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Apple Hardware

NFL Teams Considering IPads To Replace Playbooks 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the there's-a-bone-crushing-app-for-that dept.
bonch writes "Pete Walsh, technology head for the Dallas Cowboys, says he and other teams are considering iPads and other tablets as a replacement for paper playbooks, saving about 5,000 pages of printouts per game. Not only is it a huge savings in paper, but a lost iPad might also be remotely wiped to prevent a team's plays falling into the wrong hands. One concern is security and whether or not a tablet could be wirelessly hacked."
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NFL Teams Considering IPads To Replace Playbooks

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  • by mykos (1627575) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @10:51AM (#35118026)
    Good luck using it with gloves on
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 06, 2011 @10:57AM (#35118052)

      Players don't generally read the playbook on the sidelines unless they're on the bench, at which point they generally take their gloves off since it's equally difficult to flip through a book with gloves on. On another note, they would need to get some deal with apple to let them side load the playbook though since I'd imagine not many teams would want to submit their playbook for approval to the app store.

      • by Kneo24 (688412)
        Why not transfer it via other means? Why even bother having apple in the equation?
      • by beelsebob (529313)

        What makes you think that the playbook needs anything more complex than emailing a pdf to the players?

      • by LordKronos (470910) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @11:04AM (#35118104) Homepage

        On another note, they would need to get some deal with apple to let them side load the playbook though since I'd imagine not many teams would want to submit their playbook for approval to the app store.

        I'm pretty sure the developers license will let you load your own unreleased app directly onto your ipad, without having to submit it to apple.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bay43270 (267213)

          Apple also supports enterprise app servers so the teams (or companies) can distribute their own applications internally.

        • by Xtravar (725372)

          Enterprise license.

      • by Karlt1 (231423) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @12:23PM (#35118512)

        On another note, they would need to get some deal with apple to let them side load the playbook though since I'd imagine not many teams would want to submit their playbook for approval to the app store.

        Companies can get an enterprise license that allows them to distriibute app internally.

      • by milkmage (795746)

        there is an enterprise distribution mechanism whereby apps can be distributed inside a corporation.

        I'm pretty sure the Mercedes Benz sales app isn't available for public distribution, nor are Salesforce's intranet apps.

        when my company was building our app... we were able to install it once our devices were "authorized" - extra layer of secuirty... even if you get the app, you can't run it unless your device is on the list.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        That already exists - A corporate developer licence is available that enables you to push in-house apps to the iPhones and iPads under your control. It has been like this for some time, since before the iPad launched.

    • There are actually gloves available that will work with the ipad.

  • Turn the wireless function off
    Duh???
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642)

      Turn the wireless function off

      Duh???

      The "Duh" part is being worried about the wireless, merely because wireless is "new and trendy" to the non-technical masses. The part to worry about is the itunes running bot infested keylogger installed windoze box it syncs and backs up to. Or whatever backend system they're using, perhaps they're just planning on front ending google docs, hope no one share those files to the wrong person.

      Also its "easy" to embed watermarking for each individual printout (stupid example, much better exist, player #28 get

      • by Graff (532189)

        Also its "easy" to embed watermarking for each individual printout (stupid example, much better exist, player #28 gets 28 extra spaces scattered thru his printout) As far as I know, no one has a system like that for an ipad, so you simply loan the ipad to your new best friend and while you're busy cashing your check, he's busy taking untraceable snapshots of the ipad displaying each page with his cellphone or fancier camera.

        It's just as easy to do with the iPad, or any device for that matter. When you hand out the file you change the data in such a way that it's watermarked. It doesn't matter if at that point someone copies it, that's why you watermark it - to identify who it was copied from.

        iOS also has per-application locking and encryption so the NFL can make their own app and secure the data on it. It's actually very easy to write a simple app to display files, it wouldn't cost very much or take that much time to implement

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday February 06, 2011 @11:03AM (#35118092) Homepage Journal

    Kindle, on the other hand, makes total sense.

    iPad is total overkill, Kindle is way way WAY cheaper and does all the same things that they need to do.

    • by LordKronos (470910) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @11:09AM (#35118132) Homepage

      Kindle, on the other hand, makes total sense.

      iPad is total overkill, Kindle is way way WAY cheaper and does all the same things that they need to do.

