Mobile IP Connects a Stadium

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 2008-08-29 Print this article Print

Behind the excitement and glamour of the football season is some key information technology including: GPS, ecommerce, wired and wireless networking, voice over IP, systems integration, data security, storage and project management-- that support and enhance America’s favorite sport. Companies such as Cisco, Insight, Ignify, Microsoft and KORE Telematics are helping NFL teams get serious about managing information technology in logistics, customer relationship management and securely storing team and media-related data.

Mobile IP Connects a Stadium

The Arizona Cardinals’ new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale—the venue for the most recent Super Bowl—is so connected that you have to wonder if well-wired fans notice that a game is being played on the field. Fans in the stands use BlackBerrys, iPhones and other wireless toys to check up on their Fantasy Football stats or snap a photo of themselves at the game and e-mail it to friends.

Thanks to a technology deployment of Connected Sports solutions—provided by Cisco Systems and designed, integrated and managed by solutions provider Insight—the Cardinals can now stake a claim to providing the most technology-friendly game experience in the league. Connected Sports combines data, voice, video, wireless and social networking to create a single, secure network that essentially serves every stadium-related function. These include everything from keeping an eye out for potential terrorism threats to scouting opposing teams’ game films to selling tickets to marketing fan-experience items.

“It’s not just about football, either,” says Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Cardinals. “This stadium is a multi-event facility that hosts concerts, other sporting events, car shows, food shows and all kinds of expos. Anyone who comes in here can use this Cisco network connection on the floor in the expo or anywhere else in the facility.”

This is one of the first times that virtually all operations of an NFL venue have been connected via Cisco’s Connected Sports. Traditionally, stadiums have separate, proprietary networks to operate building systems, video surveillance, ticket sales, merchandise sales and other needs. By providing all of these on one secure IP network, Cardinals’ officials and Insight were able to work together to integrate wired and wireless access, voice, video and other services to fulfill these needs.

As a result, fans with Cisco IP phones can now touch their screens to get leaguewide score updates, or order a beer and a hotdog from concessions, or even buy upcoming game tickets from box-office staff. Coaches can send game film and special features back and forth between the stadium and the team headquarters in Tempe. In addition, police officers outside the stadium and security officials within it can e-mail each other about traffic updates and suspicious incidents.

As for the future, Cardinals officials see expanding applications for the network to weave even more eye-catching technology into the fan experience. “We’re looking closely at what we could do with video,” Feller says. “Thanks to YouTube and other online sites, video is becoming more and more integrated into our lives, and that’s where we want to go next with our network. We can envision using it to get videoscreens of the live action to our fans throughout the stadium.”

Ravens Stay Tough on Defense

The Baltimore Ravens team keeps a lot of important “stuff” in its network files: for starters, scouting reports on pro players who could be available as free agents, the latest 40-yard sprint times of college seniors who could end up as draft picks and medical histories of current players. In the past, all that information was kept on tapes. If the team wanted to back up the data, it would produce a duplicate tape and store it at its stadium in Baltimore, about 20 miles from the team’s headquarters in Owings Mills, Md.

To replace this antiquated method, the Ravens turned to AmeriVault to provide an automated access and offsite solution based on backup technology from Asigra. “The cost savings, in terms of just accessing and securing the data, have made it very worthwhile,” says Bill Jankowski, vice president of IT for the Ravens.

“We don’t put tapes on trucks anymore to send them to Baltimore. We just use the software from AmeriVault and back up our data. If we need to access some data from the past, we can search on the software—say, input a search going back 28 days—and it comes to us securely over the Internet. Previously, we’d have to call up the old tape to find the data.”

The new system saves a lot of time. “That’s good,” Jankowski says, “because there are only two people on my staff—including me.”

Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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