Fox’s ‘Glow Puck’ was the original sports IoT application

Larry Bellehumeur, M2M / IoT Consultant, Novotech
Technologies

As a Canadian, hockey is pretty much in your blood, says Larry Bellehumeur of Novotech. Although I don’t follow the National Hockey League (NHL) that closely (I am more of a baseball and NFL fan), I have no issues “following” the game.

We are well versed on the strategy, the rules and how to follow the puck while it zips around the ice at rocket speeds.

Fox Sports wasn’t so sure that Americans would do the same. Their theory was that most newcomers to the game would have issues following the puck, despite the fact that it is a dark black puck on bright white ice and the fact that most fans have no problems following a football or baseball on TV.

So, back in the 90s, Fox went all “IoT” on the puck. The puck was cut in half and some high-tech transmitters and sensors were attached to the puck and it was reassembled. A lot of care was taken to ensure that there was no difference in weight/balance on the modified puck. Around the rink, 20 detectors and 10 infrared emitters picked up the signal from the puck as it flew around the ice.

Here is a FoxTrax puck (left, as is / right shows the puck cut in half):

image002

The result? Fox was able to track the puck around the ice and super-impose a blue glow over it. The theory was that it would be easier to see. They even added a cheesy red “tail” to the puck when the speed exceeded 70mph, which it usually does on most shots on goal (see picture below).

Well, the puck was definitely controversial, to say the least. Newcomers to hockey seemed to be in favour of it, as it made it easier to see the puck, while experienced viewers found it annoying. In the end, the puck lasted a total of two years before it went away.

You be the judge – here is what the FoxTrax puck, sometimes referred to as Glow Puck, looked like when shot:

image004

The bottom line

As a seasoned hockey viewer, you are probably assuming that I hated the FoxTrax glow, and mostly you are right. It was annoying. However, I think that the concept was way ahead of its time, and like noted hockey analyst Don Cherry said, it was great to see Fox investing in technology that was intended to help the sport, even if it wasn’t the best result.

As someone in the IoT world, I fully appreciate what Fox was trying to do, and I think we can thank much of the cool IoT tools used in today’s broadcasts, at least in part, to what was learned by FoxTrax. Hats off to Fox for taking a chance on FoxTrax!

The author of this blog is Larry Bellehumeur, M2M / IoT Consultant, Novotech Technologies.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow OR @jcIoTnow

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