Viewpoints

Winning formula: Smarter stadiums equal more cash for your city

Oct 03, 2016

By Kevin Ebi, Smart Cities Council

The pitch for new stadiums goes something like this: If you build it, they will come. They will come to the stadium venue (often downtown) where they will spend more money, boosting the city’s tax revenues and overall economy. Whether your city gets a direct cut of stadium concessions or just tax revenue, it’s worth exploring how technology can bring in even more.

1. Bring in more cash
First, consider wireless technology to let fans order food and drinks from their seats. If fans have to get up out of their seats and stand in line to make purchases, they’ll order less. Eliminate the obstacle and make more sales. Second, wireless, in-seat ordering gives more information about customers and the opportunity to establish an ongoing digital relationship. It allows stadiums to start a rewards program that encourages people to buy more. It’s what successful online retailers do.

2. Focus on the fan experience
Another way to make the stadium more successful is to improve the experience so that more fans want to go. There are a few different approaches.

IBM uses data and analytics to uncover things that aggravate fans so they can be corrected. In its work at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins football team, it aggregates data from sensors, turnstiles and other sources, bringing it all into one control room where staff can act to ensure lines are moving smoothly and fans are comfortable.

Meanwhile, Ooredoo is already working on a technology pavilion for FIFA World Cup 2022. Its pavilion will showcase a range of intelligent network solutions that will provide fans inside the ground and viewers around the world with up-to-the-moment information and results at sporting events.

And Intel has laid out several ways that technology can make stadiums smarter (and more profitable.) Intel has a suite of offerings that help fans find parking spaces and then, once they’re in the stadium, find their way around and even connect with friends who are also at the game. And Intel helps make sure fans are safe. Surveillance cameras can monitor the behavior of the crowd and quickly detect unruly fans.

3. Reduce operational costs
Of course, another way to boost your return on investment is to lower your operational costs. Intel’s platform uses sensors and other data to track how many people are at the stadium, automatically adjusting heating and lighting levels to minimize energy use.

Sensors can also track how many people have used the restrooms, automatically triggering a work order when a certain threshold has been met. This ensures the restrooms are always clean for fans while also keeping staff at reasonable levels.

Stadiums are one of a city’s larger investments and a little technology can help cities get much more from that investment.

Kevin Ebi is editor of the Smart Cities Council’s publications. The Council publishes the free Smart Cities Readiness Guide, which provides help and advice for crafting a smart cities vision, plan of action and method of tracking progress.

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