Technology for 21st-Century, Experience-Driven Sports Fan Engagement

Sensors in their jerseys, shoes, and helmets. Sensors in the turf, the goal box, race car, and golf club. Athletes of the future will be tracked at every moment so we can know how fast and focused they are, and when they’re “in the zone.” The sports experience has become a 21st-Century medley of sights, smells, and experiences. Undoubtedly, technology is shaping the modern fan experience. We just have to make sure it’s for the better.

Today’s fans don’t want to just watch an event—they want to be at the center of it. In other words, they want to “be the experience.” This starts with a seamless approach to fan, customer, and team engagement that can manifest in many ways from on-site, touch-activated, multi-sensory, virtual experiences to off-site communities.

The goal is to enhance the fan experience, not distract from it. This can be achieved by creating experience-driven touch points. Fan engagement is a wake-to-sleep business and requires better, and smarter, mobile, social, and digital-led environments to keep fans coming back to the stadium and being full-fledged members of the sports/team community.

It’s more than just ordering food to your seat or buying merchandise via a mobile app. That’s definitely important, but fans are thirsty for more. More content, more speed, more data, more info, more social, more fantasy, more experiences. The optimal fan experience includes a tailored mix of digital and physical experiences that fans can explore and self-design on-site, off-site, on game days, and on days in between. But to advance and future-proof these experiences for teams and stadium operators, they need to be tied to the latest and greatest technology.

Customer Experiences that Get You to and Through the Gate

The first and most critical part of any fan journey starts with the ticketing experience. Whether you are a season ticket holder or a casual fan, it all begins with your ticket buying experience. Did you get what you wanted? Was it what you expected? Was it easy to use? Were your tickets useful?

Useful? Yes, tickets are useful. The 2016/2017 season saw an average per game attendance of 69,487 for the NFL, 30,163 for MLB, 21,692 for MLS, 17,884 for NBA, and 17,500 for NHL for American professional sporting leagues. That’s a lot of foot traffic.

As more teams come online with digital tickets, they’ll be able to capitalize on data to improve entry/exit strategies. The whole fan/ticket/customer experience gets better with online, in-app, mobile ticketing management capabilities. And what’s the easiest way to sell more tickets? Reduce the barrier to entry so fans can easily make one-click purchases directly from their phone. This consumerism shift towards mobile devices makes it easier for teams to influence impulse sales through personalized messages, geo-targeted marketing, instant offers, and loyalty rewards.

Customer experience is also impacted by the human connection experienced when purchasing tickets and merchandise. Contact centers that work with and respond to the user expectations of fans at any given moment provide an enhanced and optimized experience. The right contact center will help sell out stadiums.

Communications that Come Full Circle

In a world of applications, real-time communication structures. Technology impacts more than just the fans. It makes players, coaches, and every-size teams all a part of the fan experience. Technology is about connecting your entire organization across one platform, creating a centralized hub for collaborating and sharing information, instantly. Network mobility and simplicity takes connected experiences to a new level.

With advanced Team Engagement technology that enables communications across voice, video, multimedia, messaging, and conferencing, smart stadiums can better allocate operations and staff through more proactive, strategic initiatives. From the suites to the concessions stands, effectively deploy the right people, to the right place, at the right time.

Human asset management in sports is a hot topic right now. Teams spend millions of dollars on sports players and race car drivers. Managing their health performance via an application lets teams assemble medical experts faster, save money, and operate more efficiently. Communication-enable applications to quickly bring teams and health experts together via video and voice so you can assess injuries and create recovery plans faster.

Intelligent Systems that Power and Automate Operations

The game day experience—communications, ticketing, merchandising, socializing—needs a robust grid to run on. At Super Bowl LI, fans used over 11.8 TB of data during the game. And with the majority of stadiums built prior to 2001, when the first tech bubble popped, it’s logical to assume there are several facilities that aren’t equipped to handle this sort of bandwidth.

Even as recently as two years ago it was a struggle to get a signal inside some venues. It’s now imperative that today’s stadiums be upgraded or retrofitted with wireless solutions that can guarantee uninterrupted game day experiences.

