Engineers working on a chip-enabled soccer ball are optimistic about
the technology being used at the FIFA (Federation Internationale de
Football Association) World Cup soccer tournament in Germany next year.
“We’ve been testing the technology at the main soccer stadium in
Nuremberg for some time and more recently in an under-17 FIFA
tournament in Peru,” said Gunter Rohmer, director of
performance-optimized systems at the Fraunhofer Institute for
Integrated Circuits in Erlangen, Germany. “The technology has performed
well, and we’re pretty optimistic that it will be used at the games in
Germany next year.”
FIFA has shown interest in the technology — largely to help referees
make crucial goal-line calls — but has yet to make a final decision.
The radio-based tracking system could also be used to determine whether
or not a ball has gone out of bounds, to compile statistics about
individual players and more, said Rohmer, in an interview at the
Systems IT exhibition and conference in Munich.
The chip-enabled soccer ball is being developed by German sportswear
manufacturer Adidas-Salomon AG, software company Cairos Technologies AG
and the Fraunhofer Institute.
The technology is based on an ASIC (application-specific integrated
circuit) chip with an integrated transmitter to send data, according to
Rohmer. The chip is suspended in the middle of the ball to survive
acceleration and hard kicks via a system developed by Adidas. Rohmer
was unable to provide information about the Adidas system.
Similar chips, but smaller and flatter, have been designed to insert into players’ shin guards, he said.
At the Nuremberg stadium, 12 antennas in light masts and other
locations distributed around the arena collect data that is transmitted
from the chips. The antennas are linked to a high-speed fiber optic
ring, which routes data to a cluster of Linux-based servers.
The chips use the same 2.4GHz unlicensed frequency band used by Wi-Fi
systems, according to Rohmer. “In our tests, we have noticed that
although no Wi-Fi systems have interfered with our technology, our
technology has caused some interference with Wi-Fi systems in isolated
cases,” Rohmer said. “We are looking at ways to avoid any possible
interference because we know that Wi-Fi will be used at the games.”
FIFA aims to test the technology later this year at another tournament
in Japan before ultimately deciding whether or not to introduce it in
all 12 stadiums in Germany selected to host next year’s World Cup
“Even if the technology is very accurate, it’s not perfect — no
technology is,” said Rohmer. “Our technology is meant to be an aide.
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to call a goal will still be up
to the referee.”
The Systems event runs through Friday.
By John Blau – IDG News Service (Dusseldorf Bureau)