LONDON — Sports technology pioneer Hawk-Eye Innovations has vigorously denied suggestions that its Goal Line Technology (GLT) for football is not sufficiently robust and could pose security risks when sending decisions to match officials about whether a goal should be allowed.
In the first part of this series we looked at some of the sporting, economic, and political reasons the FIFA World Cup that kicks off June 12 in Brazil will be the first where technology should ensure that goals are not falsely awarded or ruled out. We reported that Dirk Broichhausen, managing director of Goal Control GmbH -- the German company that, to the surprise of many, won the hotly contested contract to supply GLT to all the stadia being used -- questioned whether its British archrival's transmission protocol may have flaws as it deploys the freely available 2.4 GHz frequency.
Broichhausen was responding to questions from EE Times about the potential of interference in his company's GoalControl-4D system as the signal is transmitted to match officials' specially adapted wristwatches. The message tells the referee whether all of the ball has crossed the goal-line.
The ref's watch vibrates when a goal is scored.
"Although I cannot specify the frequency (it is our IP), our units are secure and free from interference -- something which would not be the case if we were using the 2.4 GHz 'free' spectrum. It seems that whatever information Goal Control have on our system is incorrect," Laurence Upshon, technical Lead for GLT at Hawk-Eye Innovations, told EE Times.
So even though the traditional footballing foes are not scheduled to meet each other (at least in the early stages) in the four-week long tournament, rivalry is certainly alive and kicking in other arenas.
GateControl vs. Hawk-Eye
In fact, the way the two systems work are remarkably similar, though neither company would reveal much about exactly how they were developed. And both can trace the initial ideas back to research projects -- Hawk-Eye to work done by Dr Paul Hawkins, a specialist in artificial intelligence at the UK's Roke Manor Research center, then owned by Siemens but originally a core research establishment within Plessey for radio and military communications.
Hawkins, who gave his name to the system, led a spinoff of the technology that in 2011 was acquired by Sony.
The core technology was developed in the late 1990s for use in tennis and international cricket, and the company now sees the US as a major potential market in, for instance, Major League Baseball and NASCAR.
Meanwhile, the roots of GoalControl-4D go back to a spinoff of research at the Institute of Plastics Processing at the University of Aachen in Germany. Not much is known about GoalControl GmbH the company. It is based in Wurselen, near Aachen, and is closely linked with Pixargus, which develops and sells systems using cameras and software to handle quality control on production lines manufacturing precision components for the automotive and medical sectors.
According to Broichhausen, the system was developed in just four years, and was licensed for use by FIFA "almost immediately." The short time-scale was possible because the crucial image processing and analysis expertise within the companies was already being applied to machine vision systems sold by Pixargus, and the system needed for GLT adaptation was all done in-house. "Outstanding features of the GoalControl-4D system are high accuracy, the real-time processing and high frequency of the pictures as well as the absolute reliability and repeatability," he told EE Times.
FIFA decided to use Goal Line Technology for the first time in the World Cup,
to be held in Brazil next month.
These attributes, and others, are all shared by Hawk-Eye. Both are passive technologies and can be used without the need to adapt or interfere with the ball, goal posts, or playing surface. They are agnostic as regards ball manufacturer.
"The technology is a proven success in the English Premier League following its inaugural year," notes Hawk-Eye's Upshon.
Both work with seven high-speed cameras per goal, the most common location being on the stadium roof, but there are flexibilities in exact location. They work at 500 frames per second. If one assumes the ball is traveling at 60 mph, then the systems can detect, well within the stipulated one second, if a ball has crossed all of the goal-line, even for a fraction of a second.
The images are transmitted to a bank of computers via fiber.
Next page: Encrypted signals