Microchip Technology to the NFL?

A German company may be introducing new goal-line technology to the NFL.

New microchip system would enable higher accuracy in determining ball location and confirm touchdowns.

A German microchip company is currently in talks with the NFL to bring its technology system to the American football organization. Cairos Technologies originally designed the system for soccer – football to the rest of the world – to help referees know when the ball crossed the line and whether it passed the goal line. The intention is similar in football, where it could be useful to determine first downs and touchdowns. If the line was crossed, the chip would be able to send a signal to a referee’s watch or similar device, taking out human error that has plagued the league.

Advanced technology coming into the NFL is nothing new. Last year, the NFL, with the help of Zebra Technologies, had a state-of-the-art tracking system installed in 16 of stadiums to establish a radio-frequency identification (RFID) system called MotionWorks to run football logistics and improve the television experience for fans. The system will be installed in the remaining stadiums for this season.

The MotionWorks system is designed to change the way coaches and players approach each game and recruit and draft players. The bottle-cap sized chips are inserted into the shoulder pads of players and sends out radio signals to receivers installed in spots around the stadium. With the shoulder pad placement, the chip can detect which way a player is running and also the number of throws the quarterback makes. This data is collected for the teams, allowing them to determine patterns, effectiveness and efficiency. While the system has been installed, it is still up in the air about the level of access individual teams, NFL staff and players will have to the data.

Some have begun to question whether this will fundamentally change the game and whether it is the right move. A similar data collection system in Sabermetrics has transformed many baseball teams, like the Oakland A’s, the Chicago Cubs and the Sonoma Stompers (an independent team that turned over operations to two computers wizzes in Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller and now have the best record in their league). A similar transformation could be in the works for the NFL.


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