Football trials real-time BLE-based tracking and analytics ahead of new season
Real-time Bluetooth-based sports analytics is coming to football (soccer), says Finnish duo Wisehockey and Quuppa after putting their real-time locating system (RTLS) to the test in their home country.
Player and ball movements were tracked during a pre-season match between top-tier Finnish teams earlier this month, and testing of the system was carried out last month, also in the Finnish football league.
Wisehockey, as its name says, was established to provide real-time sports analytics in ice hockey. Its platform utilises Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tags in hockey pucks and on players, provided by Espoo-based Nokia-founded country-mate Quuppa.
The RTLS hockey system is used in thousands of hockey games in the top-level Finnish Elite Hockey League (Liiga), as well as in the Kontinental Hockey League, an international league tournament with teams from Belarus, China, Finland, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
Wisehockey is seeking to establish itself as the default choice for analytics and tracking in other sports. The pre-season game in the Veikkausliiga football league in Finland was between FC Haka and FC TPS took place on June 12, at FC Haka’s home stadium in the city of Valkeakoski, in front of a live audience. Testing in May also took place at the stadium in Valkeakoski.
The players and the ball were equipped with tags that enabled real-time tracking with portable Quuppa locators. Wisehockey said the trial showed its new football analytics platform can meet expectations set fully automatic football analytics. Portable locators can be set up at any venue in a few hours, compared with permanent installation which take about a day to complete.
In hockey, the BLE-based tracking system can follow the puck at up to 160 km/h (100 mph). In any sport, positioning data allows for tracking of game events such as shots, passes, and contest wins, and deeper analysis of the game.
Teams and coaches have real-time access to statistics about offensive and defensive play, as well as shift charts and shot maps. Data can be made available via an open API to entertainment and betting service providers, as well. The system provides possibilities for training as well as fan entertainment.
The system offers a means to acquire information on a level that video-based football analytics cannot achieve, according to Wisehockey. The setup consists of a robust Bluetooth-based tracking system and accurate real-time data analytics.
The hardware is built around Quuppa-based position tracking. For a hockey game, the basic setup consists of 20–28 BLE locators, a networking router (Ubiquiti’s EdgeRouter 12 is mentioned in the system spec) to switch traffic onto the internet, a power-over-Ethernet switch (Cisco is mentioned), and an edge-base compute server (Dell’s PowerEdge T430 is referenced) to process data.
The locators are attached to locator stands that are installed to the catwalk, lighting tracks or ceiling structures of the stadium. Networking switches, edge router, and server are connected to the locators using Category 6 Ethernet cables.
The BLE player tags track speed and movement in real-time by bouncing signals off the locators around the venue. Match officials may also wear tags. A player tag is the size of a stamp and weighs six grams including battery. A similar BLE positioning tag is also integrated into the puck or ball; the tag does not affect its look, weight, or feel.
The match clock in the stadium should be integrated into the system, as well; information on match events are time-stamped with the clock signal. Clock integration depends on the venue, but typically runs over serial bus clock integration or TCP/IP clock integration. The system also requests certain league-based data, via a league interface, for automatic data analytics.
Miska Kuusisto, head of sales at Wisehockey, said: “It is not just about player and smart football tracking, but a large set of automated real-time analytics that have never been seen in football before. It underlines Wisehockey’s exceptional platform flexibility.”
He added: “Automatic and reliable analytics is the backbone of a larger digital ecosystem. Our experience in real-time ice hockey analytics allows us to speed up the development process. The Wisehockey system can be easily adapted to football and we can now focus on building a service partner network.”