The end of clipboards is near

Are you ready for some football? Tablets sure are! In case you hadn’t noticed during last night’s NFL preseason kickoff game between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, there was a new teammate along the sidelines — an Atmel powered Microsoft Surface Pro 2.

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In addition to the recently-introduced NFL app for Xbox One and Windows 8, the tech giant has also revealed how it plans to assist coaches and players during the season. As part of its ongoing partnership with the National Football League, Microsoft created what it calls the “Sideline Viewing System.” This new system has the ability to streamline a process, which though fans may not notice is imperative for strategical changes throughout the league.

As Engadget reports, the company’s own hardware will be a key component to this; the Surface Pro 2-powered system enables NFL teams to instantly review photos of plays along the sidelines and up in the booths. “For instance, say the quarterback goes back to the bench, the Surface can then be used to see the opposing team’s defensive formation during the most recent drive — and the same goes for the coaching staff that keeps an eye on the game from higher ground. Players are also able to draw on these images, making it easier for other members of the team to see something which stands out and needs to be checked.”

Until this season, the NFL has forbidden the use of devices that can record or play video, as well as “any type of computer,” during warmups and games. Microsoft worked with the league to ensure that there was nothing about the tablets that might give tech-savvier teams any sort of competitive advantage. However, it was agreed upon by the NFL rule makers that video, in particular, could potentially give a competitive advantage that wasn’t present when viewing still photos. Instead, this new system is meant to make the old process more efficient by eliminating that element of handling paper. Unlike your Surface Pro 2 device, there won’t be any outside apps that could also potentially interfere with the game.

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And what would happen if, say, a lineman sits on the tablet or a bitter cold storm blows through Green Bay? Good news: These specialized devices come equipped with a hard case that can withstand more punishment than from a typical user.

As BusinessWeek reports, the tablets will remain the property of the NFL. Just before kickoff, the tablets will be distributed to each team and remain in each team’s possession only for the next several hours.

Though this may seem revolutionary, tablets and football aren’t an entirely new concept. As The New York Times reported back in 2011, NFL teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began replacing those hefty, three-ring binder playbooks with tablet computers.

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This isn’t the only next-gen technological advancement the league has announced recently. In fact, just last week, NFL unveiled a new RFID tracking system that will allow real-time, on-field tracking (e.g. current location, acceleration, total distance run and even orientation, with an accuracy of down to 6 inches) through the embedding of chips inside players’ shoulder pads. To start, the RFID implementation will be limited to 17 stadiums during the 2014 NFL season, requiring receivers to be installed throughout these selected stadiums. Once the data is collected, it is sent to data hubs where it is compiled into a database. The data can then be outputted in various ways, such as graphics and tables, depending on the intended audience.

Looks like a digital renaissance is taking shape throughout the NFL. Hut, hut, hike!

2 thoughts on “The end of clipboards is near

  1. Pingback: 11 things you need to know this morning | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pingback: Nike’s LED basketball may be the future of training | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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