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Playbook Apps Turn NFL Digital: Teams Use Tablets to Stay Ahead

Robert Roble Editor, SportsTechie

Editor’s note: As the new season kicks off, we’d like to revisit this piece from last year that looks at the growing use of tablets on the playing field. This year marks an important transition for the NFL as new guidelines will allow for Intel-powered Surface Pro tablets to be used during actual games. The new rules, according to Business Week, mandate that each team gets 13 rubber-encased, waterproof tablets for field use; cameras on the devices will be disabled and the tablets will not have Internet access and will only be able to connect to a private wireless network in the stadium so they can review in-game photos.

These days instead of traditional clipboards and picture-stuffed binders, NFL teams are using tablets for their playbooks. In May 2013, CEO Steve Ballmer and Commissioner Roger Goodell announced an unprecedented, multi-year partnership between Microsoft and the NFL allowing teams the ability to work easy and play hard.

Microsoft and the NFL

The partnership spans five years and gives Microsoft the rights to create “exclusive interactive experiences” through the Xbox One and its Surface tablet line. Microsoft is also branding the hoods of the official on-field NFL instant replay stations.

Tablet Users

In 2011, the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers successfully championed the use of tablets. By 2012, almost half of the league used tablets and several dabbled in using smartphones. Word spread Internet-fast about how easy it is to add, subtract and modify plays and show all edited video clips. Teams are able to cross-reference data on the field, in the clubhouse, at home or on the road using tablets and other mobile devices. The NFL wanted to elevate the game and now the League has the Microsoft and Intel firepower to do it.

Surface Pro and RT tablets and iPads are the new course the NFL is taking with game planning, scouting and more. The fast-growing trend towards tablet use in sports may not completely eliminate the need for a PC because Surface Pro tablets sync automatically with PC’s and mobile devices, allowing coaches, scouts and trainers the opportunity to collaborate at practice on the field and on the sidelines during live games.

NFL Playbook? There Is an App for That

NFL tablets have sports tech apps installed that replace the old way of drawing up plays on a chalkboard. These tools are adaptable and the hardware is scalable. The playbook X’s and O’s sync with video clips and analytical tools that breakdown an opposing team’s game performance and the resulting statistics and tendencies. Photography and video are taxing on computer systems. Windows lets you run multiple technologies and software on Surface Pro with Intel chips for multi-app usage.

There are three core companies that created iPad apps for the NFL, yet the Surface is still a wide-open architecture for developers and coders to make custom and profitable sports technology solutions and apps.

While you’re watching at home, Surface technology will be inside stadiums and on the sidelines to help protect your favorite fantasy players. Organizations and trainers will use the revolutionary X2 concussion testing application to quickly diagnose potential player concussions and TBI immediately after leaving the playing field with the help of Surface tablets. Doctors can quickly diagnose whether players can get back in the game or need to call it a day, week or season and possibly even a career.

Exclusive Features

The size of these tablets compared to 5,000 page playbooks are one reason among many that the NFL has transitioned towards implementing sports tech. The “All 22” angle allows coaches who use the Surface and Xbox One the capability to see where every player is throughout the duration of the play rather than the traditional mode of recording wherever the ball is. Play-by-play software analysis of every game, sorting full box score stats and marking significant plays markers are all a breeze to accomplish using tablet technology and Intel power. Telestration tech allows you to freeze game film and draw over it with a layer of graphics during film cut ups, player training and draft scouting.


The human element is something league officials want to keep in the game. Using tech to extract data sets is the new football norm. Soon fans will be playing their own customized NFL video game while the real game is going on, and getting instant updates directly into their game that can enhance their gaming abilities. The Xbox One allows users to view live games and engage simultaneously with a personalized NFL destination that features player, team, and game information. Look for consoles to eventually offer betting, for real or virtual goods and services.

Review Intel processor speed and battery power set the Surface Pro apart from other tablets. Its portability and all-in-one novelty are major difference makers for Intel-driven tablets, PC’s and mobile devices. Mobile devices can now synch with apps in a centralized location on Windows, and your PC has a more secure infrastructure and meets more of your IT needs when loaded with Intel.

Whether you use your devices for NFL purposes, entertainment, gaming, to surf Amazon or EBay or as an Intel WIDI SmartTV interface, the sports tech future looks bright for football coaches at any level because of Intel and their partners.

Robert Roble founded Sports Techie, a sports technology community, blog and expert resource in 2010 after a once-in-a-lifetime role as Wetpaint’s Moderator. He moderated the New York Giants, Houston Rockets and HBO Entourage historical wiki and online communities, in addition to writing blogs for DWTS and MSN. Bob is a pioneer in sports tech, an untapped market valued at $200 billion. His career in sports and tech spans four decades, where he’s worked for Paul Allen and the Seattle Seahawks, Magic and Dartfish. The Sports Techie social media network is global and passionate about green, robots and animals. Engage with his blog, friend @SportsTechieNET on Twitter and Like the Facebook fan page; also follow on Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn. He is happy for the opportunity to focus his iQ by Intel eye on innovative sports technology related content, trends and products that involve Intel’s tech, people and happy customers.

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