TopGolf Technology for Bocce Ball
How golf ball tracking technology could be applied to bocce
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⛳️ TopGolf Technology for Bocce
One evening of the 6-day USBF Nationals hosted at Highwood Bocce Club in June, my friend Slava approached me to chat about an idea.
What if we employ the same technologies of TopGolf to the sport of Bocce?
I’ll admit that I was caught off guard for this discussion after a long week of broadcasting for the 📺️ Bocce Broadcast Network.
That night, I promised Slava that I’d do a bit of research and report back, despite never having been to a TopGolf range.
🏌️ What is TopGolf?
TopGolf is a golf driving range on steroids. All balls are tracked with advanced technology such that you know the exact trajectory and where it ultimately came to a stop.
The driving range is gamified with challenges for novice players and experts alike.
Let’s dive into the technologies that make TopGolf possible.
The first technology is called Toptracer (originally called Protracer). You’re probably familiar with Toptracer as it is used in golf broadcasts on tv where a fast moving ball gets a trailing arc so you can actually see where the damn thing went as everyone yells and cheers.
Toptracer relies on high-speed cameras and radar to quickly locate the ball and draw the ball trail.
Toptracer technology is being added to more and more TopGolf facilities. Click below for a brief history and explanation of Toptracer.
TopGolf + Impinj
The next technology is what TopGolf developed on its own in partnership with a company called Impinj. This technology includes:
Chips and sensors inside each golf ball
Sensors on the fairway and greens
RFID chips are present in every golf ball. Yes, this is the same technology you use to access an apartment, office building, or even your bocce facility. When the bin is filled at TopGolf all those balls have RFID tags inside. As a ball is dispensed from the bin, it is immediately identified and associated with you as the person hitting the ball using an RFID reader. After you hit the ball, it lands somewhere on an array of RFID readers under the turf. Those RFID readers are networked and now we know the exact place where your golf ball came to rest. There are 600-700 of these readers in a given TopGolf complex.
Accelerometers and gyroscopes in the ball determine its speed and spin rates. This information is likely read by the same RFID active antenna in the ground.
To learn more about TopGolf technology, I suggest reading the following article:
Impinj is a Chinese company that makes the Monza RAIN RFID tags and Speedway RAIN RFID Readers.
☎️ Hello, hello, anybody there? I contacted the sales team of Impinj back on June 26th but have yet to hear back from them. I’ll continue to try.
The goal is to get what’s called an “evaluation kit” so that I can do some testing using bocce balls. Most of the time evaluation kits are free to use and you return the kit when you’re done.
Yes, I plan to drill into the center of a beautiful blue bocce ball, drop in the RFID tag, and then seal it back up with epoxy. Okay maybe I won’t use one of my nice Super Martels.
🟡 TopGolf x Bocce?
I like to think that anything is possible. That’s the optimist in me.
I also like to think that most things aren’t practical. That’s the pessimist in me.
TopTracer technology for bocce is a good possibility. Cameras are what I’m already working with. Radar would be good for fast moving raffas and volos.
When it comes to the TopGolf-developed technology, I have to wonder about the following:
Ball manufacturing: Sure, we could work with a bocce ball manufacturer to change their manufacturing process to include Monza RAIN RFID tags in the very center of a ball along with any other sensors required. RFID is passive meaning it doesn’t require a battery and instead it receives wireless power from the antenna.
Court: We could put an array of Speedway RAIN RFID Readers under court surfaces such as carpet or astroturf. It would be nearly impossible to embed the antennas in a synthetic court. I also learned that some of their antennas are powerful enough to power and read RFID tags from 10m away. It could be a possibility to put the antennas above the court.
Accuracy: The biggest issue may come down to accuracy. Close bocce measurements sometimes come down to 1/8th of an inch or less. That’s in contrast to golf where an 1/8th of an inch doesn’t make much of a difference on the fairway, in the rough, or even on the green. My fear is that RAIN RFID technology (including triangulation) simply doesn’t have the resolution required. I could be wrong. I need to speak with an applications engineer at Impinj.
Cost: The wiring and networking would add up. The antennas/readers would add up. Changing the ball manufacturing process would be expensive. Embedding antennas and networking the court would be expensive.
All those considerations are just that — considerations. Prior to doing or purchasing anything, we would need to speak with Impinj or one of their competitors about whether the accuracy would be there for bocce. If it passes that test with verified results, then we could move on to considering the hardware & software cost, installation cost, and ball manufacturability.
I want to thank Slava for challenging me to write this article. As a follow up, Slava has given me a contact name for someone that helped with a technology install at a TopGolf location. I’ll be following up with them shortly.
Three questions for you:
(1) What do you think about this technology? Will it work?
(2) Who wants to go to play TopGolf in the suburbs of Chicago with me?
(3) Who is going to the ABC Open 30 days from today?
Let me know in the comments!
~ Digital Dave
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