Could technology built in St. Louis bring a solution to “deflate-gate”, the controversy in which the National Football League’s New England Patriots are accused of tampering with the footballs used in an American Conference Championship game?
Officials with Primary Marking Systems Inc., a St. Louis-based provider of product-tracking equipment for companies and law enforcement groups around the globe, believe so.
Primary Marking’s vice president of sales and marketing Tim McIntyre says he’s hoping eTWIST®, a high-tech tool his company has developed to help law enforcement officials track crime scene evidence and catch criminals, catches the eye of NFL officials.
The Patriots are accused of deflating footballs before the start of the team’s January 18 AFC title contest with the Indianapolis Colts. Under-inflated footballs are said to provide a team’s quarterback with the ability to better grip the ball.
Key to the investigation appears to be a break in the “chain of custody” for the footballs assigned to the Patriots – that is, those footballs appear to have disappeared from official surveillance for a period of time.
McIntyre says eTWIST® could secure the chain of custody for NFL footballs in the same way the technology is working for police departments in the St. Louis area nationally and internationally.
“It’s really a matter of trust,” says McIntyre. “The more secure the system, the more trust we can create for an organization, like a police department, or, in this case, the NFL.”
With eTWIST® technology, police responding to a crime scene are equipped with mobile handheld devices that allow them to record and enter evidence data at the scene. After logging into the system using a secure code and PIN number, investigators take pictures of evidence, and the photos they take are automatically branded with a geo-stamp, providing proof of the evidence location.
As those pictures are compiled, eTWIST builds the crime scene, mapping out the location of each item via satellite technology. Latitude, longitude, altitude, date, time, barometric pressure, temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover and all other related data is stamped in. The evidence is barcoded or tagged with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) code, then packaged for transportation to the police station. eTWIST® documents every transaction, every move of the evidence, whether at the crime scene or back at the station, ultimately blocking any opportunity for tampering.
The technology provides a solution to a litany of issues surrounding evidence tracking across the United States. Most police departments rely on a longstanding method of collecting evidence – gathering it by hand at the scene of the crime, then transporting it back to the station for cataloging.
McIntyre says the same basic principle can be employed by the NFL. “With a serial number or some kind of unique NFL league identifier stamped onto the football, we can track that ball as it goes from manufacturer, to team representative, to referee, to ballboy, knowing each step of the way who is in possession of the ball.”
Primary Marking Systems has built a successful commercial business tracking inventory for major corporations such as AB-InBev, the largest producer of aluminum cans in the world. Primary Marking tracks 14 billion can lids for the brewing company each year.
McIntyre says he’s contacted the NFL, and is hoping to show the league his high-tech solution.