Before the 2015 NFL season kicked off last month, the league announced that RFID (radio frequency identification) sensor chips would be embedded into all players' shoulder pads, seemingly offering an abundance of retrievable data and information.
What fans knew at the time was that the chips would give the NFL, for the first time ever, real-time access to players' position on the field, their velocity and distance covered during a play. Between virtual reality training in the NFL, Microsoft improving the NFL experience with Surface Pro 3 tablets on sidelines, the league getting clearance to use drones, and the chips gathering real-time data from players, the league continues to try to stay ahead of technology — as it should.
All being said, just past the quarter mark of this 2015 season, Tech Times sought out to learn more about the RFID chips embedded into players' shoulder pads and the kind of data they have been returning thus far.
Here, an NFL spokesperson answers several questions about the chips. While the league was mum about certain questions, the chips seem to be a part of the NFL's approach to data for the forseeable future. Let's call that a technological touchdown!
What kind of information have the RFID chips embedded in players' shoulder pads been able to tell us thus far?
Main examples are the distance players run, how fast they are running, how often they are playing.
From a technology perspective, can you explain how they work?
The tracking system leverages RFID ultra-wideband technology in order to capture player location in real-time given us the location of the player at any given time on the field.
What kinds of data can the chips track?
The tracking system is able to determine an object's location at any point in time. From that information, various metrics can be derived such as speed, distance covered over time, separation between two players, etc. [The NFL makes note that the system does not retrieve any biometric information; just purely location].
What can the NFL do to enhance the chips and possibly add another dimension to their information?
[While the NFL didn't return any concrete examples, they simplay stated that "We always look to improve/enhance our offerings."]
Is this practice of embedding chips in players' shoulder pads something that the league intends to continue for many years or does the NFL view it more like a few-year experiment?
We are looking to have it in place for the foreseeable future.
Would the NFL ever consider relaying live data from the chips straight to coaches' Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets on the sidelines during games?
[The NFL declined to comment about this, however, if the league wanted to go forward with this idea, it stated it would still need the approval of its competition committee for distribution.]
Would the league ever use a similar chip with its referees?
We currently track the officials for fitness purposes only.