The smart venue
and the connected fan

Author: Poornima Apte

The COVID-19 pandemic might have complicated the equation—National Football League teams had lost almost $4B in 2020 and 2021—but in-person attendance at sporting events has been declining for a while. The smart arena or venue, delivering frictionless, immersive, and communal fan experiences, promises to help stadiums and sports teams improve fan engagement and drive revenue.

Connected fans: The smart venue and the Internet of Things (IoT)

In a smart venue, IoT sensor-based devices are connected holistically to deliver efficiencies in operations, gameplay, concessions, point of sale, and the fan experience. These venues also integrate IT with data from operational technology (OT), such as IoT devices. This way, mobile edge computing (MEC) can generate insight in near real time.

These insights can be highly valuable for stadium operations, player performance and the fan experience. For example, food and drink vendors with IoT smart machines can monitor them for maintenance or refilling purposes, analysts and coaches can track metrics for players with smart wearables, and connected fans can use augmented reality (AR) apps to learn more about specific parts of the stadium and the history of events therein.

IoT applications in sports benefit fans in a number of other ways that utilize fan-specific data in loyalty programs, biometric technology and collaborative digital platforms. The use cases for the connected fan experience typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Frictionless navigation and engagement within the physical venue
  • Delivery of an immersive communal experience
  • Increasing loyalty and engagement metrics

Frictionless navigation of the smart venue

The venue or team-specific mobile IoT applications in sports improve the fan experience right from the point of purchasing the tickets.

During the game, IoT applications with beacon technology can guide fans to the closest or shortest concession line or the restroom with the shortest lines. Management can also be notified when restrooms need to be serviced based on a count of the number of visits; this will help connected fans navigate the space, as such solutions could prevent restrooms from being out of order at inopportune moments. When restrooms are out of order, IoT devices and applications can redirect fans to other available restrooms. When the game concludes, these devices and applications can provide fans with the shortest path to their vehicle and the fastest route home.

Delivery of an immersive communal experience

While the mobile phone has been mostly seen as a passive, isolating medium during games, the smart venue featuring massive social media halo boards can deliver a more immersive communal experience to fans, who can upload images onto the communal social board in the venue and use emojis in real time. Performance metrics from players can be layered onto the boards for streaming and live polls or trivia can drive fan engagement. Viewers at home can also access such advanced streaming options and share in the communal experience by voting and commenting from their own mobile devices.

Increasing loyalty and engagement metrics

The smart venue can generate coupons for concessions and merchandise based on the fan's past purchasing or attendance record. During the offseason, fans can engage with players through interviews streamed on apps. Stadiums can sell custom packages, bundling events and merchandise in ways that are personalized to the fan.

IoT applications in sports and mobile edge computing

All IoT applications in sports deliver data that the smart venue can use to its advantage. Mobile edge computing (MEC) could be essential to process this information and make recommendations in near real time. This way, stadium operators can deliver offers when there is the greatest chance for engagement and conversion.

Venue operators can leverage advanced technologies such as AR and virtual reality (VR) to further deliver an experience that will make fans want to attend in person. Integrating OT and IT and capitalizing on insights can help you deliver the experiences fans are looking for while helping to increase revenue for operators.

Learn how to help enhance fan experience with immersive realities.