Unseen Technologies That Are Changing the NFL 

Every modern industry has been affected by changing technology, with the world of sports leading the way. Digital tools that continue to change how the game is played and how diehard fans watch their favorite teams each week are available.

More people have access to real-time broadcasts and more convenient ways to make their NFL picks for weekly action. Thanks to all of the streaming options available, fans can catch up with their favorite team using multiple apps that can be easily downloaded to their devices. 

These options have improved the overall experience for fans, keeping them informed about everything happening around the league thanks to innovations like the Zebra RFID chip, which helps coaches, fans, and sports bettors better evaluate a player’s on-field performance to make more informed decisions about different aspects of the game. 

Technology in the NFL will advance to a point where first downs and out-of-bounds calls will probably be made using lasers. Until that happens, there are several emerging technologies most fans don’t see when watching their favorite teams each week.

Tablets and Sideline Viewing Systems

Sideline of the Future | NFL Football Operations

Before 2015, coaches on the sidelines relied on faxed photographs of defensive and offensive formations sent down from the booth. Since then, they have used Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets that feature a stylus to give coaches a way to gather valuable information for making decisions throughout the game. 

The tablets also feature a security system that prevents anyone from altering the images. However, the league is contemplating permitting video in the future instead of the still images used with the devices today.

Radio Frequency Identification Chips

Why NFL Players are Benefitting from RFID Technology | Zebra Blog

Zebra RFID chips have been in use in the NFL since 2011. The league uses a chip embedded in the player’s shoulder pads to tabulate real-time information such as the player’s speed, position on the field, and distance traveled. 

The chips also allow game officials to monitor the game as it progresses. Zebra has been the most successful technology used by the league and was referred to as an “asset-tracking product” by the company’s VP of business development, with the NFL’s asset being its players. 

More teams are utilizing the Zebra chips in their practice routines to find solutions to challenges such as scouting, training, and strategic planning leading up to game day. When used for scouting, the additional data compiled can help coaches and teams make a case for keeping players they believe are performing better than others. 

Helmet Technology

SportTechie Pro Day: Exploring Helmet Technology and Innovation

For many years, the NFL has focused on reducing the number of injuries during a game by awarding grants to tech companies to help design helmets that are safer for players. Fans may have noticed the odd shapes of some helmets in the last couple of seasons. This is because helmet technology is used to design custom-made helmets for individual players based on the position they play and their biodata. 

Players are fitted with the latest software that measures the impact of hits during the game and helps lower head impact exposure (HIE). This technology can also analyze data and compare the player’s HIE with a database of reports from other players around the league and is used to improve helmets for all NFL players.

NFL coaches and referees can rest easy that they aren’t yet at risk of being replaced by robots. AI technology is making progress but isn’t quite to that point yet. The next step in the progression of Zebra and its partnership with the league is making its tracking data available for everyone.

Currently, player tracking and game data are only released to each team, as the mindset in the industry is that this may be too much information to make publicly available to everyone. That data will undoubtedly be available one day, leaving the league trying to discover even more advanced technologies to resolve issues that haven’t been contemplated yet. 


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