NFL to crunch Big Data in new tech deal

Fireworks go off as fans celebrate the New England Patriots Super Bowl championships at the start of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts (AFP Photo/Mike Lawrie)

Washington (AFP) - It won't just be bodies crunching on the NFL gridiron this season: teams and coaches will be getting data from every player with new technology unveiled on Friday.

Zebra Technologies, an Illinois firm known for barcode readers and inventory tracking, announced an agreement to install location-tracking sensors in the shoulder pads of NFL players.

The tracking chips will provide data to coaches and players, as well as to armchair quarterbacks, to help analyze performance and what is going right and wrong on the field.

"These location-tracking devices from Zebra Technologies will provide real-time statistics for every movement of every player on every inch of the field in every NFL game this season," the company said in a statement.

The systems rely on RFID or radio frequency identification technology, similar to what is used by manufacturers and retailers to track the location of merchandise and manage inventory.

Zebra installed RFID receivers in all 31 stadiums used by the NFL.

These receivers are pinged by coin-sized tracking sensors on each player to identify the location, motion, and direction of every player throughout a game.

"These sensor tags can blink up to 85 times per second and transmit motion within 120 milliseconds," the statement said.

"If a quarterback is being tightly pressured, the solution will tell the story of exactly when and where."

Zebra, which tested the system last season in 18 stadiums, said the technology "is giving the NFL more of this intelligence and insight into their game than ever before, including player distance traveled, maximum and average speeds, and accelerations and decelerations."

Fans watching on television will also have access to the data with live broadcast graphics.

The season for the most popular US sport opened Thursday with a 28-21 win by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots over the Pittsburgh Steelers.