News : The future of the sports arena: the smart stadium – opportunities and risks


News :

The future of the sports arena: the smart stadium - opportunities and risks


The future of the sports arena: the smart stadium - opportunities and risks

At the general meeting of VfB Stuttgart, the loss of stadium technology costs club president Wolfgang Dietrich the job. Our sports stadiums are getting smarter every year - a trend with opportunities and risks.

It was a very bizarre situation: At the general meeting of VfB Stuttgart on July 14, the technology was on strike shortly before the voting on the deselection of VfB President Wolfgang Dietrich was on the agenda. The approximately 4,500 members present were no longer able to log into the WLAN of the Stuttgart stadium to participate in the vote. The event was then canceled - and there were immediately circulating wild conspiracy theories, who could have manipulated the WLAN in whose favor.

The result: The following day Wolfgang Dietrich resigned as VfB president. The investigation brought no indication of a cyber attack. Rather, it came in a subsystem of a service manager to an overload situation. In this article, the potentials and challenges of Smart Stadiums will be examined.

What is a Smart Stadium?

A Connected Stadium uses a range of technologies to interact with its environment, to facilitate the flow of information during an event, to optimize its fill rate, to maximize revenue, and to allow viewers to use the Internet from their mobile devices via the in-town Wi-Fi or LTE to enable.

A Smart Stadium uses a variety of software and hardware embedded with wirelessly connected sensors that gather information and send commands to each other to enhance the fans' viewing experience and overall stadium management efficiency.

The Smart Stadium is a subset of the Connected Stadium. The evolution from Connected to Smart Stadium can be characterized as similar to the evolution from the Internet to the Internet of Things.

The Smart Stadium as a testing ground for the Smart City

At a heavily attended sports event, the same issues and challenges arise as in everyday city life, which is why Internet of Things technologies are tested under real-world conditions in the Smart Stadium. A stadium is small enough to test the technologies in practice and adapt if necessary, but at the same time large enough to make meaningful statements about their effectiveness and scalability for the Smart City.

A good example of this is the Smart Dublin project, which aims to position Dublin as the world leader in the development of modern urban solutions. The technologies will be tested under real conditions at Dublin's Croke Park stadium. The required information is captured by sensors, cameras and networked stadium systems and transmitted to the cloud via various gateways installed in the stadium. There, they are evaluated by means of an analysis program and transmitted to the end devices of the spectators or special stadium management applications.

Central to the project "Croke Park Smart Stadium" is the exploitation of data in the cloud. By means of a machine learning process, e.g. gain a better understanding of how the large crowds in the stadium (environment) move. Crowd movements are analyzed in real time as well as using historical data. As a result, both the safety of the spectators can be increased and the management of the stadium staff can be optimized.

potential benefits the Smart Stadium

A Smart Stadium can not only be seen as a testing ground for the Smart City, but also brings benefits for visitors, operators and sponsors. For the stadium operators, the main focus is on the monetization potential of the Smart Stadium concept. It can generate additional revenue and reduce costs in parallel.

For example, an increase in catering revenue can be achieved via real-time queue monitoring. Using a computer-based counting algorithm, the number of people in a queue is determined in toilets or stalls, and then the average waiting time per person for each toilet or stand to calculate the expected waiting time for the visitor. The viewer then gets this information in real time on his smartphone. The shorter waiting times increase the comfort for the stadium visitor, who then is ready to consume more. For example, according to a personal survey, 42% of all stadium visitors are willing to spend more money on food and drink on shorter queues.

Challenges and limits

These potential benefits are offset by various challenges in implementing the Smart Stadium concept:

The technological challenges include v.a. the scalability of the technologies to larger environments and the continuous availability of all services and networks during an event.

Privacy, privacy, the misuse of sensitive information, the growing complexity of assigning responsibility in the event of a claim, and security threats to hacking attacks are among the biggest ethical / legal risks.

The high initial investment and the long payback period are the biggest financial challenges for the growth of the Smart Stadium market.

Whether a stadium can be transformed despite the high investment in a profit center depends strongly on the cultural characteristics of the respective location.

The uncertainty about the technology acceptance of the stadium visitors plays a not insignificant role, which can be illustrated by the example of PSV Eindhoven: The Dutch football club expected € 30 million in additional revenue per year by networking his arena. The result, however, was enormous protest from the fans, who saw the WLAN as a danger of a worse mood in the stadium.

By contrast, as early as 2014, around 75% of all US NFL stadiums were equipped with WLAN. That the use of the mobile Internet in a sports arena is already part of the standard there. This can be explained above all with the different fan culture in America, where the event character is much more pronounced than in Europe, which is why the technology adaptation in the US was easier to succeed.

Conclusion and outlook

For the Smart Stadium concept, a global market volume of $ 12.5 billion is forecasted by 2023 (2018: $ 4.6 billion), representing an average annual growth of approximately 22%.

In order to master the challenges outlined above, it is advisable to adopt a step-by-step approach, adapted to the cultural particularities and national mentalities of each country: the fans and spectators in the stadiums must gradually get used to the new technologies and not be confronted with too many changes at once become. The achievement of a technology acceptance in the respective market can therefore be regarded as a critical success factor for the application of the Smart Stage, since only then can the potential benefits for all parties involved be developed.

The author thanks Marc Hauser, Kai Matthes and Lukas Vogt for their support in the conception of this article.

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