Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems (EPTS) can record player and ball positions on the field. Manufacturers typically pair them with gyroscopes, accelerometers, heart rate monitors, and more to track player load and physiological data. There are three main forms of EPTS currently on the market: optical-based camera systems, local positioning systems (LPS), and global positioning systems/global navigation satellite systems (GPS/GNSS).
Optical-Based Camera Systems
Optical-based camera systems (OBCS) use high-end cameras to track players and the ball on the field. As a result, it is the least invasive EPTS on the market. Although we are discussing wearable EPTS, it is important to discuss OBCS because players often do not want to wear technology during a match (Svetlik, 2017). As a result, most teams rely on optical-based camera systems to collect critical match statistics regarding their players.
OptaPro is one of the leaders in providing optical-based camera systems in football (Opta, 2012).
However, wearable EPTS exists because of the limitations of OBCS. Cameras can only be used for on-the-ball actions and cannot record physiological measures such as player load. Moreover, any sort of occlusion that occurs between the camera and a player needs to be manually corrected. Local and global positioning systems can be easily paired with additional technology to address these shortcomings.
Local Positioning Systems (LPS)
Local positioning systems use infrared technology to communicate with nodes installed around a stadium. Players wear a tracking device placed between their shoulder blades within a vest that looks like a sports bra. It is popular in indoor sports, where roofs of stadiums block GPS signaling, but its application in football is growing because of its increased accuracy. Not only are the devices accurate, but they can also make numerous measurements. Unfortunately, its installation is costly and takes a long time, but its benefits outweigh its consequences (“Electronic Performance & Tracking Systems,” n.d.). Hence, you can find the technology in popular tracking devices (“ClearSky T6 – Athlete Tracking Technology Focused on Physical and Tactical Performance,” n.d., “STATSports | APEX | GPS Player Tracking and Performance Analysis,” n.d.).
Global Positioning Systems/Global Navigation Satellites Systems (GPS/GNSS)
GPS/GNSS uses satellite technology to track player location. It has been widely used in football because the sport is typically played in open stadiums. Although it can make as many measurements as LPS and does not require much time for installation, it has notable shortcomings (“Electronic Performance & Tracking Systems,” n.d.). Traditional GPS devices are comparatively large and invasive to players who decide to wear them. Additionally, satellites may lose sight of the device and there are accuracy concerns when relying on such devices far away from stadiums. Hence, advanced wearable tracking devices in football combine LPS and GPS/GNSS technology.
Providers of Wearable EPTS
There are two major distributors of wearable EPTS at the 2018 World Cup – STATSports and Catapult.
Click on the graphic for an interactive map.
Nations that will be using either STATSports or Catapult at the 2018 World Cup. Clients were found through each company’s website.
Although both companies supply football clubs throughout the world, STATSports seems to be the more popular option for this year’s World Cup. Even the United States Soccer Federation has signed a contract with the company (Williamson, 2018). We will assess both companies’ flagship products and examine how football teams are using them today. Before we explain the products, let us define a few key terms.
Wearable EPTS – Key Terms
STATSports’ and Catapult’s flagship devices do more than just track player location. They also contain the following Micro Electric Mechanical devices:
Accelerometer – measures player acceleration
Gyroscope – measures angular velocity
Magnetometer – like a compass, it measures the direction in which a player is travelling
STATSports’ flagship product is the Apex Pod. The company claims that it is the “most advanced athlete performance-tracking device ever” because of its ability to calculate over 50 measurements of athlete performance (“STATSports | APEX | GPS Player Tracking and Performance Analysis,” n.d.). For instance, it can calculate step balance, average metabolic power, and time spent in the red zone of heart rate.
The Brazilian Football Association just signed a new contract with STATSports and examines how they can use its technology on the field (STATSports, 2018).
A unique characteristic about the Apex Pod is its tracking capabilities. It incorporates GPS/GNSS and Multiple Augmented Performance Positional System (MAPPS) technology to provide accurate positioning information of players. The MAPPS technology uses ultra-wideband radio signals and serves as an LPS. Hence, when the GPS/GNSS signal of the Apex Pod is somehow compromised, the MAPPS technology compensates for it. Devices such as footwear, EMG garments, and biosensors can by synced with the Apex Pod through Bluetooth to also provide accurate physiological data (“STATSports | APEX | GPS Player Tracking and Performance Analysis,” n.d.).
