Zebra Technologies Teams Up With Wilson Sporting Goods To Deploy RFID-Tagged Footballs During NFL Season

Zebra Technologies, known for their printers, scanners, and mobile computers, has announced analytics enhancements that will allow fans to gain a deeper understanding of the game by accessing new visualizations, stats, and fantasy recommendations never available before. In collaboration with Wilson Sporting Goods, supplier of the Official Game Football of the NFL, Zebra will engineer and deploy RFID-tagged footballs for every game during the 2017 NFL season. This enables the collection of real-time location, speed, and rotation data for the footballs.

As the “Official On-Field Player Tracking Provider” of the NFL, Zebra marks the fourth year of its partnership with the NFL this season. To enable data collection during NFL games, Zebra and Wilson attach RFID tags in player equipment to track their movements and provide enlightening and interesting information. As part of “Next Gen Stats”, data from the instrumented Wilson footballs has the potential to be leveraged on media platforms, such as NFL.com and in-game telecasts, to enhance the fan experience.

“We’re excited to build on our partnership with Zebra Technologies and collectively further the league’s commitment to innovation,” says Vishal Shah, SVP, Digital Media, NFL. “The data gathered by Zebra over the past three seasons has become an invaluable asset to the NFL, and we’re excited to uncover new insights through the tagged Wilson footballs.”

Beyond media platform use, the NFL’s Competition Committee will evaluate the football data to determine how the NFL Clubs can best leverage the data in the future. Working with the NFL and Wilson, Zebra successfully tested the tagged football during all last year’s preseason and Thursday Night Football games.


  • The data resulting from this season’s analytics enhancements will be used by broadcasters as well as other media partners to enhance the fan experience.
  • Zebra and Wilson determined and validated the optimal size of the RFID tag and location to embed the tag within the ball to maintain maximum performance while adhering to the NFL’s specifications for game footballs.
  • The RFID tags will measure location and performance data, captured 25 times per second for every play in every game for the 2017 season. The ball data is collected at twice the rate of player tracking data as the ball travels at more than twice the speed of the players.
  • In addition to instrumenting and tracking the footballs for the 2017 season, Zebra will once again deploy its Sports Solution on NFL game days by embedding RFID tags in players’ shoulder pads to track movement, providing metrics such as player speed, distance traveled, acceleration and deceleration.
  • A growing number of NFL teams use Zebra’s Sports practice solution, including the New Orleans Saints who are looking forward to leveraging the new information provided by the tagged footballs in practice, particularly as it pertains to our QB and special teams play.
  • The Zebra Sports Solution leverages the same tracking and location solutions technology that Zebra implements globally for enterprises of all sizes in healthcare, retail, manufacturing and transportation & logistics to give visibility to an organization’s assets, people and transactions.

“We are excited to see the continued groundbreaking work by Zebra Technologies and the advancements fostered by the league’s commitment to innovation,” says Sean Payton, Head Coach, New Orleans Saints. “We use the Zebra Sports practice system to track our players and monitor their participation and performance throughout the season. The information provided by Zebra has proven to be a vital asset to our staff in evaluating and training our entire squad. Adding tracking capabilities to the ball will take things to another level for us.”

“We have a rich history of innovation in the game of football and working closely with the NFL to advance and enhance the game for players and fans alike,” says Kevin Murphy, General Manager of Team Sports, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. “It’s been rewarding and exciting to collaborate with Zebra and the NFL on making RFID tagged footballs a reality, and we look forward to putting this technology on the field this season.”

“We are thrilled to further support the NFL’s mission to enhance football through cutting-edge technology by continuing to grow the Zebra Sports solutions portfolio,” says Jill Stelfox, VP/GM Location Solutions, Zebra Technologies. “Tracking the football is the logical next phase of our collaboration with the NFL, and we’re eager to continue evolving the game of football for fans, broadcasters and coaches alike.”

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