Every sector has been hit by the COVID-19 crisis, particularly stadiums and arenas; with a return to normality looking unlikely in the immediate future.
Many fans will have become accustomed to watching the game in the comfort of their own home, which is why forward-thinking stadiums have utilised this time to modernise and become a more enticing venue for fans on their return. This can be anything from simple renovations up to a full-scale digital transformation project, and everything in between.
In this blog we explore Smart Stadiums in more detail, look at what it takes to become Smart and understand why stadiums are going down the Smart route.
Because it helps manage crowds and facilities
Crowd control is a constant challenge for stadiums and often stretches the resources of organisers, law enforcement, and the emergency services. In a time when UK policing manpower is stretched to the extreme, solutions are required to manage people, and keep everybody safe.
Smart Parking can advise supporters of what spaces are available, and guide them with clear directions. Connecting this into wider Smart City architecture can manage the crowd from door to door and not just in the vicinity of the stadium, allowing traffic to flow rather than creating bottlenecks, and helping to minimise heavy pollution.
Supporters will be advised on the best entry gates to use to minimise wait times, and as many supporters will be used to social distancing and could be nervous about mixing with large crowds, this will ensure they feel more comfortable.
Because supporters increasingly demand it
Supporters are crucial to any stadium, as without them there is no revenue. High ticket prices, difficulties in transportation and queuing for everything – from the entrance to the rest rooms, has driven many fans to remain in the comfort of their own homes. In addition, advances in technology allow fans to watch matches on their High Definition TV, pause live viewing, rewind if they have missed something and even watch at a later stage on catch up TV.
In order to compete with the ‘at home experience’ you need to offer the fans technologically sophisticated services, starting with the ticket offer. Push notifications through good marketing is key, however, it needs to be easy for them to actually buy the ticket. The technologically savvy fans of today want to click one button and have a ticket sitting in their virtual wallet within minutes. They then want to be presented with their options for how to get there, which includes a detailed map, links to train lines and parking facilities as well as potential delays or roadworks on the day. Using their smart phones, they are able to easily access the venue with the mobile ticket in their virtual wallets.
Stadium operators need to ensure they give their fans a more captivating experience once they arrive at the venue. Digital signage plays a key role as organisers can use data to communicate to fans instantly and change the messaging as often as required – displaying food and drink offers means both a better fan experience and increased revenues.
Indeed you can take the digital signage a stage further and speak directly to the smart device in their pocket. But what about the stay at home fan who can’t be enticed back, they have established “lockdown” habits that won’t change easily, other things have assumed higher priorities for them. They still support their team and would love to have up to the minute coverage and information on their device, which is why Apps are so important for keeping fans connected. The possibilities are endless with an App, not only can they give a commentary, but there are a host of options that the digitally aware club can provide for the armchair supporter to keep them as closely connected as possible to the match day experience.
Because it’s environmentally friendly
Every business needs to demonstrate continuous improvement on their environmental credentials, and stadiums are no different. The new infrastructure on the Smart Stadium can be used to modernise building management systems – heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting.
Stadiums will be encouraged to use sustainable materials including solar and battery storage systems, recycling for water and waste, and even wind power. The use of Internet of Things (IoT) technology will aid operational efficiency, ensuring cleanliness of the venue by monitoring footfall in rest rooms, and triggering maintenance once thresholds are exceeded.
The optimisation of energy usage will allow building managers to monitor and change temperatures throughout the stadium and use smart lights to change lighting conditions based on predefined occupancy levels.
Because it means a more safe and future-proofed venue
The NCSC has revealed in a new report on threats to the sports sector in the UK that 70% of institutions within the industry, including clubs and stadium operators, are subjected to a cyber incident every 12 months – more than double the average for UK businesses.
With their advanced level of maturity, Smart stadiums are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks, so improved cyber security is vital. It is recommended to partner with a technical specialist who possesses a comprehensive understanding of current and future data security, cyber security and privacy requirements with a view to keeping customer data safe. A bespoke transformation model can be designed and implemented along with an effective Cyber P3M management process. It is not just customers’ bank details that need protecting; hacked emails can also be detrimental as we’ve seen recently with an English Premier League football club who then had to spend a lot of time and investment in reversing a UEFA decision against them.
When the Smart stadium becomes a central element of the city’s own smart infrastructure and it’s own architecture is utilised by everybody, even on non match days, then the stadium becomes a living entity that helps the whole city to breathe. This can create revenue throughout the year for the business.
What practical steps might we need to take?
Smart Stadiums require a sophisticated combination of software and hardware, incorporating sensors, cameras and digital signs that connect to wired and wireless networks, and servers using cloud technology and IoT.
Infrastructure upgrades are needed to provide the right technology foundations such as increased power capability, HD vision boards, LED lighting, high speed data network, LED perimeter ribbon boards and IPTV HD screen networks. The use of fast, secure mobile payments will allow stadium operators to serve more customers in less time.
Cameras and sensors will monitor the behaviour of the thousands of people inside the stadium in real-time, enabling better, more effective data-driven decisions. The analytics from these cameras improve efficiency and security. However, this is just the beginning, there are no limits to the ‘art of the possible’ as technology advances.
Fan-facing innovation and interactive experiences using hologram technology has already been proved with concerts ‘from the grave’ by artists such as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. European football coaches held a holographic press conference to highlight the technology, showing the future possibility of a team travelling to an opponent’s stadium while the fans gather at the home stadium to cheer on them on.
In order to execute the project successfully, it is recommended to partner with consultants who possess large-scale transformation experience to help you set out a comprehensive roadmap with timelines that meet where your organisation is at and what is required for realising a successful business outcome.
The importance of data
Data capture is key to personalising the fan experience for future events and can be used to provide rewards for fans using loyalty programs, bringing them closer to their chosen team, encouraging merchandise spending which in turn will give them a sense of belonging. As data is collected over time, the experience will only grow and can also be used to generate more revenue with personalised offers from event partners.
An App is a great way to provide all of these services in one place, creating a one-stop shop for the fan. It can directly engage with users before, during and after the event using push notification alerts, therefore adding more value to the customer experience. They can purchase their tickets, see rest room queues, buy merchandise and concessions, and even have them delivered to their seats. The App can also be used to offer seat upgrades, competition entries, social networking and allow the fan to view the event from different camera angles as well as watching the half time coach ‘pep talk’.
When storing large amounts of customer data you need to be aware of GDPR and other regulations. It’s also recommended to have cyber risk management procedures in place to keep the data safe, avoiding a harmful cyber-attack which could lead to serious reputational damage.
Smart technology is here to stay and will only improve over time. These enhancements will not only enrich the fan experience which will keep them coming back in the future, encourage more spending and increase profitability; but stadium security will be improved, greatly reducing the risk of a cyber-attack.
SA Group has extensive experience implementing Smart technology within both the entertainment industry and the public sector. Our knowledgeable team can help scope out and roadmap your digital transformation project, breaking it down into practical stages and supporting throughout the Smart technology implementation and upgrade. Please get in touch with us for more information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Chudleigh is a Manager and Consultant in Cyber, Digital Transformation and Leadership Training at SA Group. He specialises in people management and developing relationships, and holds a diverse range of training experience. Chris has been central to the delivery of a number of projects, taking an overarching view of the organisation and gaining an understanding of their strategic objectives and vision in order to achieve success.