      You are probably right. The NFL pays their player multi-million dollar contracts, but I'm sure they'd squirm when they saw the $500-700 price tag on the ipad.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        You are probably right. The NFL pays their player multi-million dollar contracts, but I'm sure they'd squirm when they saw the $500-700 price tag on the ipad.

        There's no reason to waste money. If they use iPads it'll be because Apple paid them to do so (possibly just free hardware and support, possibly advertising revenues.) In fact the press release which stimulated this article (didn't even RTFA but I'll bet you a dollar that there was one) is probably nothing more than a public solicitation for bribes.

        • Yep, it's all about the ad dollars. The "Motorola" microphone you see the coaches wear is actually not made by the company, and made to be bigger than it has to be so the logo would fit, you see much smaller microphones being used by other people. Motorola makes radio systems, but to leave the logo only on the transmitter wouldn't make it seen.
      • by Draek (916851)

        So? what advantage does the iPad provide over the Kindle? obscenely rich corporations for the most part don't get obscenely rich by wasting money "just because".

      • by Sir_Sri (199544)

        with an iPad you could load up the play into a game (or at least a game engine), and have it actually show the play. Most of the NFL players have a strong background in games now, only makes sense to show it to them in 3D if you can.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Kindle is way way WAY cheaper and does all the same things that they need to do.

      Like scroll around really fast and zoom in on some weird detail? Hmm, I think not.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        We're talking about playbooks. They don't have weird details. They have simple diagrams designed for maximum readability in the field. Remember, they have complete control of the material in question. Try to stay on topic.

        • We're talking about playbooks. They don't have weird details. They have simple diagrams designed for maximum readability in the field. Remember, they have complete control of the material in question. Try to stay on topic.

          And you're saying that a coach never points out a part of the play and possibly diagrams something? My understanding that Kindles only have simple graphics. Can they handle animations which may be a feature that extend the capabilities beyond simple playbooks? At best, the Kindle may be able to replace playbooks as is; they don't extend it in any way.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      Are you joking? Considering what they play the players, some iPads are pocketchange if it does what they want, refreshes way faster, and they probably can get custom apps made to change plays on the fly and other functions they need.

      Not sure if Kindle is pincode protection yet or anything although remote wiping has been proven by Amazon a while back. The one thing a kindle will be better at might be sunlight readability (even then, when I owned an earlier one, the glare of pure, direct sunlight just made

      • Are you joking? Considering what they play the players, some iPads are pocketchange if it does what they want

        Just because a business - and that's what NFL franchises are - is forced to pay a lot for things largely outside its control doesn't oblige it to be profligate where it doesn't need to be.

        Quite the opposite, in fact.

    • by Junta (36770)

      I love my eReader and have no interest in a tablet, but a non-touchscreen, slow refresh device would not be particularly useful in this context.

    • by Locutus (9039)
      I doubt it would be the money but the sunlight readable display is probably the most important feature they seem to be glossing over. A PixelQi display based tablet would be better since they could do video nicely also. And you know there'll be a Madden app so the coaches can draw X's and O's live all over the display. It's about time really. Tablets are not new tech and they could have been using larger and heavier Windows based tablets for years if they really cared to. IMO

      LoB
      • by Graff (532189)

        I doubt it would be the money but the sunlight readable display is probably the most important feature they seem to be glossing over.

        Actually they are very concerned with people using binoculars and other means of viewing the playbooks remotely so they often use some form of cover to shade it from prying eyes. This would also work to shade from the sun, making a sunlight-readable display less of a concern.

    • iPad, on the other hand, can show the plays in motion (per TFA), could show the last play in near real-time, and do other things besides show a static paper replacement. That's the whole point of the iPad. Of course, if all you do is read books, the Kindle is great. But they can do SO much more with the iPad - like write their own, team-centric apps.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by spudnic (32107)

      Ever try to read an iPad in the sun? If they do this and go with anything other than an eReader we will all know it is a publicity stunt.

      And what about when it snows or rains? Do they print out copies of the playbook just in case, or hand out ziplock bags?

      • by TheSHAD0W (258774)

        Yup. Might be time for ruggedized e-readers to enter the market; I'm sure lots of parents will want to buy them for their kids. (Especially if it's the kids' SECOND e-reader, after the first experienced a misfortune.)

        Further, why risk information being retrieved from an e-reader before a remote wipe could be performed when the reader can access the information from a server live?

