Foolproof Officiating? NFL Considers Computer Chips in Balls


The NFL is reportedly in talks about further taking human error out of officiating, using new technology to determine such calls as touchdowns and first downs.

The league already uses instant replay in close calls. Now a German company tells Reuters it is in discussions with the league to place computer chips in balls, which can determine if they cross the goal line or reach first down markers.

"Yes, we are talking. There is a demand in American football," Cairos Technologies sales director Mario Hanus told Reuters.

The NFL would not deny or confirm the talks. However, a spokesman said the league is constantly looking for ways to improve.

"We are always exploring ways in which we can be innovative with technology to improve our game and our fans enjoyment of the game," NFL spokesman Michael Signora said.

Cairos has been working on a similar system for soccer for the past ten years. The chip could tell if the ball crosses the goal line. But so far, soccer officials have resisted using any technology in its games, so the company turned to football. 

"There are other sports more open to the topic maybe than soccer at this time but the requirements are different and the development was in first placed to solve that particular issue (in soccer)," Hanus said.

But he thinks the system can easily be adapted to football.

"In American Football you have the same situation, you need to cross a line and the ball needs to be over the line 100 percent," Hanus said.

We'll forgive Hanus for getting his rules mixed up.

While a soccer ball is not considered out of bounds or a goal until the entire sphere has crossed a line, American football is different in that only a piece of the ball needs to touch the goal line or first down market for it to be considered "good."

But the point he makes is still valid. A chip could indicate whether the ball has (a) completely crossed a line or (b) touched that line in some way. Thus making it of use to soccer and American football.


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