The NFL is teaming up with Amazon Web Services, an Amazon company specializing in cloud-based data analytics and machine learning technologies, to uncover new ways of visualizing gameday data collected from the Zebra chips in footballs and player shoulder pads.
AWS will boost the accuracy, speed, and insights provided by NFL’s Next Gen Stats platform, which is fueled by the player-tracking system the NFL has developed with Zebra Technologies’ lightweight radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips.
The league will use the increased processing power to develop new ways of visualizing action on the field, which will then enable it to provide deeper insights and offer a broader range of statistics involving real-time location, speed and acceleration data, such as a receiver’s ability to get open and an offensive line’s ability to protect the quarterback.
This is the fourth season Zebra’s chips have been embedded in uniformed players’ shoulder pads and the second season that its chips have been used inside Wilson game balls.
So far, this information has been used to bolster the NFL’s storytelling capabilities about the game. Its Next-Gen Stats can be found on stadium video boards, on its Next-Gen Stats website, on its social media sites and on television broadcasts.
While the partnership with Amazon, which makes AWS the Official Technology Provider of the NFL, will initially enhance those existing efforts, one could imagine how the improved accuracy and speed could also enhance the game in other ways. Earlier this season, Zebra executives imagined a host of ways its player-tracking tools might improve the game, either by serving as a backup to human officials, a scouting tool, or providing information that might help fantasy players (or sports bettors if ever legalized) with their picks.
Zebra chips can also be found in the practice jerseys of a third of NFL teams, including the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, which use tracking data to manage players and make determinations about their level of fatigue and potential for injury.
In a statement, Matt Swensson, the NFL’s vice president of emerging products and technology, said this is part of the league’s efforts to use technology to grow the sport, its fan base, and enhance the viewing experience for the millions of fans who engage with it throughout the year.
“Next Gen Stats is already revolutionizing the game of football by exposing a variety of advanced statistics that enhance our broadcasts and other operations,” he said. “By powering Next Gen Stats with AWS, we’ll be able to kick off our 2018 season with even more impactful and meaningful content, uncovering deeper insights into the game of football than we’ve ever done before.”