      • by grapeape (137008)

        Thats not likely to be an issue though, ever see an nfl sideline in direct sunlight? I sure havent, usually with outdoor stadiums the bowl's height is enough to shade the sidelines unless the sun is directly overhead, so the number of games affected would those with outdoor stadiums on sunny days with the 1 o'clock start window on the east coast. As for weather proofing...considering the roughness of the game to start with I would imagine they would be keeping then in something like an otterbox anyway.

    • by Duradin (1261418)

      Who needs color anyways?

    • except the kindle is way more fragile than an iPad. and you can't make changes on the fly with a Kindle the way you can with a touch screen.

  • Just load everything locally onto the tablet, don't load plays over wifi--and they'll be good.

    Honestly, they're no more or less secure than someone stealing your playbook at that point.
    • by GIL_Dude (850471)
      I'd imagine they would use the iPad for more than just the static plays. For example, when watching the game, you always see the players and coaches going over printouts of things that have been happening directly in the game being played (taken from above in the "booth") - seeing how the other team's defense reacts to certain formations, etc. The iPad could easily replace this function and could even include video instead of only static pictures of this. However, they would need to have the connectivity tu
    • WiFi is mostly able to be secured anyway. Just use WPA2 encryption, and only let the plays be loaded at the already authorized-personnel-only areas so a WiFi hacker would have to cross over a "What are you doing here anyway?" problem.

      To break WiFi you have to capture a lot of packets, which means the hacker has to have some sort of radio of their own in the WiFi range for a good amount of time. It's not as easy as TV makes it look.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @11:07AM (#35118120)
    I didn't know they have a different playbook every week. What do they actually do with them? If the 5,000 pages is copies for half a dozen coaches, that's almost 1000 pages each, which I can't imagine they're flipping through between plays. Or is it 50 pages for each of 100 players and coaches? But that doesn't make sense, I can't imagine they're memorizing 50 pages of plays per game.
    • by kenh (9056)

      Every player gets updates to their playbook, and there are as many as 100 playbooks "in circulation" before a game. Remember, it's nice if the coaching staff knows the plays, the players HAVE TO know the plays.

      5,000 pages by 100 playbooks means a very manageable 50 pages per player, per game. I suspect they include full-page diagrams of the opposing teams plays, along with a page dedicated to an analysis of the play.

    • Fifty pages of data isn't that much. Humans can memorize that. This isn't Pop Warner football where the team has four plays.
    • It's also a copy for every player on the roster, not just the coaches. That puts the average size closer to 100 pages a reader.

  • There are numerous stories just related to my favorite team that involve lost plays or playbooks. One story involved a coach who was talking with a bartender late one night and diagrammed a play on a napkin, which was later scooped up by a fan of the opponent and passed on. Another was a prominent running back who lost his playbook halfway through the season, and it reportedly fell into the hands of a division rival. Remote wipe might be quite useful.
  • Weather? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @11:12AM (#35118148)

    This article reminded me of the classic 1970s Xerox ad [youtube.com]. But what would they do in weather like that? Maybe they plan to always play in domed stadiums.

  • I don't know what the typical IT staff is for an NFL pro team, but I expect that they have some folks dedicated to electronic and computer equipment, etc.. Setting that stuff up in a constantly changing remote station can be hairy.

    The problem may not be the physical control of the devices themselves, but all the different versions and retention policies. With a printout you can physically hand in a document and have it checked off as returned. Sure, people can photocopy or scan it, but that's a lot more dif

    • If I were an NFL coach, I would purposely WikiLeak a fake playbook, that the opposing team could download.

      Quarterback: "Blue 39, Red 17!

      Opposing Team Defense Player: "Hey, isn't that supposed to be a run? Why are they passing? They totally screwed us on that play."

    • With a printout you can physically hand in a document and have it checked off as returned. Sure, people can photocopy or scan it, but that's a lot more difficult than just downloading a file.

      Couldn't some of the techniques of DRM be used to make it only readable on that specific machine?

      Plus there's all manner of logging, phoning home and stuff you could add.

      Sure, an expert could get round those, given time. But that's time you can use to change your plays, rendering the information obsolete.

    • by milkmage (795746)

      " but all the different versions and retention policies"
      i'll bet there's no problem with versions because in addition to learning the playbook, you have to EXECUTE the plays.. every day, at practice. someone runs the wrong route on a play... the coaches will point it out. ..and remote wipe is a disticnt advantage over paper when mitigating damage due to loss/theft.

