NFL Considers Ball-Tracking Chips For Accuracy

The NFL wants to insert a tracking chip into footballs so that it can cut down on human error and give players fair and accurate spots. The new system could solve many potential headaches and arguments during a game

From end zone to end zone, an NFL field is exactly 3600 inches (9144cm), and it's easy enough for referees to spot a ball precisely when action stays within the bounds of play. But when players take the pigskin out of bounds, refs must watch where the 11-inch-long ball crossed the sideline and then approximate that spot 70 feet, 9 inches (22m) away, back near the middle of the field.

NFL brass thinks it can do better.

The league is reportedly in discussions with Cairos Technologies, a German manufacturer that specialises in micro-tracking systems, about how chips could be implanted in official NFL game balls. It's an intriguing idea that would surely cut down on some measure of human error, but for football traditionalists it'll be another bit of ammo for the argument that expanded tech is fouling up the sport's integrity.

Cairos has done something similar in the past with FIFA soccer balls. The Adidas Teamgeist II was unveiled in late 2007 and featured an internal chip as part of a larger "Goal Line Technology" effort, something that might have recently proven handy, if you ask English soccer star Frank Lampard. Nevertheless, the tech hasn't truly caught on with international fĂștbol, so American football seems next on Cairos' list.

Unlike in soccer, where the ball must completely cross the goal line to be a legitimate score, NFL rules dictate that the ball must only break the plane of the end zone to be ruled a touchdown. And as Mike Jones and Kevin Dyson showed us on the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV, an entire season really can come down to a few inches.

Photo: Flickr/yourdon, CC has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.

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