Why the high-tech World Cup ball will change football?

Did you know ? The new ball used at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is full of new technologies, allowing the capture of a lot of data in real time. Find out how Big Data will transform the world of sports, starting with this global event…

When the 2022 World Cup has started in Qatar on November 20, most of us thought we were going to a football game like any other.

However, in reality, the balls used throughout this tournament carry many new advanced technologies. Never before have so many technologies been used in the history of sport!

This ball contains a sensor collecting spatial positioning data in real time. This is the first time that such a ball tracking mechanism has been used in the World Cup.

This system is combined with optical tracking toolsto make VAR (video refereeing) and offside assessment software more accurate than ever before.

For a long time, the world of technology has sought to combine these two forms of tracking. The use of the sensor integrated into the ball by FIFA will serve as the first public test in real conditions.

The culmination of a cycle and the beginning of an era

The configuration deployed in Qatar represents the culmination of a long technological journeybut also the beginning of a new era.

Of the years of research and testing were needed to achieve this goal. For example, the in-ball sensor was developed and tested for six years before receiving FIFA certification.

However, thanks to the highlighted by this planetary eventthese new technologies will quickly become more popular and many use cases could emerge.

A balloon equipped with Big Data sensors

As part of the 2022 World Cup, this sensor technology is used to a “semi-automated offside” program. This system relies heavily on artificial intelligence features, but still requires human intervention.

This device integrated into each balloon is a device designed by KINEXON : a major player in performance monitoring for several sports.

L’accessory weighs 14 grams, and actually contains two separate sensors operating simultaneously. The first is a UWB (ultra-wideband) sensor offering more accurate positional data than GPS or Bluetooth. It is also capable of transmitting the data in real time to constantly track the position of the ball.

the second sensor is an IMU (unit of measure of inertia) making it possible to detect the nuanced movements of an object in space. Together, these two sensors make it possible to track both the position of an object and its granular movement in three dimensions.

Each time the ball is kicked or thrown, the system captures his movements at 500 frames per second. Data is sent in real time from the sensors to a local positioning system (LPS).

this implies an antenna array installed around the pitch, capable of receiving and storing data for immediate use. When the ball goes out of bounds during play and a new ball is thrown to replace it, Kinexon’s backend system automatically changes tracking without human intervention.

The KINEXON device is supported in the balloon by suspension technology provided by Adidas. This technology is designed to house the sensor at the center inside point of the ball and keep it safe there.

In parallel, 12 Hawk-Eye optical tracking cameras are arranged around the stadium. This system is already commonly used in the world of tennis. The cameras track the ball and each player with 50 captures per second. A total of 29 separate points on the body are tracked including the knees.

An AI to detect offsides automatically

By combining these two sources of data, the referees can make better decisions faster. This is a priority for FIFA.

As Nicolas Evans, Research Director at FIFA Technology Innovation, explained during the 2018 World Cup debriefthe organization realized that the main area of ​​improvement identified was in offside decision-making.

Data from KINEXON and Hawk-Eye devices is transmitted to artificial intelligence software, designed to generate automated offside alerts for referees. This saves valuable time compared to manually analyzing videos.

Furthermore, the software also generates 3D renderings spatial data. These are overlaid on TV broadcasts and stadium screens to give fans a direct view of how decisions are made.

Can we really trust Big Data for arbitration?

Can we really trust these technologies? Is there a risk that an erroneous decision will be made from skewed data? A shift of a few millimeters in the position detected by the sensors could lead to a serious fault in refereeing…

However, the KINEXON system offers 500 Hz data refresh rate. This is the number of times the screen is able to display a new image every second. In comparison, most modern HD displays have a refresh rate of 50Hz.

Therefore, the deviation from the actual positioning does not exceed two milliseconds. In addition, the use of a PTP clock allows synchronization between KINEXON and Hawk-Eye data.

In order to test each component of the system, FIFA conducted tests within a live environment and a controlled environment. The Quality Program requires a ground truth testing format for electronic performance test systems.

This approach uses a minimum of 36 Vicon motion capture camerascombined with reflective markers placed on the ball and each player for extremely precise detection.

As the players and the ball move across the test field, Vicon cameras and the KINEXON/Hawk-Eye system are launched simultaneously. The researchers compare their performance to assess their accuracy. Other tools help boost the reliability of the test, such as a laser to detect events such as a high-speed sprint.

In parallel, another test verifies that the addition of the sensor to the balloon is imperceptible for gamers. This is an essential step to prevent players from blaming the ball in the event of a missed penalty…

Adidas carried out this test, using two methods. The first was to let players test this ball unknowinglywith several clubs in Spain, Germany and England.

The second technique used was a mechanical ball launcher. Devices in the laboratory have been programmed to hit the ball at different speeds and in different directions. High-speed cameras then assessed the ball’s trajectory to ensure it was not altered by the sensor. These tests proved to be conclusive.

In addition, an early version of the balloon equipped with KINEXON sensors had been tested in 2018 in the German fourth division in order to provide real-time data on television. The Hawk-Eye camera was also tested during Champions League group matches earlier this season.

Of course, No risk does not exist. Equipment can malfunction, and that possibility is unavoidable.

Towards a revolution for the world of sport

The use of these technologies for the 2022 World Cup does not just exploring the surface of possibilities offered. In the near future, the combination between ball sensors and optical tracking could become popular in all sports.

This is already what we see with the technology of Second Spectrum tracking in the NBA, and Hawk-Eye cameras in tennis. From then on, teams and players could use this data for the tactical analyst.

TV channels could offer viewings to viewers, and fans could access a multitude of impossible statistics to capture so far.

In early 2022, the Kinexon sensor was used in the portuguese first league relegation game alongside sensors embedded in players’ shirts to track their movements.

In total, over 300 different metrics were collected in different categories. These are technical data such as shot speed or possession time, but also performance data such as sprints and dribbling speed, or even tactical data such as space control or ball loss.

The potential applications for all this data are theoretically limitless. In particular, it would be possible to use them to create virtual worlds or to add information about player performance in augmented reality.

We can also imagine being able to view a match from the point of view of the player of his choice, for example through the eyes of Kylian Mbappe. In conclusion, even if Big Data was already used in football, these new high-tech tracking systems inaugurate a real revolution for the world of sport…

While waiting for the democratization of these technologies, enjoy the matches of the 2022 World Cup in free streaming. Discover the craziest data of this great tournament, and do not forget to consult the predictions of the AI ​​to win your bets!


The article is in French

Tags: hightech World Cup ball change football

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