NHL sensor built-in puck allows for better broadcast stats and better graphics


Slipping on the ice this NHL season is a redesigned puck from SMT, the league’s puck and player tracking partner. Last year, the first full NHL season was played with SMT’s built-in sensor puck, but the LEDs that used to be in the center of the puck are now closer to its top and bottom layers.

The goal is to expand the distribution of infrared light emanating from the puck to reach the on-site optical cameras that power NHL Edge, the puck and player tracking system. exploited by CMS. Light from the puck is beamed through six tiny tubes or “light pipes” as described by SMT CEO and Founder, Gerard J. Hall. The optical tracking system levers from 16 to 28 cameras hung in the rafters of each arena.

“We brought the LEDs closer to the surface of the puck at the top and bottom, so we have the center PCB, and then the LEDs moved closer to the surface,” Hall explained. “Light scatters much more widely, so Iit is does not come out straight like a small cylinder, rather it comes out in a wide cone. It just allows more infrared light to come out of the puck.

“That’s why we call it the Shining Star,” Hall said of the new puck.

The NHL will use SMT’s improved puck and player tracking system this season.

The NHL Edge tracking system also collects data from sensors sewn into each player’s jersey. SMT ingests and distributes data through its Oasis software platform. SMT’s sensors are integrated into washers of Englishthe NHL’s puck supplier since 1996.

SMT also manages the NHL’s Hockey Information and Tracking System (HITS) scoring system which has been in use since the 2007-08 season. The Durham-based company was not originally selected by the NHL to manage its puck and player tracking system. This job originally went to the RFID company Jog Mo but the NHL announced in October 2019 that it was switch development to SMT due to organizational and financial problems Jog Mo.

How SMT improved the puck

SMT’s First Sensor Fused Puck
only lasted a few days during the 2020-21 NHL season after players complained about the way he slipped on the ice. Hi-tech pucks have been replaced with standard non-tracking pucks before returning for the start of last season.

“There was a breakdown in the process where one of the final treatments on the puck wasn’t done, that was clearly a mistake. And that kept him from gliding properly on the ice,” says Hall. “The tests that the NHL now has in place between SMT and a third party verify that the puck we offer and any modifications to it must go through very rigorous testing to ensure that it still has the same balance, the same density, the same required gliding characteristics, and all of this has been carefully checked.

Hall likened the puck’s new LED placement to switching from the creamy center of an Oreo cookie to its chocolate outer layers. Improved lighting allows faster and more exact puck tracking stats and graphics for the league and its media partners like ESPN and Turner. The NHL is also waiting for its betting data partner sports radar at utilize puck and player tracking data to power game odds and new types of bets.

“We just have much better coverage on the puck, we’ve improved our range of throwing algorithms,” Hall said. “This is something that cannot be seen in itself, [but] the fine details from where the puck is located has been greatly improved as we enter the season with the addition of this shiny star puck.

Player tracking technology, statistics

SMT began tracking NHL time of possession last season, and it’s a stat Hall considers more accurate this year when shown on television or on-site video panels during games. Amazon Web Services, the league’s cloud partner, leveraged
NHL Advantage last season to launch its Face-off probability statistical

“We’re going to see things like zone entry, zone carries, success and passing percentage,” Hall said of this season’s new stats. “There’s just a slew of new stats that are going to become available. And the NHL will make political decisions on whether it wants to declare something as an official stat. »

Metrics around shot quality, save quality, distance covered, shot heatmaps, and skate speed will also be shared this season, sometimes as sponsored assets on arena video boards. Puck and player tracking data will also power new virtual reality content.

“We continue to test how we can use data to create truly compelling live virtual reality experiences,” says David Lehansky, NHL Senior Vice President of Global Business Development and Partnerships. “We have done a few pilots in the past to some of our technicians showcases with a few different companies. I think were go to take the next step this year and publicly distribute live VR content built out of the Edge system.

The next step could be the 3D world, digital player avatars

Last season saw the first NHL computer-animated streams from some
playoff games who represented players moving like numeric block characters based on their tracking data. During a Stanley Cup Finals game in Colorado, the Tampa Bay Lightning invited fans to watch the game at their local arena as player block animations were thrown onto the ice with shot tracking animations. The actual broadcast was broadcast on the arena’s jumbotron.

“It was just an experiment last year that went exceptionally well, we got like 8 million views or something crazy,” Hall said. “Many on-site producers are looking to integrate player and puck tracking into their venues. This is A great way as a companion app to watch a hockey game.

SMT and the NHL believe its improved puck and player tracking system will eventually allow these blocks to be replaced with digital player avatars for better aesthetics, perhaps similar to what the Brooklyn Nets did for the first time in his Netavers broadcast on ESPN.

We’re going to look at things like zone entry, zone carries, success, and passing percentage. There’s just a slew of new stats that are going to become available. And the NHL will make political decisions on whether it wants to declare something as an official stat.

“Taking real-time Edge data and using it to create a live virtual gaming experience with avatars moving based on player coordinates and pucks to create a game that is in a virtual 3D environment“, Lehansky said. “You can create really cool graphics so that when a player scores goals there’s an explosion behind the net.” SMT has already made similar AR animations for The NFL broadcasts on Nickelodeon.

part of it virtual game replica the evolution will come from limb and stick tracking that SMT cameras are testing in NHL arenas this season. FIFA is also rolling out member tracking at the next world cup in partnership with optical camera supplier Hawk-Eye to automate faster and more exact referral of offside decisions. Lehansky says SMT could track limb and stick movements to dictate high penalties and other appeals.

“Maybe there’s a way to leverage that so that the on-ice officiating knows exactly where the stick is, where the limbs are,” Lehansky said. “We could potentially use it to arbitrate in a game or video review that needs to be watched.”

“It’s ambitious, but it’s a very real possibility,” Hall added. “The experiment is ongoing.”


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