Stadiums are stepping up their game for fans by adding in-stadium audio and video, digital signage, mobile apps for transportation and concessions, and loads of network bandwidth. San Francisco 49er fans don’t have nearly as much to brag about this season as their fans across the bay in Raider Nation do. But they do have one bright spot that outshines every team in the NFL: the most high-tech sports venue in the world, Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
Named Venue of Year by the Stadium Business Awards in Barcelona, Spain, Levi’s Stadium is a prime example of a booming smart stadium trend. According to a new forecast from ASD Reports, the smart stadium market will grow from $4.62 billion in 2016 to $17.32 billion by 2021. ASD estimates the smart stadium market to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30.2 percent, attributing that high growth to increased frequencies of national and international sports events and an escalating number of government initiatives for smart building projects.
Another driver of growth is the focus from teams and event sponsors on increasing fan engagement, especially at big-ticket events such as NFL football and international soccer matches. The report notes that smart stadiums want to offer an “unforgettable customer experience,” which demands the deployment of smart technologies. That typically includes high-bandwidth networks, mobile apps with replay and integrated payment systems for souvenirs and food, location and crowd-mapping sensors and software, and transportation and parking solutions.
Content Management for an MVP
Service providers with digital signage skills will be happy to hear this news: ASD analysts estimate that digital content management will be the fastest-growing software segment in smart stadiums. That includes audio and video management, digital signage and mobile and Web content management. The report states that “the factors driving this sector include opportunities for audience segmentation and monetization, improvement in workflow and automation tools for buyers and sellers, and increased focus on Big Data analysis that can be used to enhance the customer experience.”
The report lists a handful of technology vendors that will be the major players in smart stadium development. The shortlist includes Cisco, Fujitsu, GP Smart Stadium, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (China), IBM, Intel, Johnson Controls, NEC Corp, Tech Mahindra Ltd. (India) and Volteo.
High-speed Bandwidth FTW
For Levi’s Stadium, one of the goals of adding layers of technology was to create a personalized fan experience that was richer and more entertaining than ever before. In an article in Time, the President of the San Francisco 49ers, Al Guido, notes that the amount of action that takes place in an average NFL football game is only about 15 minutes. The 49ers wanted to count on the stadium technology to deliver a connected experience at the game that turns downtime into screen time, giving fans access to stats, replays, concessions, team gear and other media, including promotions.
To do that, Levi’s Stadium built a showcase of network technology to support its own video devices and fans’ mobile devices. Costing $1.2 billion, Levi’s Stadium has 1.85 million square feet, seats approximately 68,500 and features 165 luxury suites and 8,500 club seats. It has 400 miles of cabling, 70 miles of which are dedicated to connecting the 1,200 distributed antenna systems that serve the Wi-Fi routers, strategically placed to serve every 100 seats throughout the stadium.
The technology roster for the stadium includes Aruba Networks (an HPE company), Brocade, Comcast (backbone bandwidth supplier), Intel and SAP. DAS Group Professionals built the distributed antenna system (DAS) that brings advanced cellular connectivity inside the gates. Sony’s technology is at the center of the control room, which manages the video for the 2,000 Sony TVs in the venue, as well as the larger 70-inch 4K TVs in the suites and the two giant LED displays in each end zone.
Photo credit: GeekWire.com, Sports Tech
Levi’s Stadium has a 40 Gbps backbone, easily scalable to accommodate event attendance, which is 40 times more Internet bandwidth capacity than any other U.S. stadium, and four times greater than the standard for NFL stadiums mandated by the league. According to supplier Aruba Networks (an HPE company), on an average NFL game day, the Wi-Fi network moves more than 2.3 TB of traffic, and serves up thousands of video replays while continuously exceeding 1Gbps of traffic for more than two hours.
The stadium also has 1,700 high-tech beacons for Bluetooth connectivity. They are used to give fans pinpoint directions to their seats as well as to any other place in the stadium. They are also used to enhance the fan experience, sending alerts about specials from concessions and other in-stadium promotions.
Food, Gear, Parking, and Tickets via the Stadium App
The Levi’s® Stadium app, which works on smartphones and tablets, is integral to the fan experience at the smart stadium. Developed by VenueNext, the app features mobile tickets and parking passes, mobile ordering of food and beverages (with delivery to a fan’s seat or express line pickup), wayfinding to help fans navigate around the stadium, and a game center for high-definition video replays.
Photo credit: Levi’s® Stadium app, Apple App Store, developed by VenueNext
Fans can also enter the parking lot and stadium using their mobile device, which links to the Levi’s® Stadium Account Manager. The developers added one other important feature: It can guide fans to the closest bathroom with the shortest lines.
Live Action Energy Infrastructure
The stadium design also includes smart energy features. One of the most unique energy-generating features of the facility is the green roof atop the suite tower on the west side of the stadium. The three solar bridges, connecting the main parking area to the stadium, include hundreds of solar panels. The stadium self-consumes PV-electricity generated from its three NRG Energy solar-paneled pedestrian bridges and its one solar-paneled roof deck—the NRG Solar Terrace.
And if Colin Kaepernick isn’t providing enough action for fans, they can post up to the energy dashboard and monitor a real-time, play-by-play of the smart stadium infrastructure. Stadium guests can view a live display near the 49ers Team Store that features current energy measurements, water and air monitors, and other dynamic features of the building operations.
Learn more about the stadium at www.levisstadium.com/about-levis-stadium/ or on Twitter at @LevisStadium.
The ASD Smart Stadium market report is available for purchase at https://www.asdreports.com/market-research-report-310947/smart-stadium-market-global-forecast.