Embedded Systems Found in Football

It’s that time of the year again – football season. We’re talking about American Football and Football as known by the rest of the world (aka Soccer), some of the most watched sports games in the world, with hundreds of thousands of fans coming together each year to cheer on their team for the win.

While the games themselves are well-established, what’s ever-evolving is the technology that is incorporated into each sport – some even being behind the scenes. The advanced technologies used in sporting arenas today are often made up of embedded systems, making it possible for the devices to perform its designed function. We’ve compiled a list of just some of the technology that has been introduced into football in the recent years.

Headphones/Headsets

Wireless, Noise Cancelling Headphones

Headphones and headsets are essential to the interworking’s of any sports game. Without them, coaches wouldn’t be able to relay real-time plays to the players or gain valuable information needed to make their next strategic move. Bose, the official headphone/headset for the National Football League (NFL), provides wireless, noise-cancelling abilities that take headphones to the next level. These headphones/headsets are embedded systems that comprise of microphones, special noise cancelling circuitry, speakers, and batteries, with each component programmed to actively perform a specific function. The microphone listens to outside noise, the noise cancelling circuitry analyzes the sound wave’s amplitude and frequency and creates a copied but slightly modified sound wave, all being fed through a speaker to the listener. Without embedded systems, this process wouldn’t be feasible.

Goal Line Technology

GoalControl-4D

Goal line technology is a relatively new concept that is being adopted by multiple Football (or Soccer) leagues all over the world, and is even used in World Cup games. It is essentially a technology that can determine whether or not a ball has crossed the goal line, which can be helpful to officials needing clarification on certain plays. Embedded systems are important in the mechanics of goal line technology. The World Cup this year used GoalControl-4D systems to monitor the ball’s movement and exact coordinates on the field. They do so by placing high-speed cameras around the field with seven cameras focusing exclusively on the goal. The cameras are connected to an image processing computer system that analyzes the movements of the ball using X, Y, and Z coordinates. What makes this technology 4D is its ability to also calculate the speed of the ball. Special software analyzes the outputs captured by the cameras, and when the ball does cross the goal-line, a signal alert is sent from a computer to specialized watches worn by officials.  This technology certainly makes the official’s job a little bit easier, it properly rewards players for their efforts, and provides peace of mind to fans.

Cameras

Video cameras are some of the most crucial technological components to any game. For decades, we’ve used them to capture games and broadcast them directly to fans at home. Video cameras are embedded systems themselves, composing of many different components that allow the video camera to function. These days, new technological advances are allowing video cameras to become much more innovative and are allowing fans to experience games in ways never thought possible. Some of the latest video cameras in the sporting arenas are:

Skycam

Skycams are video cameras in American Football stadiums that capture all-new, birds-eye views of the field. These cameras are suspended on wires and controlled remotely, giving the viewers an opportunity to see plays from new heights and angles, otherwise not possible with standard sideline cameras. This technology has been introduced years ago, but recently, the design and implementation focus on utilizing computers fast enough to capture important moments on film. Skycams are embedded systems that are controlled using multiple different computers. The camera itself is placed onto four suspended reels each driven by its own motor controlled by an individual computer. One central computer is responsible for operating the system as a whole, taking input from the camera driver and operator, controlling the reel’s movements and focus of the camera. Because of embedded systems, the camera is able to move in real time and in any direction to capture amazing shots.

FreeD 360 Technology

One of the latest innovations in video capture is the FreeD Technology recently acquired by Intel. This technology is being introduced into American Football stadiums across the country to provide fans a never-before-seen, 360-degree view of the players and replayed moments on the field. Viewers are essentially able to get a 3D view of each play, emphasizing a direct view of the player and obtaining specific angles otherwise not possible with other video. This new technology works through the use of embedded systems. 5K ultra-high definition cameras are placed strategically around the stadium to capture the game and this video file is transferred through fiber-optic cables to a control room run by Intel’s servers running Intel chips. It is then constructed into a 3D clip that viewers can now watch at home.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is a form of video capture used in Football/Soccer where a remote team of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) officials observe and analyze a game using a variety of video camera footage to aid in the referee decision making. VAR made its World Cup debut this summer and has been employed by MLS (Major League Soccer) in the United States for multiple seasons.  VAR is used as an additional set of eyes that can recommend a closer examination of play or validate certain calls on the field, including goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents, and mistaken identity. Virtual Assistance Referee uses footage from 33 official broadcast cameras, with 12 of those offering slow motion recordings and 2 monitoring field offsides. There is a display monitor located on the field so the referee can personally review replays captured by the VAR to make a final decision. The devices used to create the VAR system work using embedded technology. The video cameras, display monitors, and radio systems used in the VAR process are all embedded systems. Without them, this new process would not be achievable.

Player Tracking

Player tracking is a relatively newer approach that sports teams have been implementing to gain a competitive advantage against the competition. The ability to track players through a variety of dimensions is helping teams understand what is working and what can be improved, which can be invaluable information.

Player tracking is a leading-edge concept that is implemented by American Football teams to track movements of players on the field, allowing teams to gain enhanced insight into their overall performance. Zebra Technologies has introduced Zebra MotionWorks Sport, which enables player tracking technology through the use of devices called RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags that are positioned within the player’s shoulder pads and the football itself. These small devices are embedded systems, where tags that contain sensors are ultimately tracked using a computer. This computer analyzes the input from the sensors to relay a real-time analysis that can potentially put the team at a competitive advantage.

STATSports

Soccer teams are also implementing player tracking. STATSports is a company that is providing solutions for this new demand; they create special tracking devices that were used by teams in the 2018 World Cup. One of their products, Apex, is a compression vest worn under jerseys that tracks the players’ movements with the use of embedded systems. Multiple parts of the vest contain sensors that track several outputs of the player, including GPS systems to track a player’s movements, accelerometers to track their pace, gyroscopes to measure their orientation, and magnetometers to record the direction of travel. All of this information is collectively processed through an embedded processor that ultimately provides the statistics for teams to review.

Sports are jam-packed with technology, and each year, new devices and technologies are being introduced to games that enhance its operations, provide competitive advantages to the teams and players, and introduce new experiences to the fans. Much of these technologies are embedded systems making these devices and their remarkable capabilities possible.

Total Phase provides a variety of testing and development tools for embedded systems, including those used in sports technology and more.  Support is available for I2C, SPI, CAN, USB, eSPI, and A2B systems. With our tools, engineers can debug, test, program, and deploy their systems easily and in real time. To learn more about Total Phase and how our tools can help in the development of your embedded system, please contact sales@totalphase.com. You can also request a demo specific to your application.

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