Why the NFL Is Putting Tracking Sensors Inside Its Footballs

Aug 29, 2016  •  Post A Comment

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.”



  1. Considering they already have the trackers, why not use the trackers to bring some of the archaic rituals of the game into the 21st century. They could eliminate the outdated farce of bringing in chains to determine if the ball was far enough advanced for a first down. They could quickly determine if someone crossed the goal line for a touchdown. In some of the huge piles of bodies near the goal line, they spend 3 or more minutes looking at film from every angle and even then they may not make the correct call. A little chip could tell them immediately that a touchdown was or wasn’t made. I field goal attempt that crosses high above the goal posts may or may not be called correctly. A little chip could eliminate guesswork. Now that they have this technology, I hope they use it to make sure the calls on the field are accurate. But they probably won’t.

  2. They could even tell if balls are taken off the field and a little air let out! Love technology!

  3. I’m curious if this had anything to do with Microsoft’s agreement with the NFL. Back when the Xbox One first came out and Xbox still wanted to be a Media Company, they announced a partnership with the NFL and how we were going to see football in a whole new way.
    Nothing has come of that partnership, other than a couple of interesting promo videos that showed some Hologlass integration. It seems like updating today’s game would be a great use, but considering how long it took to integrate challenges, it seems unlikely it will be more than a broadcasting trick for a number of years.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)