Digital Sliotar-NFC

 In Digital Sliotar

For the first time in the history of hurling the new Digital sliotar can be securely identified, authenticated and tracked. DMF Systems developed a leading-edge innovative solution using NFC technology for the GAA to support a standardised sliotar.

Traceability Solution using NFC

The GAA require a standardised sliotar. Unfortunately, some of the sliotars produced by manufacturers can be struck too far. This is perhaps not surprising as it is in a player’s DNA to want to be able to score as many points as possible, hence they may favour sliotars that allow them to score from further out the field. This issue is not unique to hurling; many sports have faced similar dilemmas. Golf and tennis for example are highly regulated in terms of ball design to limit how far and fast their balls can travel.

The GAA must know who manufactured the sliotar, where it was made, prove its authentic and  ensure that referees and other GAA officials can validate the sliotar’s authenticity using their mobile phones, at pitchside to confirm that they are using an official GAA sliotar.

After much searching, the GAA partnered with DMF Systems who drew up the specification for an NFC (Near Field Communications) tag using GS1 identification standards (GS1 Ireland). DMF Systems subsequently designed the mobile phone app and data handling infrastructure. They also partnered with sliotar manufacturers Green Fields and O’Neills to help with sourcing appropriate tagging technology and sliotar design.

From a hurling performance perspective, it was critical that the NFC tag was so small it would not interfere with the playability and performance of the ball. For the manufacturer, it had to survive the process of the polyurethane mix expanding under high heat and pressure in the sliotar mould, while still staying beneath the surface. For the GAA, the NFC tag still had be readable after multiple high impact usage.

After several months of rigorous testing, eventually the team  identified an appropriate NFC tag that could be embedded deep enough in the sliotar by the manufacturers.

During this process, sliotars were also tested by county and club players to ensure they performed to the highest expected standards and that players could not distinguish between the sliotars produced by the different manufacturers.  Players were extremely happy with the sliotars and could not distinguish between them in terms of playability or performance.  

DMF Systems developed an azure cloud infrastructure for the GAA . The solution facilitates end to end data processing, NFC Tag Encoding, Scanning and Audit, and delivers real time data capture, logging and advanced reporting. The Azure implementation also provides for secure and seamless integration between the underlying technologies.

Hurling is one of Ireland’s most popular sports and the design of the sliotar is central to how one of the world’s fastest field sports is played. It must allow for short passing with the hand and hurley, accurate striking from large distances and comfortable catching by players. One challenge however is that supporters and the game’s guardians do not want the ball to travel too far. This could result in the sliotar being struck from deep in defence to score a point, robbing players and spectators of the exciting contests that sees possession of the sliotar change between teams. In addition, players invariably want consistency in a sliotar, to be able to fine-tune their skills.

Additional information is available in the complete article https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0120/1108552-the-story-behind-hurlings-new-yellow-sliothar/

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