It wasn’t the best way to break in a shiny new home, with the San Francisco Forty-Niners missing the playoffs for the first time in four years, but that’s no reflection on the venue: Levi’s Stadium, set records for fan convenience and tech amenities. As I discuss in this column, nicer seats, more bathrooms and better food options were to be expected, but located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Levi’s also had to deliver top-notch technology, merging on field action with on-screen information, replays and mobile services. In today’s post-PC, smartphone-centric world that means deploying a custom app that facilitates a host of services like in seat food ordering and delivery, replays on demand, in stadium mapping and directions and mobile ticketing. What marketing professionals call mobile engagement rests on a host of wireless and application services including blanket Wi-Fi, near-field (Bluetooth Low Energy) and terrestrial (GPS) location services, proximity-aware mobile apps and associated APIs and SDKs.
The column details how Levis built both blanket Wi-Fi coverage and a great cellular network. The first through a thin-AP design to a controllers on an overlay network integrated with the stadium’s wired backbone. Licensed cellular coverage is provided through a distributed antenna system (DAS) with the stadium brokering space and wired backhaul to each wireless carrier. The net is a system that can accommodate over 20,000 unique clients with plenty of bandwidth provided by the facility’s 40 Gbit Internet pipe.
The more interesting story for fans is how the team uses this wireless infrastructure to provide a fan experience that’s far different from sitting at home in front of the flat screen. Via a custom app, Levi’s fans can review instant replays, live in-game stats, order food for ‘take out’ or delivery and even check the restroom lines. According Roger Hacker, the 49ers Senior Manager Corporate Communications, Levi’s delivers. “Fans love it,” he says. Although surveys show high satisfaction with wireless performance and the stadium app, actions speak louder than words. The stadium’s head of technology Anoop Nagwani. says that after a big play upwards of a thousand fans are viewing multi-angle replays via the app, which also supplies real-time stats and scores from other games. Who needs a jumbotron when you have an iPhone?
Although the nuts and bolts of building a wireless LAN are important and difficult, particularly for large, crowded public venues like stadiums, airports and hospitals, of more significance is what businesses do with the wireless technology. Levi’s offers a great example in its mobile app — an app that will continue to gain features according to Hacker — and it demonstrates that creative use of mobile technology can be an important competitive differentiator. It’s imperative that businesses large and small consider how they can best exploit wireless connectivity and smartphone-toting customers to offer new services, improve customer service and enhance brand loyalty. What are your mobile plans this year?