  • duhh! all you have to do is get it out of the premises, then follow disassembly instructions. why not just put "free ippad, here!" on the screens? honestly :)

  • Can't the NFL just plant chips in the players' brain that can store all the secret stuff in the playbooks? I'm sure that innovative countries like India and China can do this.

    Probably.

    Watch the next cricket match with India, and get suspicious when the players start banging their heads during the games. Of course, maybe a country with ~billion folks can field an excellent cricket side?

    Now, with American Football, some linebacker, 6 foot tall (~2 meters), and weighing 240 pounds (~120 kilograms), is a

    • by NevarMore (248971)

      Can't the NFL just plant chips in the players' brain that can store all the secret stuff in the playbooks? I'm sure that innovative countries like India and China can do this.

      Yes if only there were some way for us to use a brain and store information in it. Some sort of memory perhaps? Theres a lot of space up there in the skull, storing all that information might take some time, but I bet it could be done. Maybe some repeated loads and checking or testing to make sure it was stored properly would be in order.

      • Maybe some repeated loads and checking or testing to make sure it was stored properly would be in order.

        Thank you, whenever somebody asks me to do something that I don't want to do, I will say, "Sorry, I'm defragmenting my brain right now."

  • Now a days the video cameras are so tiny, so hidable and with WiFi built in too. It would be far easier to find a vantage point over the practice field of the opponent and smuggle in and hide a camera and tape the practice sessions. Most of the plays are acted out and explained by the coaches in the field. Also you could see the weakness of each player by the amount of practice time spent and repeated on a particular piece of work. Just by looking at the line up you may be able to guess the play.
  • Belichick is drueling over this. If the NFL goes with I-Pads I'm sure the Patriots will win the next five Super Bowls and be undefeated each season.

    "Where are we supposed to go?", "The further South the better, Mexico or parts of Florida that aren't flooded."

    Dr Hall in "The Day After Tomorrow"

    Go North Central Florida.
  • by vlm (69642)

    saving about 5,000 pages of printouts per game. Not only is it a huge savings

    Somehow, I'm getting the feeling that 5000 pieces of paper is not the only, nor largest, waste resulting from the professional sports industry.

  • no real savings (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pz (113803) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @11:57AM (#35118374) Journal

    So 5,000 pages of paper. That's one case (actually 1/2 a case if you assume duplex printing). Buying high-quality paper, that's going to be $50 or less ($25 for half a case).

    An entry-level business-grade B&W laser printer costs maybe $500, will handle 100,000 pages in its lifetime, and takes toner cartridges that print between 7500 and 15000 pages each at about $200 each retail. Being a little excessive and buying a new printer per season, a case of paper per game, and a new toner cart every other game, you get 500 (cost of one printer) + 1 (cases of paper per game) * 16 (games) * 50 (cost of one ream) + 0.5 (carts per game) * 16 (games) * 200 (cost of one toner cart) = $2900, or an amortized total cost of $0.36 per page. And that's being very generous on retail costs and consumables. I routinely print conference proceedings (18k total pages) for an amortized total cost for closer to $0.05 per page by shopping around even just a little. If they're printing in color, I'd expect the amortized total cost to be between 2 and 3 times higher, so, with a little work, perhaps $0.15 per page, but still well under the generous estimate of $2900.

    Each iPad costs, what $500? And they need what, one per player, coach, assistant coach, owner, etc.? The so-called savings are a slight-of-hand distraction. They just want iPads.

    Even if you were to say that the saved paper, not money, was really the issue, and that saving 16 cases of paper (probably 8, since if they're concerned, they'd already be printing duplex) was important, I'd point to the 10-or-so tons of recycled material per game that envionmentally conscious teams like the Ravens are capable of (http://www.mdstad.com/content/view/96/42/) that dwarf one (1/2) case of paper.

    Again, they just want iPads.

    As the linked article suggests, there are many things you could do with iPads that you can't do with a traditional printed playbook, like review plays, run simulations, etc., but the teams should be upfront with that and not toss the public a propaganda bone like paper savings that can be shown to be irrelevant in the bigger picture.

  • Bill Belichick gets them hacked before the first game.

