SSN: Technology and the NFL

Eric Bedrosian

In the world of video games, social media, computers, and more, there is little to no space untouched by the impact that technology has on our daily lives. Even in spaces where you barley recognize the impact it has, it is still there. The NFL’s partnership with technology groups such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services have impacted the future of not only the game, but how coaches and staff can work toward making better plays for years to come.

Millions of viewers tune into NFL pre- game shows, half time reports, live streams, and more. Yes, technology has impacted these streams allowing people from around the world to gain real- time information from major sources, but the coaching staff themselves have also seen an improvement in the information they can relay. Instant replay was a huge success in the broadcast world and slowly carried over to the field to allow coaches and refs to make calls and decisions based on very minute details seen in those replays.

One important detail that gets the information to the refs and coaches is the NFL Next Gen Stats system. A tracking system is in place at every NFL venue and contains:

  • 20- 30 ultra- wide band receivers
  • 2-3 radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in every player’s shoulder pads
  • RFID tags on officials, pylons, sticks, chains, and even in the ball itself

According to the NFL operations site, an estimated “250 devices are in a venue for any given game. A team of three operators is required at every game to confirm that all tracking systems are functioning properly.”

The team equipment managers are in charge to determine where the gags in the shoulder pads should go, but game ball tags are required to be in line with NFL regulations and are determined correct or incorrect by the NFL itself.

These tracking systems are able to track “player data such as location, speed, distance traveled and acceleration at a rate of 10 times per second, and charts individual movements within inches.” (NFL Operations).

In 2014, the NFL originally partnered with technology company, Zebra, to embed those RFID tags into shoulder pads to track players at 17 venues. However down the road in 2016, Microsoft came into the works and began working with the NFL and Amazon on even newer technology to control the tech that is used in the games.

Whether a person is a fan of the game, or a fan of the behind the scenes action, technology inside the NFL is important and is here to stay to help keep stats on track and to help keep the game safe for the players themselves.