National Football League Set to Dive Into Player Tracking With Zebra Technologies

The National Football League is hopping aboard the player-tracking bandwagon and will install Zebra Technologies’ real-time location system (RTLS) for sports in 17 stadiums during the 2014 NFL season. This innovative technology will track players and officials, providing location based data known as “Next Gen Stats” to fans.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 9.12.51 AMZebra receivers installed throughout the stadium will communicate with radio-frequency identification (RFID) transmitters placed inside the shoulder pads of each player to capture precise location measurements, in real-time, during the game.  Zebra’s technology will collect data such as position, speed, and distance that will be registered and compiled into a database.  This data can then be outputted to generate new experiences built around this additional data.

For the first time, this technology enables the NFL to accurately capture real-time player tracking statistics, such as acceleration and total distance run.  The real-time nature of these statistics enables end-users to gain immediate insight into the action on the field.

“Working with Zebra will give fans, teams, coaches and players a deeper look into the game they love,” said 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.”

“Zebra’s legacy of providing visibility solutions to a variety of industries gives us extensive knowledge in how to collect important real-time data that helps organizations make smarter decisions – we call this enterprise asset intelligence,” said Anders Gustafsson, chief executive officer of Zebra Technologies. “It’s exciting to partner with an innovator like the NFL, where we will provide real-time data and information to coaches, broadcasters and fans to enrich the game experience.”

This partnership is an evolution of the NFL’s initiative to test player tracking in-game, and will be the broadest deployment of a system to date.  Zebra’s sports solution will be installed in the 15 stadiums that host Thursday Night Football games (Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington) as well as Detroit and New Orleans, and will capture information from all 32 teams.

The move comes following the NBA’s installation of STATS SportVU player-tracking technology league-wide and Major League Baseball’s use of a new optical tracking system (developed by MLB Advanced Media, ChyronHego, and TrackMan) at Citi Field in New York, Miller Park in Milwaukee, and Target Field in Minneapolis this season.