Muscles and bones won’t be the only things getting crunched when the National Football League kicks off its 2015 season in September. Thanks to a new deal between the NFL and Sportradar US, on-field performance data for each player will also be getting crunched thanks to a new API and RFID chips embedded in each player’s shoulder pads. TV broadcasters and other licensees will ultimately show fans how fast players ran, their acceleration rates, and the distances they traveled during key plays.
A trial version of the Sportradar API that makes these real-time feeds possible is set for release later this summer so developers can evaluate the payoff of having data about every player for every play throughout the 2015 season. Dubbed Next Gen Stats by the NFL, similar data feeds were available to broadcasters for a limited number of games last year.
“The goal is to make the game more engaging for fans,” said Tom Masterman, Chief Revenue Officer at Sportradar US.
Zebra Technologies’ RFID chips will collect information about each player’s speed and location 10 times a second and feed the raw data directly to Sportradar, said Masterson. “We’ll then sort through all the extraneous information,” Masterson stated. “Our job is to figure out what kind of data people will need and to make sure the data is extremely reliable and easy to consume.”
Sportradar will then route data streams through its API for TV broadcasts, social-media updates, apps, and connected devices. “By the time the replay is run, fans will have the data to see this guy was running 20 mph off his route,” said Masterson.
A spokesperson for the NFL called the agreement a way to add breadth and depth to the sport.
Sportradar US is a subsidiary of Sportradar AG, a provider of sports data and content. U.S. executives expect to offer a trial key in the coming weeks so developers can test the API using a sample of real-time data feed. Eventually, the NFL and Sportradar may offer different developer licenses based on whether users choose real-time information or a collection of data at the end of games.
They say they are still formulating API management and governance parameters, but their goal is to make the API available to a broad range of developers. “The more we can open up the data to the masses, the more interesting the products that results will be,” Masterson says.