One of the oldest sports in the world is adopting modern technology.
FIFA, the organisation that oversees international football, introduced a new innovation—micro-chipped balls—during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Soccer balls were being charged on the sidelines before games, and spectators at the most watched sporting event in the world resorted to social media to ask questions.
It turns out that FIFA is utilising the 2018 World Cup to implement a technology that uses sensors in the official tournament soccer balls from Adidas to capture positional data and subtle movement.
In the Beautiful Game of the Future
Adidas collaborated with KINXON, a significant leader in the sports technology industry, to develop a ball that was built to house two sensors at the ball’s central inner point and maintain them stable in a fixed position.
Before they were approved by FIFA, KINEXION spent six years creating and testing the sensors, which together only weigh half an ounce.
Ultra-wideband (UWB) frequencies, which are more precise than GPS or Bluetooth, are used by the first sensor.
This makes it easier to provide accurate location information for the ball at all times and communicate that information in real time.
An inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor, the second sensor, provides a detailed view of the ball’s motion in space.
The sensors gather information at a rate of 500 frames per second each time the ball is kicked.
The local positioning system (LPS) positioned around the field receives such data right away.
“While the ultra-wideband helps me to have the position of an object, the IMU offers me the granular movement in three dimensions,” said Maximillian Schmidt, co-founder and managing director of KINEXON.
A Little Assistance from AI
The sensors have multiple purposes.
First, while evaluating offside calls, the data gathered aids the referee and officials in the control room.
The programme that FIFA will use this technology for at the 2022 World Cup is referred to as a “semi-automated offside” method because it is largely controlled by AI characteristics while still requiring crucial human confirmation.
The sensors’ extra confirmation is meant to supplement the VAR (video-assisted referee) system, which is already employed in the majority of professional local and international leagues and competitions.
Additionally, the new technology gives players, coaches, and management access to vital information.
In a 2022 Liga Portugal relegation game, KINEXION-equipped balls were first put to the test with sensors additionally fastened to players’ jerseys.
These enabled them to gather over 300 metrics, including ball gains and losses, dribbling speed, and time spent in possession of the ball.
In addition to being a statistician’s dream come true, clubs can use the data to improve their tactics.
We can use that data in real-time to create new stories, said Schmidt.
They could be used to create augmented overlays, virtual worlds, and player performance analytics.