  • During the game, the QB is often seen reviewing formations from plays just run - as overhead photographs of the field faxed down from the team box high in the stands. That's cutting edge for the 1970s. The offensive line, whose members have the highest IQs on the team, sit on the bench while a coach yells/encourages/coaches them. With a tablet like an iPad, the staff could send down video of the previous plays with audio and onscreen comments. The linemen, running backs, ends, etc, could all get specific i

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @12:16PM (#35118464)

    Is it really the teams themselves or is it just one playbook pitted against another and the players are just there to provide some colour?

    It seems as if the NFL could just be replaced by a large D&D session with the refs as the DMs

    • by OG (15008) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @01:01PM (#35118788)
      Much of the excitement in football (as in all sports) comes from watching humans with tremendous talent who spend a huge amount of time developing that talent. Like any other sport, strategy is important. But the strategy is partially built around the strengths and weaknesses of the actual humans who make up the team, as well as those of the members of the opposing team. I'm not a huge football fan, but I recognize the difference between multiplying a fairly arbitrary number representing "will" or "skill" by the random roll of a die and a team of people who are fatigued, injured, and withstanding adverse weather conditions, pushing themselves to the utmost limit not only for themselves, but for their team and the millions of people cheering them on towards victory.
      • by OzPeter (195038)

        Much of the excitement in football (as in all sports) comes from watching humans with tremendous talent

        But in pretty well all other sports, the action is not constrained to set plays that are over in a matter of seconds, with significant time between plays to allow regrouping of the team to modify tactical plays. The USA's version of football is more akin to chess that any other countries version of football.

        I'm not a huge football fan, but I recognize ... a team of people who are fatigued, injured, and withstanding adverse weather conditions, pushing themselves to the utmost limit not only for themselves, but for their team and the millions of people cheering them on towards victory.

        Compare the USA's version of football with the European's Soccer. In the US the game lasts hours, yet the actual time in play of the ball is significantly less, but there will almost be a 100% chance of

        • In Soccer the ball is in play for 90 minutes and the players have to keep going knowing that in all likely hood they game could end in a draw and all the players are on the field for the entire time.

          Yes the players are on the field for the entire time, but there are substitutions, and they aren't all going full speed the whole game (for example when the ball is on one side of the field).

          How much more mental dedication do you need to stay focussed for 90 minutes compared to a game where you have downtime every couple of minutes and only half your team is playing at any one time?

          You're talking about a game that is played under every imaginable type of weather condition (football games are generally only canceled or delayed when the weather poses a danger to the fans rather than the players) where for every play, the player (at the higher levels) may have 2-8 different options they have to perf

          • by OzPeter (195038)

            You're talking about a game that is played under every imaginable type of weather condition (football games are generally only canceled or delayed when the weather poses a danger to the fans rather than the players) where for every play, the player (at the higher levels) may have 2-8 different options they have to perform depending on what the opposing player does, they have 1 to 3 seconds to decide which option they perform, they have to deal with the elements (sun in their eyes, rain/snow/ice making the field or ball slippery, traction on the turf, etc), one mistake can result in points for the other team or (tragically) severe injury to themselves or another player. American football certainly isn't a game you can play on cruise control.

            I'd suggest that you need to study up on how other other forms of football are played, how their players are conditioned and under what conditions games are played - and I don't mean just soccer. Also consider Rugby (multiple forms), Australian rules and Gaelic football for example. Then get back to me.

  • All they really need in order to deal with rain and snow, etc, is a decent protective case. All they really need for the touch interface issue is simply don't use it. Instead, just plug a simple tactile device into the USB that attaches securely to the side of the case. Honestly, I think a bunch PSP style devices would work better for this though.
  • IF the NFL goes this way, I want to see their playbooks in the Ap Store. If I can;t make my own custom Aps without apple getting all pissy about me doing it, I better see the NFL Playbook there.
  • Interesting that someone has found the ability for your iPad to be wiped remotely without your knowledge to be a "benefit".
    • by Xuranova (160813)

      Would you prefer it prompts the person (in their case the person who took the ipad) if they would like to allow the remote wipe to occur? 0_o

  • I think an e-ink device like the Kindle makes more sense. You can't read an IPad worth a darn in bright sunlight.

  • Whats the point in the mention of saving paper? Gadgets like the iPad has the environmental impact of a lot of paper, many times it's weight in paper. Such a large ammount that I doubt the iPad would make real benefit to the environment before it becomes toxic unrecyclable e-waste in a year or two.

    Although energy intensive, paper is also a endlessly renewable resource, and close to 100% recyclable. Perhaps not in practice, but it could be.

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