The International Stadium Yokohama was the venue for the official presentation of a new smart ball and goal-line technology on Thursday. The technology behind the revolutionary ball was revealed at a media briefing chaired by Gunter Pfau, the head of FIFA & UEFA Affairs at adidas and Christian Holzer, the managing director of Cairos Technologies, and had the assembled press nodding their heads in amazed approval.
Attracting all the attention at the entrance to the press room was a cutaway model of the ball and a transparent version showing the 12 suspension points that help keep the chip in the centre of the ball.
"The goal of this technology is nothing more than to help the players improve their performance," said Mr Pfau. "It's easy to blame referees, but helping them is very often a more delicate subject. We are trying to give them that support by acting on the requirements of the International [Football Association] Board, namely that the technology focuses only on the goal line, that it is 100-per cent reliable, it transmits the information to the referee immediately and that only the match officials are informed. We have been working very hard since the first tests conducted in Peru in 2005 [at the FIFA U-17 World Cup] and we are very satisfied with the results today."
Unlike the initial technology, which was based on the positioning of several sensors around the pitch, the new smart ball involves far simpler logistics. "Very thin cables [two millimetres in diameter] are laid in the ground at a depth of about 15-20 centimetres all the way around the goal," explained Mr Holzer. "That creates a magnetic field that sends information to the chip embedded in the ball. When the ball crosses the line, the message 'Goal' appears on the watches of the four match officials." Mr Holzer also added that the system takes just a day to install.
All possible situations were envisaged during rigorous testing of the technology. For example, no matter how hard the ball is kicked, there is no way the chip can be damaged. Furthermore, the fact that the message it sends is encrypted prevents it from being interfered with. The smart ball is now being trialled at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 and so far no hitches whatsoever have been reported.
"When the teams arrived in Japan we gave 40 balls to each side," continued Mr Holzer. "25 were standard balls and 15 contained the famous chip, some of them with the chip activated and some not. The players couldn't tell the difference."
Having tested the weight and bounce of the smart ball, FIFA has given its approval to this latest technological development, and the results of the practical tests conducted at Japan 2007 will be passed on to the International Football Association Board for consideration at its next meeting in March 2008.