It’s not a common sight to see, but you may have spotted a viral image around the internet of the World Cup footballs being charged - not pumped up, but charged. Huddled around like dead phones at a festival, the balls are all plugged in to ensure the sensors within have enough battery for the match ahead, as this World Cup is the first to include technology within the football itself.
While football tournaments have been overrun by tech in recent years, most notably the video assistant referee, or VAR, system that offers accurate replays of difficult decisions, the tech has never touched the good ol' fashioned football. Now, though, an array of sensors inside will identify when the football gets touched, as well as position and velocity at any one time.
The ball is tracked 500 times a second using inertial measurement units and ultra wide band sensors, giving the officials real-time data on exactly what the ball is doing. Along with an advanced suite of cameras that track each player’s position and movements in relation to the ball, FIFA has never had more information on who hit the ball, how fast it was going, and where it went from there.
All this leads to almost instantaneous offside calls, entirely correct decisions on goal kicks and corners, and always knowing exactly who scored the goal. Of course, this doesn’t mean the fans won’t argue every step of the way.