Cisco's new Stadium Vision is a high density in-stadium Wi-Fi combined with IPTV, designed to compete with broadcast TV due to the decline in live audience attendance at events.
StadiumVision 4.0 is making its debut at Allianz stadium, and Etihad, which will see a more extensible and modular version of its end-to-end, HD IPTV (up to 4K resolution) solution, enabling broader, richer, content as part of its focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) in sports and entertainment venues through its Cisco Connected Stadium network.
Cisco with Telstra have installed 750 end points, supplying IPTV to 1500 TVs throughout the stadium, alongside Wi-Fi capacity that it claims will be able to handle the 50,000 guest load. Telstra has partnered to handle the backhaul and other infrastructure.
Whereas previously stadium wifi builds had focused more on mobile data offloading (to take pressure off local mobile phone networks) they are now about enhancing content offerings to stadium visitors, says Etihad Stadium's CEO, Paul Sargeant.
To that effect, Etihad Stadium has been kitted out with LED billboards and 1500 TV sets as part of 'Stadium vision' which means the stadium can be completely rebranded to suit the five AFL teams that call the stadium home, as well as for various soccer, rugby and concert events.
The technology also means that the system can real time adapt and advise visitors that perhaps a toilet queue is long, or that there is a shorter beer queue further along - or which exits are clogged at the end of the a game, and then display that on the TVs around the stadium.
These features include scrolling tickers and scores, while also supporting Luma-Key effects, which allow advertisements on the edges of the screen to blend with the game. Screens throughout the venue are now capable of having a video background layer, dynamic text, and rotating animated logos, all of which are customisable to suit any team.
Cisco claims that overseas teams have already realised significant revenue growth through the solution, and the new version will open greater business opportunities through targeted advertising, sponsorship activations, promotions and branding.
“Cisco StadiumVision was a ground breaking solution for Cisco, and this new version builds upon that legacy while embracing principles of the Internet of Everything. As leading teams and customers around the world, such as Allianz and Etihad Stadiums, begin to use this solution, fans will have a visual experience like never before. The solution is a dynamic tool that will allow our customers to drive revenue, increase efficiencies, and ensure they are leading the way in this connected world," said Chris White, Cisco's general manager and senior vice president, Sports & Entertainment Solutions Group.
Worldwide Cisco boasts that it has provided the customised solution to 275 venues in 35 countries. From data collation, it estimates that 1/3 users in any venue are on the wifi. What has also changed is the mode of data transfer - there is now more data leaving the venue than entering, via guests posting photos, and videos of themselves and uploading them online.
Sergeant and his team travelled the world looking at other stadiums, especially in the UK and US and found that Australia, despite being sports mad, remains "miles behind".
The new strategy is about "fun engagement" to help stadiums compete with a multi-media world, especially live TV sport. Reducing the sterility of a stadium and introducing character is a key goal, especially when so many teams share a single stadium - a mostly Australian problem, as many stadiums around the world are home to single teams.
"Fans will be the big winners from the connected stadium project which we believe is set to make Etihad Stadium the most technologically advanced and connected stadium in Australia, if not the globe. We believe it will be a game changer taking fan engagement and match day digital theming to new levels, with Stadium Vision providing opportunities for Etihad Stadium's tenant clubs across three different sporting codes to digitally 'match day theme' like never before," said Sergeant.
The new system had its soft launch three weeks ago for the One DIrection concert - a good stress tester given their fan's technology-centric Gen-Z demographic. That saw some 75 per cent of stadium TVs in operation, but only running 20 still screens. About 1/6 users tapped the wi-fi on that occasion.
By the time of the Foo FIghters concert a few weeks later, all the TVs were in operation, playing a variety of content - including advertisements for future concerts, the aforementioned public notices and zoning.
Over the next four days the stadium will hosting featuring four AFL games across five days, before the Stadium Vision's official launch of April 4, with the Western Bulldogs playing the West Coast Eagles.
One of the big problems with the project has been convincing partners to put the effort into the content - to enable proper proof of concepts. Sergeant says its been a chicken before the egg situation where the partners developing apps for their teams or events, want to see the concept working, before they invest in rich content themselves.
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But the potential is there, especially in overseas venues, where customers can use apps top watch instant replays at will, or utilise real time scoreboards.
In the future the stadium will be multi-cast capable, and is also able to be integrated with any stadium's emergency systems - such as giving visitors advice on where the nearest exit is, or warn them if there are problems elsewhere in the stadium.
Exact technical specs for the system were not made available, but Sergeant told ARN that the system is future-proofed, and Cisco's equipment is designed to scale to suit throughput. As data usage is increasing exponentially, this means that in order to increase capacity it simply needs to boost the number of end points to suit future demand.