It’s no coincidence that when technology vendors and service providers want to show off products and services, it’s often stadiums they’ll choose as their shop window. These self-contained and usually hugely demanding environments lend themselves to innovation, experimentation, and often serve as proof-of-concept sandpits for new technologies.
Real Wireless has a long and highly successful track record in helping stadium businesses get the most of their property assets by giving expert advice, coming up with strategies and best concepts, ensuring deployed solutions meet the client’s performance criteria and sometimes even helping to maintain outstanding connectivity in some of the world’s leading venues. The recent Connected Stadiums conference in Amsterdam was a great opportunity to meet up with global venue owners and find out how they’re hoping to evolve their offer to their customers.
In line with what we’ve heard from existing clients, front of mind for most of the venue and enterprise delegates was how best to deliver outstanding connectivity at times of peak demand. At the same time, venue owners have listened to their fans and visitors and recognise that they do not want technology to distract them, or others, from the main event – the football, the concert, the soccer or whatever they have paid money to attend. Having said that visitors to large-scale events now have connectivity as one of the top criteria that determines whether they’ve had a good experience and whether they are likely to return. And venue owners are leveraging connectivity to ensure visitors have a great experience, hang out before, during and after events – while, of course, consuming food and merchandise. The most creative venues are already using combinations of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth systems to improve fan engagement, wayfinding, out-of-seat food ordering and instant replay. These systems are all there to improve the experience, not to distract the users from the main event.
A hot topic in Amsterdam – and pretty much anywhere else enterprises and mobile operators cross paths – is that of access to data. When stadium owners use their own Wi-Fi linked with Bluetooth (BLE), the stadium can own the data and use it to help better understand their visitor needs. But if they opt for cellular solutions, the data is owned by the mobile operators. Smartphone apps are one of the keys to resolving this increasingly important dilemma, as stadium owners rely on data for both retention and monetization through segmentation, upselling, push messages, coupons or discounts.
The big conference takeaway was undoubtedly the sense that we’re entering the era of the smart stadium, as Machine Type Communication (MTC) connectivity holds the promise of rich operational benefits that can increase safety, improve efficiencies and result in cost savings. And by improving integration with emerging digital cities initiatives, stadiums will also be able to manage and improve the movement of people into and out of venues.
It will require very careful planning and integration to ensure that the diversity of systems and technologies required do work together and don’t add up to less than the sum of their parts. At the same time the operational and visitors’ benefits must not distract fans/visitors from the main event, so – the smart stadium must be smart in more ways than one to be truly successful. Real Wireless has unparalleled frontline experience of planning and deploying these technologies and, like so many of the delegates in Amsterdam, we’re excited by what promises to be a golden age for venues and stadiums.