The NFL has quietly begun placing lightweight sensors inside each football used during games this preseason, Recode reports. While a decision has yet to be made on whether the quarter-sized sensors will be employed during the regular season, the devices have already been capturing game data.
“The sensors, which rest just under the ball’s laces, can capture information like velocity, acceleration and distance, and send that info back to computer monitors in just half a second,” Record reports, noting that the project is an experiment for now. The trackers are made by a publicly traded company called Zebra Technologies, which has been around since 1969.
“Zebra created the sensors the NFL is testing with its footballs and is in its third season using similar sensors inserted into players’ shoulder pads to track their location, speed and distance traveled,” the report notes. “You can think of these sensors like a GPS. Small receivers placed throughout each NFL stadium issue radio waves that ping the sensors in the shoulder pads to collect information.”
The system uses technology known as Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, to generate data.
“That info is then property of the NFL and sold to the League’s broadcast partners televising the game, like CBS and NBC,” Recode reports. “It’s also distributed to each team. Last year, Zebra captured game data for all 32 teams, but the NFL didn’t release any of it until the season was over. This year, teams will get game data within 24 hours after the game is over.”