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Why Ball Tracking Is So Important To Football Coaches, Referees, and Fans

Sports performance software is now benefiting referees. Football analytics are helping match officials make more accurate and consistent decisions. And the sports data it provides allows coaches to analyze the beautiful game with unprecedented detail and gives fans insights never seen before. 

Football analytics are captured by sports performance software used for player tracking, but now it's helping referees. Sensor-based ball tracking by KINEXON is benefiting officials by helping them make more accurate and consistent decisions.
MunichDec 08, 2022

Did a player touch the ball? When did they touch it? Until recently, it was virtually impossible to give a clear and reliable answer to these questions. Today, ball tracking is revolutionizing how football (or soccer, how some of us say) matches can be called. And you don’t need a soccer ball tracking camera anymore. 

Using Ultra Wide Band (UWB) and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) technology, connected ball technology can provide real-time data to match officials. This optimizes decision-making on the pitch by precisely capturing the sport’s data on every touch of the game. This exact detection of the kick point allows for faster and more accurate analysis of offside incidents and other in-game situations. It’s football analytics at its best.

Soccer Ball Tracking Helps Referees Make Proper Calls

By using sports performance software inside a soccer ball, referees are able to make more accurate calls, which helps players and fans enjoy the game even more.

Additionally, using sports performance software, referees can see if a tackling player touched the ball (in real-time) and base their foul calls on reliable information rather than visual impressions. Thanks to three-dimensional tracking, connected ball technology can even help to detect if a player made contact with the ball with their hand and when.

The so-called heartbeat graphics clearly illustrate the moment the ball was touched. Hence, it is possible to determine whether a player had their foot on the ball before it crossed the goal line or whether the score should be awarded to their teammate.

For the first time in the history of football, connected ball data will allow everyone involved to determine precisely when and if a ball contact has taken place.“

Daniel Linke, Senior Product Manager Sports KINEXON

How Sports Perfomance Software and Ball Tracking Benefits Fans

Sports analytics software is used to help fans follow the ball during a game and monitor the performance of players.

Sports performance software captures every touch players make on the pitch and creates synergy with fans.

Official match balls with KINEXON’s ball tracking solution not only received the FIFA Quality Pro certification in February 2022, KINEXON also became the FIFA Preferred Provider for Live Player & Ball Tracking.“ With the technology greenlit for official matches, the Liga Portugal Bwin later partnered with KINEXON and ball manufacturer SELECT to put together a test case.

During the first leg of Portugal’s relegation playoffs in May 2022, a league used an official match ball with a tracking sensor inside for the first time ever. Teams, broadcasters and social-media teams received hundreds of football analytics such as the ball’s rotation rate, shot speed, the tightest ball control, dribbling- and passing speed and accuracy, as well as successful tacklings in real-time. Sports analytics created a multi-dimensional view of the game everyone involved enjoyed.

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Sports analytics can now be tracked by using sensors inside footballs and soccer balls. The technology provides better sports data than soccer ball tracking cameras alone.

Ball Tracking in Football: FAQs

Football analytics are tracked using sports performance software that is more consistent and accurate than soccer ball tracking cameras.

So, how does sports analytics software make soccer ball tracking work? Why does the sensor not interfere with the ball’s flight characteristic? Which metrics can be gathered? 

Read our ball tracking FAQs for further insights:

How does KINEXON’s ball tracking work?

KINEXON’s 500Hz IMU sensor can be integrated into any official match ball in corporation with ball manufacturers. Combined with the stationary real-time locating system by KINEXON (RTLS), it tracks the ball’s position up to 100 times per second with centimeter accuracy. Using artificial intelligence, the anchors around the pitch then transform the data into metrics such as speed, passing distance etc.

Does the sports analytics sensor interfere with the ball’s flight characteristics?

At only 7 g, the chip does not alter the ball’s physics. Hence, KINEXON’s xBall is the first sensorised ball with a perfectly balanced center of mass that does not interfere with flight characteristics. A crucial aspect for ball tracking to be suitable for in-game use.

How is the sensor charged?

Lightweight and low power, the sensor inside the tracking ball is charged wirelessly via a charging pad within 90 minutes. Once active, the battery life is up to 6h.

What are the benefits of the UWB and IMU technologies?

Combining UWB and IMU technologies, the connected ball technology transfers raw data in high resolution. UWB allows for precise tracking of the ball’s position, speed etc. At the same time, the IMU technology detects touches, rotation, force and movements. It is possible to pinpoint a touch down to 2 milliseconds. That way, it is possible to determine, for example, when the ball was played with millisecond accuracy.

Which advantages does the connected ball technology have compared to other tracking technologies?

Even from different angles, there may be several legs between a soccer ball tracking camera and the ball. With the sensor integrated into the ball, those disruptive factors drop out. Plus, a latency of only 20 ms means the human eye perceives everything ball tracking provides in real-time, which means: there is no faster and more reliable way to track the ball in real-time.

Do sensors work with any ball?

In theory, ball sensors from KINEXON can be integrated into every ball. In practice, KINEXON partners with leading ball manufacturers to equip ball models of professional leagues with the sensor. The reason: ensure that the ball tracking technology does not alter the ball’s rolling and flight characteristics or its weight and haptic sensation.

How does ball tracking support referees?

The connected ball technology tells in real-time when which player touched the ball and where, who changed its spin in which way, who passed or shot, and the ball’s position during any game moment. Hence, live-ball tracking helps match officials back up their decisions in real-time. Offside? Foul? Hand? Ball tracking helps detect every touch — or non-touch – and make a fair call.

Can soccer ball tracking data be combined with player tracking data?

Yes, KINEXON’s tracking engine not only enables live evaluation of sensor-based ball data but also the combination of sensor- and/​or optical-based player tracking data. These can come from player tracking systems from KINEXON as well as from third-party providers. Thanks to open interfaces, KINEXON offers one of the most flexible and versatile solutions for tracking data analysis in professional sports.

How do coaches and players benefit from soccer ball tracking?

Sensor-based tracking of footballs (soccer balls) can provide valuable information to players, coaches, and fans alike. For players and coaches, sensor-based tracking can help them analyze their performance and make strategic decisions in real time. For example, sensors can track a number of football analytics, including the speed, spin, and trajectory of a football, which can help players and coaches understand how different kicking techniques affect the flight of the ball. 

How does sensor-based soccer ball tracking benefit fans?

Sensor-based soccer ball tracking can enhance the viewing experience for fans. With real-time data on the movement of the ball, fans can get a better understanding of the game and see things that they might not be able to see with the naked eye, e.g. the ball’s spin rate.

If you’d like to learn more about KINEXON’S ball-tracking technology, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to explain how it works and how it can help you make better coaching decisions.

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