Smart Stadiums Require More From Their Networks

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By: Larry Loeb|

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Stadiums have grown since the good old days when they served merely as sports arenas that sold hot dogs and beer. Today, there are smart stadiums out there that allow visitors to do so much more than snack on concessions and enjoy a game.

Expanded Functions of Smart Stadiums

To match the changing behaviors of their customers, modern stadiums have expanded their entertainment responsibilities. These major areas of concentration include the following:

  • Incident management, surveillance and security;
  • Public safety;
  • Concession and point-of-sale optimization;
  • Stadium facilities and asset management;
  • Crowd flow optimization;
  • Transportation and parking;
  • Media distribution and communications.

These new responsibilities share one key characteristic: They need data bandwidth to function properly. Stadiums may need to rethink the networks they rely on to support all of this bandwidth, and stadiums pursuing the “smart” title may need to upgrade their networks accordingly.

Match Hardware to Bandwidth Needs

Sometimes, stadium networks may need different hardware to facilitate device connections, and this hardware might not be currently available to the facility. PON/DAS is a passive optic network merged with a distributed antenna system where media communications flow over Wi-Fi and the DAS part of the network is optimized for it. One of the main advantages of a PON/DAS system is better coverage in areas that might otherwise be dead zones, allowing attendees to connect to Wi-Fi anywhere in the stadium.

Another perk is when there are spikes in Wi-Fi traffic, the stadium can correlate the increases to a location and use these insights for crowd-control purposes. It may be as simple as knowing that when the crowd heads to the parking lot after an event, it creates a surge in traffic. Wi-Fi usage in a part of the stadium that should be empty would also be of interest. There are numerous opportunities for synergies to happen inside a capable environment.

Video’s role in the smarter stadium environment will build on current usage and increase over time. More internal locations will be monitored, and new uses will undoubtedly be found. The operator will also want very good and detailed control over the video data that goes in and out of the stadium, since it’s so easily monetized.

Keeping video data archived properly so it is available at a later date and demonstrates liability compliance will surely be an important consideration for the operator as well. Video is more than just images sent by cameras — it is important data in and of itself.

More Data, Different Networks

The gathering place we call a stadium is going to be its own infohub in the years to come. It will produce and consume data that is centered on its location, redistributing and packaging the action.

Operators have to be ready to shepherd that data through its paces, but they need the network capability to do it. If these capabilities are designed from the beginning and complement the other tasks in the stadium, it will be a home run for everyone.

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