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RFID Tags Keep Pace with the “Fastest Game on Earth”

Devoted sport fans want to know every detail about their beloved sport, players and matches. Now, with SMARTRAC’s RFID technology and a tracking solution from solvistas, Austria’s ice hockey league delivers what hockey maniacs desire most.

 

How long has a player been on the ice? Which players are on the ice now or were on the ice at a specific point in the match? How many times has a player been on the ice during a match – or during the whole season? What’s the percentage of players from Austria? Information like this is difficult to obtain in real-time using cameras, stopwatches and notepads. With “solTimeOnIce”, an advanced tracking system developed by solvistas in cooperation with the hockey club Liwest Black Wings Linz, a club in Austria’s “Erste Bank Eishockey Liga” (EBEL), it is possible and easy – thanks to advanced RFID technology.

Reliable Time-on-ice Measurement as the Base Parameter


The players’ helmets and trousers are equipped with SMARTRAC’s ShortDipole inlays, while readers and antennas are installed in the substitute bench areas. With a special RFID reflection technique developed by solvistas the system permanently and automatically detects and logs when a player leaves the RFID-bench and goes on to the ice. That results in real-time “time-on-ice” (TOI) measurements for each player, which are aggregated and serve as a basis for various statistical evaluations that are provided by solvistas’ software solution. Measuring the time on ice for players from Austria is of special importance, since the hockey association plans to distribute money to teams depending on the actual playing time of Austrians. This is aimed at promoting Austrian hockey talent, which otherwise has problems overcoming the intense competition from hockey pros from the sport’s strongholds such as Canada, USA, Russia or the Czech Republic.

 

Abolishing Man-made Errors


Based in Linz (Austria), big data and business analytics specialist solvistas implemented the solution to replace the error-prone manual entry of TOI data. After extensive testing, solvistas settled for RFID readers and antennas from Kathrein, a leading international specialist for reliable, high-quality communication technologies, and for RFID UHF transponder products from SMARTRAC. Originally designed for supply chain management, apparel and brand protection applications, the RFID pacesetter’s ShortDipole inlays were capable and robust enough to pass the test imposed by what is widely considered the most dynamic, fastest and sometimes roughest game on earth. The product’s excellent global performance on lower detuning materials like cardboard, plastic and corrugated boxes proved ideal for solvistas’ real-time tracking system.

 

“30 match tests were necessary to find the perfect interplay between RFID hardware and software. The system works reliable and supplies the club with valuable information. This project means a lot of fun for us and is really challenging as we are the first Austrian IT company who combines Internet of Things (IoT) with hockey", says Tobias Mayr, Product Manager at solvistas.

 

What’s beyond TOI


Of course, there is more to RFID in games like hockey than measuring time on the field and generating extensive statistic data that can be made accessible to fans via video walls or smartphone apps. With RFID tags implanted in pucks or balls, the technology can ensure correct scoring decisions. In the case of hockey, combining RFID pucks with tags on each player’s skates allows infallible decisions on rules violations to be made. By programming a rules violation to automatically trigger a sound or a notification to a referee to blow his whistle, factual decisions can be taken out of the hands of error-prone humans.

 

For the Love of the Game: SMARTRAC’s Products


SMARTRAC offers a comprehensive portfolio of RFID UHF inlays and tags perfectly suited for applications in the world of sports, including timing, tracking and tracing of equipment or players. For sales & customer service related questions, please contact us here.