Adding M2M technology to NFL and College Football

Last updated: 01 August 2014

The M2M Telefonica Blog recently revealed an infographic demonstrating what would happen if football (in this case they mean soccer) embraced M2M (machine-to-machine) technology. The possibilities revealed included innovations such as boot sensors which would monitor ball force, shot speed and distance run, smart gloves for goalkeepers that measure data to help coaching staff improve a keeper’s technique and wearables such as wristbands that enable coaches to monitor a player’s heart rate. These would undoubtedly change the game in many different ways and would ensure the sport’s governing bodies have some interesting discussions!

This got us thinking, what if we applied the potential of M2M to football, by which we mean American football? Could the benefits be even greater due to the nature of the game? The high level of physicality blended with complex strategy is almost perfect for M2M. Here’s what we think could be the game changing innovations:

  1. Connected helmets

Concussions in football, at the professional, collegiate and high school levels, have become a big issue for the game. Coaches and players are now under professional and even political pressure to improve their practise of preventing, diagnosing and treating concussions. Some helmet manufacturers have rethought helmet design with the aim of reducing the risk of concussions through specialised shock absorbers rather than foam padding. Other manufacturers, such as Riddell (currently the official helmet of the NFL), have already taken steps towards bringing M2M into the game, including distributing the Revolution IQ HITS (Head Impact Telemetry System) which monitors and records impacts sustained during games and practises. However, this system isn’t perfect; HITS can’t tell if a player has actually been concussed or not, it can only tell how hard they’ve been hit. Imagine M2M connected helmets that could diagnose concussion risk more accurately, in turn revolutionizing the safety of America’s most popular sport.

  1. Eye-movement tracking

What players see is always of interest to coaches; in particular, what a quarterback sees before a play can be the difference between a touchdown and a turnover of possession to the opposing team. Quarterbacks have to progress through a mental checklist before initiating a play. Eye-tracking technology, showing coaches what their players are looking at, could be invaluable to coaching and in-game strategy (essentially, coaches will be able to check if their players are looking in the right places). The technology that would enable this as an in game tool for teams isn’t far away; Google has already bought the patent!

  1. Player GPS/position tracking

Sometimes, coaches can’t see all that they need to from the side line; consequently, it can be hard to tell whether their players are lined up in the right formation. Tracking players with M2M wearables could change this. Knowing where your players are lining up just by looking at your iPad would be very useful. There are already coaching apps available on iPad; we just need a new one that will live track M2M-connected players.

  1. Ball velocity

Sports fans love stats and computer-generated analysis (especially American fans). Can you imagine how much they’d enjoy seeing a measurement of torque each quarterback or kicker can generate with a football? The technology for this is available; it’s just not widely used. If all footballs became ‘smart’, this could become a great coaching tool to monitor the power and strength of players.

  1. Player body temperature

Heat stroke can be fatal, and is unfortunately a genuine risk for football players in America, particularly those playing in warmer states. Our own M2M cold chain solution could help here. If we can monitor product temperature, we can definitely monitor a player through adapted sensors; a coach would then be alerted as soon as a player’s body temperature rises into dangerous territory.

Do you agree with the sporting possibilities we see for M2M? Or do you have some better uses for M2M in mind for other areas such as health, payments or transport? Let us know @Gemalto. And remember that these M2M possibilities are just the tip of the iceberg. M2M applies to so much now, whether it’s enabling the first eCall from Europe to Russia or enabling a plant (affectionately named ‘Horst’) to tweet when it needs water, M2M innovation can help.