Futuristic Ball-Tracking Sensor Technology Kicks Off in Front of the World
Sports technology history is taking place as fútbol and soccer fans worldwide are riveted to their screens watching the 2022 World Cup. For the first time, innovative sensors in the soccer balls used for every game provide referees, broadcasters, analysts, and fans with real-time ball performance data.
Even though it isn’t Monnit Sensor technology, we’re excited about what these soccer ball sensors do to advance the Internet of Things (IoT) faster into the future. As we work globally to connect organizations in every industry to the IoT, it’s compelling to see sensors at the center of the sports we love to watch and play.
In the middle of the World Cup soccer balls is a tiny device with two sensors. The ultra-wideband (UWB) sensor delivers highly precise positional data, and the inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor detects subtle movements of the ball. How cool is that?
When the 2022 World Cup made its debut on Sunday, it kicked off one of the most significant in-game uses of technology in sports history.
All tournament long, match balls will contain a sensor that collects spatial positioning data in real time — the first World Cup to employ such a ball-tracking mechanism. This, combined with existing optical tracking tools, will make VAR (video assistant referees) and programs like offside reviews more accurate and streamlined than they’ve ever been. Combining these two forms of tracking has long been a holy grail of sorts in technology circles, and FIFA’s use of the ball sensor, in particular, will serve as a highly public test case over the next four weeks.
Like so many other parts of the burgeoning world of sports tech, the setup used at the World Cup is both an endpoint and the foundation of a whole new era. Years of research and testing were needed to get here — this particular ball sensor was in development and testing for six years before receiving full FIFA certification — but events like this could quickly catapult emerging technology into the public eye through applications that stretch well beyond officiating.
What went into the development of today’s tracking technology, and what are its key uses at this World Cup? How has the tech been tested, and how can players, teams, and fans alike be confident that it’s accurate and consistent? And maybe most importantly, what does this same technology portend for the future of analysis, fan engagement, and team data across the world’s most popular sport?
I spoke to people across the world of sports tech to find answers around one of the field’s boldest experiments to date.