One of the biggest challenges fairgrounds and other large venues face is providing e-commerce services to vendors, as well as information to visitors about events, show times, and vendor and food booths. At State Fair Park (SFP) in Oklahoma City, which manages about 200 events each year and attracts upward of two million visitors, the need for a more sophisticated network was clear. An older wireless infrastructure wasn’t meeting the needs of the 435-acre facility.
“Vendors couldn’t conduct e-commerce, and the public couldn’t easily find the information they required to make their visit the most enjoyable possible,” recalls Jason Eddy, vice president of information technology.
This prompted SFP to revamp its wireless network and develop a smartphone app. The parent company, Oklahoma State Fair, which generates upward of $300 million for the local economy, turned to Aruba Networks to build a sophisticated network with Gigabit WiFi, and to create an app that delivers information about events, as well as navigation capabilities, so that visitors can find the concessions and food they desire.
After approximately a year of evaluation and planning, the platform went live in September 2014. SFP worked with RFIP, a local wireless integrator, to build out the system.
Making Things Simple and Easy
The result? Vendors can now use wireless point-of-sale devices such as Square and PayPal to conduct over-the-air transactions, and guests can find the food they want through the interactive app. They can log in simply and easily without obtaining the access codes that SFP previously required.
The Oklahoma State Fair has also gained more sophisticated capabilities that extend beyond vendors and guests. These include the ability to scan tickets as visitors enter the fairgrounds, as well as analytics capabilities that also can be used for hosted events run by outside firms and vendors.
In addition, the park has connected security shacks and other buildings and facilities. “We are operating in a far more sophisticated way,” Eddy says.
SFP uses Aruba’s ClearPass Policy Management platform, which provides secure authentication and onboarding of mobile devices for its employees, vendors and guests, The company also uses the vendor’s Meridian Mobile App Platform.
The network includes Aruba 220 Series indoor and 270 Series outdoor 802.11ac access points, 7200 Series Mobility Controllers, Mobility Access Switches and AirWave network management.
SFP is now looking into adding Bluetooth beacons so that vendors can push out promotions and coupons to visitors. The beacon technology would also provide data about traffic patterns and would allow SFP and other organizations that are hosting events to charge premium prices for vendors renting premium spaces.
But the technology won’t stop there. In spring 2016, SFP plans to open a 290,000-square-foot state-of-the-art expo center that will include digital signage, connected expo space, kitchen and catering facilities, a lobby, box office and meeting rooms. The wireless capabilities will extend into the facility and will usher in even more advanced capabilities and features.
SFP is also looking into mobile ticketing for smartphones. “We want vendors and visitors to have an enjoyable and memorable experience and use their devices to interact more effectively,” Eddy says.