Patriots Players Will Wear Sensors In Their Shoulder Pads

The devices will transmit data back to the league.

Patriots game

Patriots game photo via Spirits of America/Shutterstock

Watching an NFL game on television this season is about to get a lot more technical. A small, quarter-sized device will be embedded into Patriots players shoulder pads in order to transmit data back to the NFL.

Mashable is reporting that the devices, which come from Illinois-based Zebra Technologies, will “track data such as position, speed, and distance, and to provide real-time insights about what’s happening on the field.”

According to Mashable‘s report:

Networks airing live games will be able to use broadcast overlays to show, for example, the distance between the quarterback and receiver while they’re executing a play in real-time.

Although players on each of the NFL’s 32 teams will receive a sensor, only 17 stadiums — the ones hosting Thursday Night Football (TNF) games this year — will be equipped to transmit the information. Those stadiums are fitted with radio-frequency identification (RFID) transmitters to pick up on the sensor data.

In addition to the Patriots, the other teams whose broadcasts could feature the technology include: the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49er’s, St. Louis Rams, and the Washington Redskins. The Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints will also include the sensors information in their broadcasts although those teams are not hosting TNF games.

NFL spokesperson Joanna Hunter told Mashable: “The technology will gather additional statistics from what we’ve been able to capture in the past that is mostly directional — such as speed and distance — and evolve the fan experience in many different ways. The data is picked up through the sensors, sent to NFL servers and will then be fed to broadcast partners.”

It seems at this point nobody is 100 percent certain how the information will be used. One thing that is clear, however, is that the NFL teams themselves will not get their hands on the data—at least not right away.

“Although there are benefits for the teams too, they won’t be receiving this data right away for competitive reasons,” Hunter said. “Moving forward, we believe it could be rolled out to help teams evolve, scout and increase the knowledge of performance.”

Moving forward, both the league and Zebra are looking into how the data could be used in other ways, from injury prevention to fantasy football apps.