Zebra, NFL up ante on player stats via RFID system

RFID transmitters will be placed inside shoulder pads to track player position, speed and distance during Thursday Night Football games.

Zebra Technologies and the NFL are teaming up on a real-time location system that will use radio frequency identification transmitters inside a player's shoulder pads to track position, speed and distance to create a new category of statistics to track.

The technology will be deployed in 17 stadiums for the 2014 NFL season. Zebra's sports tracking technology will be showcased in the stadiums hosting Thursday Night Football games and capture data from all 32 teams. CBS, owner of ZDNet, will broadcast 8 games of Thursday Night Football in 2014.

According to Zebra, the system is largely based on radio-frequency identification (RFID), which to date has been used most frequently in industrial supply chains along with bar codes. RFID transmitters will be placed inside shoulder pads to track real time data. Then the information will go into a database to spit out real-time stats.

For Zebra, the high-profile NFL partnership gives the company a nice way to showcase its systems. Zebra is in the process of buying Motorola Solutions enterprise unit for $3.45 billion to become a key Internet of things player .

Given the popularity of the NFL and fantasy football, it's just a matter of time before things like miles per hour, acceleration and distance run become key items to track.

Initially, Zebra's system will provide NFL broadcasters more fodder to talk about. Here are some examples of the data Zebra's system will provide and the ways broadcasters will use them.