A number of months ago, Adidas and FIFA made the announcement that the match ball used in the Al-Rihla World Cup would be equipped with the most advanced artificial intelligence sensor technology currently available. This was a brand new development in football technology, but surprisingly, we didn’t hear much about it during the tournament itself until it determined that Bruno Fernandes, and not Cristiano Ronaldo, scored Portugal’s opening goal against Uruguay.
The ball and the technology contained within it have been operating unobtrusively up until yesterday, when it became clear that the sensor, which is powered by a battery and located inside the ball, needs to be recharged before each match. When fully charged, a battery has a lifespan of either six hours of continuous use or eighteen days when it is dormant. When a ball is taken out of a game and another one is substituted for it, the system will automatically activate the sensor of the ball that is still in play. No intervention from a human is required for this process to take place. Assuming, of course, that each one has been brought up to its full charge.
Although it should not come as a surprise that some form of power is required in order for the technology to operate, the image of a football being plugged in and charged at the side of the field in the same manner as a mobile phone was not something that we ever expected to see. Although balls have become significantly more technologically advanced over the years in terms of the components that make them up and the manufacturing process that goes into them, we would not have guessed that the next logical step in the evolution of balls would be to hook one up to a power source before a game.
The sensor-fitted ball will not only provide refereeing decisions that are supported by scientific evidence, but it will also play a significant role in the utilization of statistics and data in the sport of football. The sensor-fitted ball may look like a precursor to, or may already be a component of, the “internet of things.” As a result of it, new metrics have become accessible, which has resulted in the addition of additional dimensions to the ways in which football can be analyzed and has had an impact on the ways in which teams prepare for, and therefore play, the game.