How fast is that soccer player? Fraunhofer can tell

At CeBIT, the research firm shows wireless tracking technology that lets coaches or fans see statistics such as how far a player ran or how fast the ball was shot.

At the CeBIT tech show, Fraunhofer showed off technology to precisely track soccer players during games or training.
At the CeBIT tech show, Fraunhofer showed off technology to precisely track soccer players during games or training. Stephen Shankland/CNET

HANOVER, Germany--Today, baseball is the statistician's playground, but telematics technology that tracks players and the ball could bring the same numeric precision to soccer as well.

At the CeBIT trade show here, the Fraunhofer Institute is showing technology that attaches chips with radio transmitters to soccer players and the ball. A collection of 12 receivers around a stadium measures the players' position 200 times a second and the ball's position 2,000 times a second, said Ingmar Bretz, a project leader.

"You can distinguish between good and bad players in real time," he said, by gauging how fast they're running, how far they've run, how much time they're in possession of the ball. It's geared not just for the audience but also for trainers, he added.

Players wear a small sensor in a plastic case; the ball's sensor is mounted internally.

The ball sensor is mounted with wires to the interior of the soccer ball. It broadcasts a radio signal powered by a four-hour battery; a network of 12 receivers in the stadium gather the data so precise location can be calculated.
A ball sensor is mounted with wires to the interior of the soccer ball. It broadcasts a radio signal powered by a 4-hour battery; a network of 12 receivers in the stadium gather data so that precise location can be calculated. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Fraunhofer is teasing its real-time location system (RTLS) at the Nuremburg stadium, he said.

The technology calculates location from the time it takes for radio signals to travel from the transmitters to the detectors--like GPS in reverse. Its precision is a few centimeters horizontally and a few tens of centimeters vertically.

A separate but related technology might make more of a difference to fans frustrated by bad calls: a detector to definitively say whether a ball has crossed the goal line.

That technology is called GoalRef. FIFA, the international body overseeing much of the professional soccer realm, said Saturday it's begun phase-two testing of GoalRef, according to Fraunhofer.

At right, the tracking device for the ball, and at left, the tag for a player.
At right, the tracking device for the ball, and at left, the tag for a player. Stephen Shankland/CNET

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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