So it was probably only a matter of time before two of my favorite passions – the Internet of Things and football – got together.
When the NFL 2015 season kicks off tonight, every player will be a “connected” IoT device. More specifically, players (who dress) will be wearing shoulder pads equipped with an RFID sensor on each side. The sensors will be transmitting real time data to roughly 20 receivers installed in the stadiums, which will reflect and relay an individual player’s location on the field, speed, distance traveled and acceleration, as well as which way the player is facing.
According to CIO magazine, “the NFL plans to use the data generated to power the NFL 2015 app for Xbox One and Windows 10, allowing for things like “Next Gen Replay” that will allow fans to call up stats for each player tied into highlight clips posted on the app. But that’s just the beginning. The data will be fed to broadcasters, leveraged for in-stadium displays and provided to coaching staff and players.” (Source: CIO Magazine, “The Internet of Things comes to the NFL,” by Thor Olavsrud, September 7, 2015).
Perhaps even more interesting than the value add for fan experience is the IoT ‘workplace’ application for coaches, owners, trainers and the athletes themselves. “All 31 stadiums throughout the league will be equipped with the technology that will also allow coaches to evaluate players like never before.” (Source: RCRWireless News, “IoT era dawns for NFL with player-tracking sensors,” by Joey Jackson, September 8, 2015). Armed with the shoulder pad IoT data, coaches will be able to know if their star running back is fatigued or performing below expected levels at critical times during the game.
“We’ve just scratched the surface of what we can do with the data,” said Matt Swensson, senior director of Emerging Products and Technology at the NFL. “Every week there’s another thought about how we can expand upon the information we’ve pulled together.”
“The possibilities are truly endless,” added Jill Stelfox, vice president and general manager, Location Solutions, Zebra Technologies, the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company that is the NFL’s technology partner in its IoT push. “The players love this kind of tracking technology because of that. They’re professional athletes by every stretch of the imagination. They want more data about themselves — how they can stay hydrated better, perform better. Anything that can help them do that, they really want.” (Source: CIO Magazine).
IoT wearable workplace devices are clearly here to stay, and will no doubt find additional attention (and interest) in such a high profile venue as the National Football League. What remains to be seen is how the ‘big data’ derived from these devices in the NFL and elsewhere will be leveraged by enterprising companies and other organizations seeking to maximize performance towards competitive advantage. It seems that in this space, the innovative, out-of-the-box thinkers may well find that advantage in previously undiscovered and unthought of, technology-driven ways.