Catapult’s flagship product is the ClearSky T6. It can make similar measurements to the Apex Pod with its Micro Electric Mechanical devices and can by synced with other tracking devices. However, it is unique in that it solely uses LPS (“ClearSky T6 – Athlete Tracking Technology Focused on Physical and Tactical Performance,” n.d.). Hence, its measurements can be just as accurate as the Apex Pod, which uses LPS to support its GPS/GNSS input.
Highlights of the functionality of Catapult’s ClearSky T6 at St. George’s Park (Catapult Sports, 2017).
Although STATSports highlights many of the Apex Pod’s unique features, Catapult summarizes the ClearSky T6’s functionality through three main points – positional accuracy, tactical applications, and versatility (“ClearSky T6 – Athlete Tracking Technology Focused on Physical and Tactical Performance,” n.d.).
It is difficult to compare the Apex Pod to the ClearSky T6. STATSports reports specific parameters regarding its device (“STATSports | APEX | GPS Player Tracking and Performance Analysis,” n.d.). In contrast, Catapult reports their device’s default parameters, but claims the sample rate for their Micro Electric Mechanical devices can be higher (“ClearSky T6 – Athlete Tracking Technology Focused on Physical and Tactical Performance,” n.d.). Nevertheless, both devices are equipped with advanced accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, and EPTS.
It should be noted that STATSports has more information available for its product than Catapult. In fact, STATSports provides an additional page to explain to the positioning technology of the Apex Pod. In contrast, Catapult provides a summary of parameters for the ClearSky T6; however, it provides visitors with an additional document that they can select to continue reading about its specs. One notable difference between the products is battery life. The Apex Pod lasts for 8 hours while the ClearSky T6 only lasts for 4 hours (“ClearSky T6 – Athlete Tracking Technology Focused on Physical and Tactical Performance,” n.d., “STATSports | APEX | GPS Player Tracking and Performance Analysis,” n.d.). This could be the reason why teams prefer the Apex Pod over the ClearSky T6 – as it could be used for longer training sessions.
It will be interesting to see which companies decide to enter the market of EPTS in football. STATSports seems to attract more teams as the company grows, but Catapult has been in the market for an extended period of time and has purchased other providers such as PlayerTek. Likewise, it will be interesting to see to which companies national teams decide to partner. Ironically, Brazil was partnered with Catapult until this April, when it switched its allegiance to STATSports (STATSports, 2018). The future of EPTS is exciting and there are numerous opportunities that come with it.
Go Back to History and FIFA Regulations of EPTS Continue to Future of EPTS
How to Cite this Article
“Function & Top Producers of EPTS,” Written by Noor Tasnim (2018). World Cup 2018 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/tournament-guides/mens-world-cup-2018-guide/gear/electronic-performance-and-tracking-systems/function-and-top-producers-of-epts/ (accessed on (date)).
Catapult Sports. (2017). Catapult ClearSky Workshop: St George’s Park. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYn6-snQqKw
ClearSky T6 – Athlete Tracking Technology Focused on Physical and Tactical Performance. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2018, from https://www.catapultsports.com/products/clearsky-t6
Electronic Performance & Tracking Systems. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2018, from https://football-technology.fifa.com/en/media-tiles/epts-1/
Opta. (2012). OptaPro – Introduction. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=110&v=mlmNxvs-Lvk
STATSports. (2018). Seleção Brasileira Fisiologistas explicam nova tecnologia para análise de desempenho. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0zjB7of1aE
STATSports | APEX | GPS Player Tracking and Performance Analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2018, from http://statsports.com/apex/
Svetlik, J. (2017, June 19). EPL 2030: Football’s Wearable Tech Revolution Has Only Just Begun. Retrieved April 29, 2018, from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2659361-epl-2030-footballs-wearable-tech-revolution-has-only-just-begun
Williamson, G. (2018, March 29). STATSports | U.S. Soccer turns to STATSports to discover stars of the future. Retrieved May 1, 2018, from http://statsports.com/u-s-soccer-turns-to-uks-statsports-to-discover-stars-of-the-future/