempt to persuade FIFA to adopt the Cairos system in the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany.
This real-time data acquisition and publication system is enabled by sensitive antennae which pick up the signals of the transmitters and relay their position to a central computer. The aim of the system is to provide real-time data for coaches, media and spectators.
The system will enable the players and ball to be tracked within millimetres 200 times a second, and offers a wealth of information relating to every step a player takes. The logical extension of this technology is for the central chip on each player to capture data on the position of arms and legs, and it will ultimately be possible to map an entire game in three dimensions.
In this scenario, which has been the subject of much development on all continents for a decade, each player’s physical attributes would be developed into a three dimensional model with their playing number, hair colour, size and any other distinguishing features and those models would be “controlled” by the real-time information coming from the sensors.
In this manner, a game could be completely captured and played back in three dimensions and three dimensional walk-throughs might be available immediately on all continents as an adjunct to the television coverage or as another channel for digital television.
Camera flights through 3D animated match scenes, right up to the entire game, are available within a few seconds for the spectator.
This would enable a coach and player to walk together within a replayed game. The system will also assist umpiring, and offer coaches the ability to track the position of every player relative to the ball and the opposition, and to supply a range of previously unavailable information in the creation of interesting graphics for television coverage.
Cairos plans to make all the statistical information about a game available online in a central databank with feeds available via the Internet, on mobile terminals (UMTS) and for digital television.
If this system is adopted it will certainly lead to a far more detailed understanding of the game of soccer and any other field sport which uses its technology to unravel an incredibly complex and sophisticated team game.
The Cairos system provides an opportunity to objectively analyse all games and all players with the same basis of evaluation - everything from the running speed of a player right up to the length and accuracy of each pass, can be automatically tracked and recorded. This opens new possibilities for match and player analysis – in addition to automatically generated statistics, the complete athletic performance of individual players can be analysed and performance diagnostics can be inferred, which serves as a basis for the development of better training techniques.
From the technical-tactical training point of view the coach can assess the behavioural patterns of his whole team, which has not been previously possible.
If there’s a downside to the Cairos system, it’s that it is invasive (both teams must choose to wear the tags or the system will not work) and could potentially create information which will be used against the teams wearing the tags.
When asked about the Cairos System, Dr Paul Hawkins of Hawk-Eye said, “good luck to them in getting it implemented.” “I cannot imagine that the management of, for example, the Brazilian World Cup team will want the opposition to have access to so much data about their team plan and individual player movements.”
While the system will be incredibly useful for a manager/coach in the development of its own players, all of that information would also be available to opposing coaches and teams. With the Cairos system implemented, software analysis of the collected data would enable the generation of incredibly detailed player profiles which could be used to predict behaviours and enable counter behaviours – which way a player is likely to turn in a certain situation for example.
Cairos also promotes the system as a potential automatic camera control and tracking system for television, enabling cameras to autonomously track a player throughout a game.
One of the fascinating aspects of the Cairos system, if it is implemented, will be its ability to determine the movement of the soccer ball – Cairos can measure the exact position of the ball 2000 times per second, so additional ball-related data, such as acceleration, speed, spin and curve will be available, enabling us to measure just how much spin you need to impart on a ball to “bend it like Beckham.”
We’ll also be able to measure the speed of Beckham’s lethal right boot at the point of impact and compare it to the thunderbolts of fellow strikers such as Davor Suker, Ronaldinho, Luis Figo or Thierry Henry.
And if you think the development of these real time tracking systems is going to put pressure on the players, spare a thought for the umpires – off-side calls will be able to be verified within millimetres.