But the need for technology infrastructures goes beyond connectivity. Technology has to be powerful, and it has to be smart. Stadium staff needs to be able to optimize workflows. Coaches need to make better decisions based on player and field conditions. Security needs to react, predict, and respond dynamically across the environment. Vendors and sponsors need to enhance and deliver personalized offers across the stadium.

These touch points and experiences essentially create data that can be sent back to teams, stadiums, and operators to further impact the game day experience. It’s team analytics. It’s stadium analytics. It’s fanalytics! It’s all the smart stuff that tech-savvy stadiums need.

Touch Points that Are Experience Driven

Fans demand mobile experiences on the way to and at a venue, which requires world-class Wi-Fi, functional mobile apps, and dynamic fan engagement boards.

Smart stadiums, race tracks and large public venues have to connect fans across the venue and across the globe with state-of-the-art experiences that are paving the way for the Stadium of Things. It’s about producing, sharing, and leveraging information from connected devices and experiences in context. About wearable tech, seat sensors, virtual reality displays, crowd-tracking tools, and smart equipment—bats, balls, gadgets, and gizmos a plenty.

The future of sports is connected fans, connected stadiums, connected teams, connected data. No matter the size of your league, venue, or team, your fan base is everything. And it demands the best technology to place athletes, the team, and fans at the center of the experience.

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Transforming Online Meetings for Team Collaboration

I find it interesting how companies choose to measure team collaboration. Most use surveys, some productivity data, and others standard review processes. Yet team collaboration is about so much more than all of this. If you ask us, it’s about putting people first.

We mean this quite literally. It’s important to provide employees with a suite of face-to-face collaboration capabilities that enable dynamic, real-time team collaboration. Communication staples like voice and chat are surely important, along with the endless other tools teams use to connect and share information. Meeting via video, however, is arguably the best way to collaborate, build relationships, create momentum and build morale. Face-to-face collaboration may not always be needed, but companies will want to make sure they have the best tools in place for when it is.

When done right, online meetings enhance team collaboration in several ways. Consider the most basic of them all: a good part of communication is non-verbal. Being able to observe team members’ body language can help prevent miscommunication and connect across languages and cultures. The technology has also evolved to the point where teams can flexibly share data, documents and other project details via screen sharing or virtual whiteboards. All the while, there’s the opportunity to initiate private chat sessions between team members to discuss simultaneously.

The bottom line: online meetings enable authentic human interaction that delivers real value, time and cost savings, and better business outcomes.

Now, imagine being able to quickly implement an easy-to-use, cost-effective service that skips the capital investment and technical hassle of a traditional video solution. This is exactly what Avaya Equinox Meetings Online offers: a cloud-delivered application that allows users—both employees and outside contacts—to connect with their browsers (no plug-ins required) or mobile apps to effortlessly initiate and/or participate in online meetings. The service places priority back on people, which is where it belongs. Simple as that.

Don’t believe us? Read Nemertes Q4 2017 Enterprise Business Value Matrix for Unified Communications and Collaboration to see what they had to say. If you like what you see, or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our team for more information via our webchat.

The Easy Button for IoT

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you how the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing our world. Stop by any electronics retailer and you will find smart TVs, smart lights, smart refrigerators, and smart thermostats. Open up the brochure for a new car and you will find more space dedicated to intelligent sensors than horsepower. Tour a modern manufacturing plant and you will quickly discover that nearly every machine used in production has been equipped with an IP address. From the consumer to the enterprise, IoT is the driving force of innovation.

Of course, there is a dark side to this revolutionary technology: It’s not all that easy. As a consumer, it’s not a big deal to have one smart dryer that sends a text message when your clothes are dry. It’s also pretty simple to have your refrigerator email you a photo of its contents. In these cases, it’s just you and your machine.

However, what if you had a thousand dryers and ten thousand refrigerators. Let’s take it further. What if you were American Airlines and your fleet of airplanes had five hundred thousand different sensors reporting information every second. Now, imagine that some devices reported data using Bluetooth while others used Zigbee, WiMAX, LTE, WiFi, and NFC. Want to make it even more challenging? These different sensors report data reading using SOAP, REST, WebSockets, and a myriad of proprietary protocols. It quickly becomes an engineering nightmare to collect, store, and take the appropriate actions on this constant stream of data.

