NFL fits its players with real-time motion tracking chips

Every player has two RFID sensors that track location, speed, distance
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The 2015 National Football League will begin this week and during the first game of the season, every player on both teams will be wearing a set of quarter-sized RFID sensors; one on the right shoulder pad, and one on the left.

These sensors emit data to 20 receivers strategically placed throughout the stadium, which pick up the frequencies to identify the position, pace, distance traveled, and acceleration of the players in real time.

According to CIO, the NFL plans to use the data collected in the 2015 Xbox One and Windows 10 football app, which will allow users to track stats for each player, and access highlight clips. The data will also be sent to broadcasters, used for in-stadium displays, and provided to coaching staff and players.

Essential reading: Best fitness tracker

The technology for these motion-tracking sensors comes from Ill-based Zebra Technologies. The company started working with the NFL back in 2013 with a trial of 2,000 players and 18 stadiums outfitted with the tags and receivers.

The data is sent to the broadcaster in the stadium, as well as sent out to the NFL cloud. The information is not, however, shared with coaching staff and players during the game.

"Initially, it's really more of the post-game," said Matt Swensson, senior director of Emerging Products and Technology at the NFL. "Right now, we have a lot of stuff going on on the sidelines. It could just be too much of a distraction during the game.

The data is, however, useful for post-game evaluations, as well as training. "The possibilities are truly endless," noted Jill Stelfox, vice president and general manager, Location Solutions at Zebra Technology. "The players love this kind of tracking technology because of that. They're professional athletes by every stretch of the imagination. They want more data about themselves — how they can stay hydrated better, perform better. Anything that can help them do that, they really want."

Get fit today: Check out our running and fitness guides

The NFL plans to share some of its data on Thursday nights during live games, as well as portions of the games aired on CBS. It will also be integrated with and the NFL's fantasy football data.

Wearable sensors into sport have been slowly evolving over the past year, with Adidas' miCoach Smart soccer ball, just one example of how adding technology can enhance your game


How we test


Lory is a freelance technology writer, who specializes in apps and games. She now works as a contract editor for Apple.

Lory has written for iMore, Lilliput Computing and

Related stories