RFID tags to enable real-time tracking of NFL players


August 1, 2014

NFL players will be tracked in real-time using RFID tags

NFL players will be tracked in real-time using RFID tags

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Following in the footsteps of the NBA, which introduced player tracking technology in every one of its arenas for the 2013-14 season, the NFL has announced its own player tracking system. Unlike the NBA system provided by Stats LLC, which uses cameras to collect location data, the NFL will use the MotionWorks system from Zebra Technologies that relies on RFID tags that will be placed inside player shoulder pads.

The move is part of the NFL's "Next Gen Stats" initiative, which is designed to give fans, as well as coaches and broadcasters, a greater insight into the game. The use of RFID technology will allow real-time tracking of various on-field statistics, including such things as current location, acceleration, total distance run and even orientation, with an accuracy of down to 6 inches (15 cm).

The implementation of RFID technology will be limited to 17 stadiums during the 2014 NFL season, requiring receivers to be installed throughout said stadiums. Once the data is collected, it is sent to data hubs where it is compiled into a database. The data can then be outputted in various ways, such as graphics and tables, depending on the intended audience.

"Working with Zebra will give fans, teams, coaches and players a deeper look into the game they love," says Vishal Shah, NFL Vice President of Media Strategy. "Zebra’s tracking technology will help teams to evolve training, scouting and evaluation through increased knowledge of player performance, as well as provide ways for our teams and partners to enhance the fan experience."

The stadiums to be fitted out with the RFID receivers for the 2014 season are Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington, Detroit and New Orleans, with information to be gathered from all 32 teams.

Sources: NFL, Zebra Technologies

All images courtesy NFL

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Wow, more boring stats to try and jazz up a sport already made boring by too many stats and not enough play or flow.


Now each team can track the opposing teams play

Jamie Lill

Just track the ball... both ends:)


Just wait until the folks at homeland security learn about this. Soon everyone will be required to wear RIFD ear tags (just like cows). The apologists will declare "this is OK, if you're not doing anything wrong then why object". Yo big brother, another tool to control and monitor the masses. Next up, remote control of embedded Tasers in everyone.


Wow! RFIDs can be tracked from that kind of distance? Who would have thought?

(Hint: the guy who found he could read passport RFIDs from across a busy street in San Francisco from his car, that's who.)

This technology has some good and legitimate uses. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) "security" does not seem to be one of them.

Anne Ominous

I'm not sure how better RFID tracking would be to GPS tracking. In Australia, Rugby League teams (and probably other codes as well) have been using GPS tracking for a few years to maintain stats on how much work each player is doing so that the coach knows when they need to be substituted on the field. The units measure how many kilometres a player travels, body impact such as the amount of times they are tackled and speed zones measure how fast a player is running. The players wear a GPS device sewn into their jersey just behind their neck.

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