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Smart Tech Finally Comes to the FIFA World Cup

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Smart Tech Finally Comes to the FIFA World Cup

Want to find out how your favorite football teams are using IoT and other smart technologies? Check out this post to learn more.

· IoT Zone ·
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The introduction of sports technology in any official capacity can be painfully slow as regulatory bodies have to seek expert advice, guidelines have to be drawn up, and any ruling made can impact each team's players and the future of the sport.  Football (soccer) has been particularly slow to modernize, but a number of technologies have been introduced that are making the game a lot more interesting. Let's take a look:

Goal Line Technology

The last World Cup in Brazil saw the debut of goal-line technology. This was the first time referees had ever received any kind of artificial help in making decisions. The GoalControl-4D system is equipped with 14 high-speed cameras located around the pitch, with seven cameras focussing on each goalmouth. Using a special detection software, the ball is filtered out from the image sequences and its real-time position is automatically calculated as X, Y and Z coordinates as well as speed, making it 4D. If the ball has fully crossed the goal-line, the central processing unit automatically sends an encrypted radio signal to the referee’s watch in less than one second, indicating a goal by means of vibration and a visual signal. Goal line tech, such as Goal Ref and Hawk-Eye, has been used in a number of sports for some time, including tennis.

Not everyone is supporting the technology, showing a bit of a press beat up. The Russian state telecommunications regulator has revealed that four fire alarm detectors operating in the Luzhniki Stadium in Rostov, during Portugal’s win over Morocco, used the same frequency range (between 868.3 and 868.8 MHz) as goal-line technology. It was also claimed that in Rostov, local phone company Tetra’s communication service was also tuned to the same frequency as GLT inside the Rostov Arena. The regulators do however claim that “there was and is no threat to the system of goal detection at Luzhniki.” Arguably, these are problems to iron out for next time.

Video Assistant Referee

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 The International Football Association Board (IFAB) gave the green light in March 2018 for the use of video assistant referee (VAR) in football.  It is, however, only be used to correct clear and obvious errors and missed incidents in defined match-changing decisions. The referees at the World Cup can decide to rely on the verbal information from the video assistant referee or to review the video footage of the incident in question themselves on the side of the field of play on a monitor before making their decision. 

However, its use has not been without controversy during the World Cup.  In the letter that has been publicly published, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) President Fouzi Lekjaa questioned a number of refereeing decisions (three in the game against Portugal and five during the Spain game) that he said directly hampered the team’s World Cup run. Part of the complaint suggested that the VAR were used unfairly. In the games against Portugal and Spain, for example, VAR had been used only to benefit Morocco’s rivals and was never used to assist the Moroccan national team, according to Lekjaa.

“We believe without a shadow of doubt that the refereeing mistakes — especially those which occurred in the crucial games against Portugal and Spain — seriously hampered our team by denying it the chance to compete on an equal footing for qualification with the other teams in the group. The seriousness of the mistakes mentioned above is even more apparent when one considers the fact that in these two games (against Portugal and Spain), video technology was only used to benefit our rivals.” Sore losers or something more?

Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems

 FIFA has made a number of tools available at each match of the FIFA World Cup. The technical and medical staff of the participating teams have dedicated workstations and a dedicated line to communicate with the coaching and medical staff on the bench. Positional data from two optical tracking cameras located on the main tribune that track the players and ball is available to the analysts in real time alongside live footage from selected tactical cameras. The insights from the technical information and the provided communication link allow for constant real-time interaction that can feed into their decisions during the match.

Each national team competing at the World Cup received two tablets from FIFA — one for an analyst sitting high in the stadium and the other for a coach on the touchline. These devices allow teams to access player tracking data and communicate via voice, text messages, still images, and tactical drawings.

Smart Soccer Ball

The Telstar 18 has an embedded Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. This is purely for consumer use and will not help players track their kicks or headers. It's more of a fan experience that works with both Android and iOS devices.


While this is the first time such technology has been used in an official match, it's not the first time that we’ve come across a smart soccer ball. Adidas smart balls have been around for a while. InsideCoach also offers a smart football that contains motion detection technology that records force of impact, spin, position, trajectory, number of ball passes, number of ball touches, play time, and reports directly to your mobile device in real time, making it your own personal coach on the field. 


For more information on tech in the world cup, take a look at my articles on sports wearables and smart stadiums.

world cup russia 2018 ,russia ,goal ref ,ai ,iot ,goal line technology ,sports tech

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