If you’re not interested in NFL football, but rather interested in technology, you might want to pay attention to the action occurring on the sidelines at this weekend’s Super Bowl. The bright blue tablets that will be used by coaches, players and staffs in the Super Bowl this weekend are, you guessed it, Surface Pro 3 tablets.
It all started back in 2014 when Microsoft and the NFL signed a $400 million five year contract that made Microsoft the official sideline technology sponsor of players and staff. The deal meant that Surface tablets were put in the hands of players and staff. This is essentially why on every week of the NFL Season, Microsoft gives 13 Surface tablets per team for the sidelines (first Surface Pro 2, and now Surface Pro 3), and another 12 for the staff up in the coaching booths.
These tablets are intended to bring the NFL into the 21st century by replacing the old paper-print-outs-in-a-binder system that teams had used for years to analyze the game as it progressed. They are also specially ruggedized to survive the conditions of a NFL Game, be it heat, snow, rain, or freezing temperatures. Distinctive blue hand grips are featured, meaning players won’t have to worry about dropping the device onto the field.
These Surface Pro 3 tablets, however, are not like the ones in your homes. They run a specialized Sideline Viewing System which relies on secure networking within the stadium. In-game cameras are streamed to the Surfaces to coaches all across the field. Coaches can then use the system to annotate and highlight things seen on the screen. In the final steps of the process, the annotated shots are then sent down to players on the sidelines, where they can see their coaches’ analysis of what’s working in the game plan and what isn’t.
For this Sunday’s Super Bowl, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle has said that she and her team are double checking network connections at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The NFL deal, however, almost certainly means that Microsoft is giving it’s Surface lineup some well deserved public exposure.