Online Contect Gets Media Makeover

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.

Online Content Gets Media Makeover

For years, journalists covering the NFL turned to NFLmedia.com to get the latest on team and league news. But the password-protected site was fairly static and limited in what it could provide. Security presented another issue, since the user name and password for the site was a generic, universal one that even a rank amateur hacker could gain access to.

That’s why the league turned to solution provider Gemini Systems to redesign the site using IBM software. Today, beat writers have access to a wealth of resources, such as detailed historical records of teams and updates on player injuries.

If a writer covers a particular franchise, he or she can customize a page to focus on relevant information affecting that team. And, if a game’s outcome featured a controversial call, streaming video of top league refereeing officials can be made available to discuss why the call was made.

“This is just our first step in making a portal that’s perfectly suited to the media’s needs,” says Joe Manto, vice president of information technology for the NFL. “We can now look to develop something like this for our other partners, such as vendors, licensee clients and sponsorship clients.”

Mobile Solution Makes for Smooth Super Bowl

Jordan’s Gameday crews have a lot of experience with large crowds. In addition to working at 10 Super Bowls, Gameday brings a wealth of Olympics logistics/coordination to the table, and has overseen events such as Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to America.

“You can plan everything to the minute, and then you have an incident like the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Games,” Jordan says. “Then everything is thrown into a state of chaos requiring immediate adjustments.”

Chaos is the last thing Gameday wants, which is why the company sought a technologically advanced system of tracking vehicles. At the 2008 Super Bowl, KORE’s online map technology and GPS sensors enabled Gameday staff members to get updates on their laptops throughout the day for real-time information on where every key vehicle was as it made its way to and from the stadium. An animated map flashed on the screens, pinpointing every bus and limo en route. This ensured that buses for opposing teams didn’t arrive at the same time.

“We knew when the stadium was ready to accept a bus or limo, and we could see how many minutes away those vehicles were,” Jordan says. “On game day, we could ping the buses every five seconds to get an update if we needed to. All arrivals were carefully staggered to minimize potential confusion. The teams’ arrivals especially needed to be managed to ensure a smooth entry to their locker rooms.”

In the near future, KORE expects its technology to allow satellite-based tracking of individual people, in addition to vehicles. The company is developing smaller and smaller sensors, which one day may be worn on wristwatches and other items.

This would enable Gameday to stay farther ahead of the coaches, quarterbacks and rock stars who make for a memorable evening. After all, it’s the stars that fans remember—not the support staffs who make it happen—and Gameday employees wouldn’t want it any other way.

“After the 2008 Super Bowl, I saw Eli Manning in a passageway of the stadium, with his brother Peyton and his dad Archie,” Jordan says. “He had just won the big game and gave us a friendly nod. He had no idea about what the people and companies had done for the months and weeks leading up to the game.

“And that’s exactly the way we want to keep it—a seamless operation that nobody notices. Technology allows us to do that better than ever.”

Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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