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The Internet of Things comes to the NFL

Thor Olavsrud | Sept. 8, 2015
Every NFL player and stadium will be equipped with RFID sensors and receivers, respectively, this football season, allowing the league to track fine-grained location data for every play.

But in 2007, she explains, Zebra acquired WhereNet, a specialist in active RFID tags. A number of acquisitions in real-time location software and hardware followed, and in 2012 the company began thinking about new markets that might be accessible to it through the technology.

"We started a project in sports," she says. "What do you need in order to effectively track professional athletes? You need the ability to track a motion in subseconds. Our tags can blink up to 85 times per second."

You also need the capability to deliver data from a tag to a server with very low latency. She notes that it takes about 120 milliseconds between the time a tag blinks on the field and when it hits a server. The location data is accurate to within six inches.

"Then you need to put analytics on it so you can make decisions about what's happening in real time in less than a second," she adds.

Tech firm alleges tracking tech used in NFL deal is stolen

Lynx System Developers has filed a federal suit alleging that former business partner Zebra Technologies stole its sports tracking technology, cut it out of the NFL deal and wrongfully filed more than 20 patents to claim ownership of Lynx's inventions.

When the National Football League (NFL) starts using Zebra Technologies' MotionWorks tracking technology to provide fans with real-time information on players in the NFL Kickoff Game this Thursday, it won't be free from controversy.

A Haverhill, Mass.-based technology company has alleged that Zebra's sports tracking tech is stolen, and has filed a federal lawsuit.

In a 79-page suit filed with the District Court for the District of Massachusetts in June, Lynx System Developers alleged that Zebra, a former business partner, misappropriated trade secrets, cut it out of the deal with the NFL and wrongfully filed more than 20 patent applications to claim ownership of Lynx's inventions and trade secrets.

"Our company spent many years and significant resources developing and refining technological innovations for the real-time tracking of athletes during competition and training," Doug DeAngelis, president, Lynx System Developers, said in a statement to last Thursday. "We are committed to protecting these inventions, trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information."

As early as 2010, Lynx was testing a sports tracking system it described as "radar for sports."

For its part, Zebra says there was no wrongdoing involved.

"Zebra has an uncompromising position of honoring its contractual and confidentiality obligations, and respecting the intellectual property of others," Zebra told in an emailed statement last Thursday. "Lawsuits in technology are an unfortunate part of doing business, and we believe the lawsuit filed against Zebra is without merit; and we intend to vigorously defend against it. It is Zebra's policy not to comment further on pending litigation."


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