One Bite at a Time

Question. How do you eat an elephant? Answer. One bite at a time.

As with an elephant, the best way to conquer the IoT problem is to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Instead of trying to directly deal with all those different sensors and their unique forms of communication, have those sensors talk to gateways that understand multiple IoT dialects. Those gateways could then normalize the data before sending it off to a central cloud repository. Next, wrap the IoT cloud with web services that allow for a consistent and uniform way to access IoT data. Finally, use those web services to create a suite of applications for data visualization, event processing, analytics, etc.

Now, instead of being inundated with terabytes of data that may or may not be important, you only see what you need to see and only when you need to see it. You also have a scalable platform that allows you to add new sensors without having to constantly redesign and redeploy your business applications.

At Arrow Systems Integration (ASI), an Avaya A.I.Connect partner, we call this distributed architecture of sensors, gateways, and cloud services Arrow Connect™.

Arrow Connect

Arrow Connect is a software architecture that connects any device over any protocol to any cloud. Designed and developed by Arrow with security, scale, flexibility, device management, multi-tenancy, hierarchy, open APIs, and extensibility as its core principles, Arrow Connect is helping customers across multiple industries bring their products to market faster.

The Arrow Connect software development kit (SDK) helps enterprises leverage the full capabilities of any device while an extensible software gateway allows developers to add support for protocols and sensors not currently supported by Arrow Connect.

The Arrow Connect cloud platform enables secure provisioning and management of all its devices. It runs on multiple public cloud platforms and seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Azure, IBM Watson Bluemix/Softlayer, Amazon Web Services, and private data center solutions.

Breeze and Zang Workflows

While support for RESTful web services is essential to being an open and secure cloud solution, this comes with a price and that price is complexity. Despite being an open standard understood by most software developers, the fact that you must be a developer to use web services confines them to a very select group of people.

In our quest to find every possible way to simplify IoT, ASI has partnered with Avaya to add support for Arrow Connect IoT devices, sensors, and gateways into Avaya Breeze and the Zang Workflow Designer. With both of these platforms, access to IoT data and Arrow Connect services becomes as simple as drag and drop and non-developers can create powerful IoT solutions in a matter of minutes. Better still, this simplification does not come at the cost of accuracy, reliability, speed, security, or scalability. The visual tasks embedded in these workflow tools employ the same Arrow Connect web services a skilled software developer would use. The difference is that there is no need to learn Java, .Net, Python, or any other programming language.


The Easy Button for IoT

With integrated workflow technology, you can quickly turn an idea on a whiteboard into a fully functional and easily deployable solution.

Next Steps

McKinsey recently said that “Any business that fails to invest heavily in the IoT in the next 10 years is unlikely to be able to remain competitive.” While these may seem like strong words, industry after industry has taken them to heart and the IoT revolution is everywhere. As I stated at the beginning of this article, IoT is becoming pervasive for both consumers and businesses.

The simplification, scalability, and security of IoT offered by Avaya and Arrow Systems Integration helps an enterprise to create the solutions it needs to enhance its business, grow its customer base, and stay competitive.

Andrew Prokop is the Director of Emerging Technologies at Arrow Systems Integration. Andrew is an active blogger and his widely-read blog, SIP Adventures, discusses every imaginable topic in the world of unified communications. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ajprokop, and read his blog, SIP Adventures.

News & Solutions at ENGAGE 2018 Show Avaya is Back in the Fight!

Now back from last week’s Avaya ENGAGE 2018, our annual customer and partner event, we’re finding the energy of the conference continues to drive the cadence at Avaya. What a show! In my last blog I wrote about taking time for a bit of introspection—thoughts echoed by our CEO Jim Chirico during his ENGAGE keynote. One of his points really resonated with me: how you get up off the mat. All of us face challenges everyday—most of them are manageable but occasionally an event comes along that can really take the wind out of your sails. Jim pointed out that while we all get knocked down from time to time, what really matters is how you get up. How you carry yourself and how you get ready for the next challenge.

In 2018 Avaya is back up. We’ve got our gloves on and we’ve come out swinging! ENGAGE 2018 was a great opportunity for us to thank our customers and partners for their outstanding support over the past year and give them a taste of the new Avaya: poised, fit, and ready to win.

Our commitment to win was reflected in a number of key announcements from last week, but the headliner was the acquisition of Spoken Communications, a leading innovator in the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) market. The Spoken platform is based on the Avaya Aura® Platform and Avaya Aura® Call Center Elite, making it a perfect architecture for both Avaya omnichannel offerings, such as Avaya Oceana®, and its Unified Communications as a Service solution. But Spoken brings much more than a proven xCaaS capability to Avaya—the really exciting news is Spoken’s transformative real-time customer experience management applications built on conversational artificial intelligence (AI). A true innovator in AI, Spoken will be accelerating our “Think Avaya, Think Cloud” strategy with solutions that not only provide a clear path for customer migration, but offer improved efficiency, drive more intelligent responses, and gain deeper insight into customer sentiment and experience.

And there was more news at Avaya ENGAGE on the AI front: Avaya introduced Avaya AvaTM , a cloud, messaging-agnostic solution that offers new AI capabilities for social messaging integration and automation of digital interactions. An evolution from our Ava technologies offered for over eight years, Avaya AvaTM delivers AI 2.0 architecture including natural language processing and machine learning. And innovative analytics enables effortless customer engagement through social media and messaging platforms.

Last year we introduced the Avaya Oceana® Solution—our omnichannel context-driven contact center solution. Now we are thrilled to bring the Workspaces environment to our existing customers later this year. This modern agent desktop will take advantage of key elements such as context and customer journey and be made available to our existing customer base, enabling them to transform their CXs.

Avaya also unveiled compelling enhancements to its signature unified communications user experience, Avaya Equinox®. These include:

  • Enhancements to Avaya Equinox Meetings Online, a cloud-based meeting and conferencing service that can be deployed with or without an Avaya infrastructure. The economical, pay-as-you-go cloud model offers the same capabilities as an on-premises deployment, making it easy to take a hybrid approach and mix and match between the two.
  • The new Avaya Equinox Attendant, which enhances customer service and brings the power of unified communications to front-desk operators. We will extend Avaya Equinox to the IP Office platform—providing a single UC platform for all our customers.

Devices remain a key part of Avaya’s strategy to deliver a unique UC Experience Everywhere. Avaya has shipped over 100M phones to date and currently ships almost 10,000 new devices every day. For 2018, Avaya is expanding customer options for UC devices like never before. The Avaya Experience has evolved to be more modern, connected and personalized, and tailored to vertical specific needs such as hospitality and retail. Key additions include:

  • Launching Avaya’s new Essential Experience portfolio of industry leading phones for a state-of-the-art user experience that includes Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
  • Extending the Avaya Vantage Experience to include support for IP Office.
  • Announcing the new Avaya CU-360 Collaboration Unit, which provides easy set up and collaboration in huddle room spaces.

Providing our customers a bridge to the future is a key focus for Avaya this year—and this goal will drive a great deal of our activity. To start, Avaya has launched a number of new promotions:

  • Loyalty2gether: This exciting and bold offer provides all our loyal Communication Server 1000 customers with a path forward to either IP Office or Avaya Aura with full support for the surrounding applications like customer contact and messaging. It’s an opportunity to reinvent what communications, customer experience, and collaboration can mean to your business and to do so with an unprecedented level of experience and investment protection.
  • Oceana NOW: This program focuses on helping organizations evolve and transform their CXs.
  • Automate CC NOW: Through the use of automation capabilities, Avaya is helping organizations modernize for less.

These programs are a prime example of our focus to ensure no customer gets left behind.

ENGAGE 2018 was a very busy week of announcements, meetings and demonstrations, and the energy and enthusiasm of our customers kept us going and underlined our confidence that Avaya is back and ready to do battle. Continue to watch for updates and details on and let us know how the new Avaya can support your plans in 2018.