How to Create a Modern Stadium Fan Experience with a Digital Identity

The sports fan experience—the way we consume and immerse ourselves in sports on site, at home, in a pub, pre-season, live, or in retrospect—is interwoven with digital tech. Sports fans are focused and engaged, with instant mobile access to info and entertainment. They crave integrated experiences that reach beyond the walls of the stadium.

So it’s the responsibility of stadium operators, club owners, and tech partners to discover how to use innovative technology to create unique, immersive, automated, smart, social, and personalized experiences. Experiences that will bring fans to the stadium—online and in person.

It’s no secret that venues have struggled in recent years to fill seats. They not only compete with other venues, they compete with couches and recliners. Live streaming, virtual reality, fan caves, theater surround sound, multi-device accessibility, food delivery—it’s all available at home. And it all competes with the in-stadium experience. To fill a stadium now, you must push beyond to re-make attending an arena event into an experience in and of itself.

Start by thinking who your fans are—what are their personas? What do you want to represent when it comes to the fan experience you’re crafting? What can you do to shape your in-stadium, on-site experience so it is enticing to your fans?

Are You an Early Adopter of Tech or a Laggard?

The most promising—and most disruptive—thing we see across the industry is how brands are embracing and adopting modern tech trends. A variety of early adopters have rolled out impressive technologies and platforms. Their goals are to boost fan and customer experiences, optimize event performance and activities, and generate revenue—especially via uncharted channels. Early adoption matters when building the fan experience of today. Those on the frontline of tech have an advantage over the competition—they will collect crucial insights that can be used to further improve venues, teams, tools, and offerings.

But when we look at the some 500+ Pro Sports stadiums operating worldwide, there is vast room for improvement. Some venues are upgrading systems—a good phase 1—but globally a lot of stadiums are already in phase 2 or 3 of their digital transformations. So, to survive, it’s important to know how to move fast. On average, laggards make up about 16% percent of brand and customer groups. They are usually the last to adopt an innovation, sometimes much too late. Where do you fit right now? Innovator, early adopter, early majority, late majority … or laggard.

The Avaya Experience

Avaya Stadium, home to the San Jose Earthquakes, is the first cloud-enabled stadium in Major League Soccer. Avaya’s technology and solutions power Avaya Stadium through engaging experiences with the Avaya Stadium Mobile App, Fan Engagement Wall, and Customer and Team Engagement platforms. We’re constantly learning about our fans so that we can continue refining our in-stadium experience.

Most companies see themselves as a business, with their core mission to generate solid and reliable revenue. We, however, see ourselves as a community. Our community includes our team, our venue and stadium, our fans, employees, and anything else directly involved with our events. We believe that we—and our venue—must serve the community as a whole, instead of just a single group.

A Community Needs a Digital Identity

For innovative and modern technologies to have a significant impact, you need to see—and serve—a 360-degree view of all your event components. You need a digital, active, and engaging identity for your brand to better serve the community of your fans, team, partners, vendors, and yes, even investors.

Here are a few emerging trends that could help boost your digital identity:

  • Analytics: The beauty of big data, data aggregation, and analytics systems is that they can be used to collect endless amounts of usable data. This can help you make actionable decisions, improve customer and fan experiences, and boost revenue. Modern stadium operators have systems in place to track trends and patterns related to fan transactions, ingress and egress, and general behaviors. This allows them to produce optimized game day decisions as to what’s available and how the entire venue is managed.
     

    Avaya’s Customer Engagement platform empowers operators to turn data into actionable insights across stadium touchpoints like beaconing, ticketing, contact center, social media, fan engagement wall, mobile apps, merchandising, Wi-Fi and more. Leagues use data from wearables, sensors, etc. to improve team performance. With big data analysis, we can improve the on-site fan experience to entice fans to come often, buy more, and stay longer.

  • Integrated Services: With digitization comes the concept of automating certain tasks, and when these services talk together and work within a single in-app experience it provides better stadium interoperability. Stadium operators can leverage integrated services by partnering with already popular services. With a dedicated mobile app, fans have everything in one place—the app is a one-stop shop for multiple systems, services, and other applications.
     

    With people spending close to four hours per day on their phones (90% in-app), it’s essential to make those interactions contextual and relevant to the sports fan and their game day experiences. Services can include indoor mapping, mobile purchases, ticket management, venue reservations, merchandise shopping, in-seat delivery, social media, player stats, real-time game updates, video chat, queue times, exclusive content, and much more. And, immersive extensions can integrate with other services like PayPal, Lyft, Uber, Yelp, and Open Table. This is fulfillment at its best.

  • Bots: Bots go hand-in-hand with integrated services and mobile apps. They are an excellent way to provide 24/7 support. Customers can ask “where can I buy a hot dog” or “what beer is available in this stadium” and the bot can return accurate, instant answers. For stadium operators, this minimizes the need to constantly provide hardscaped details or information about changing vendors, locations, and service offerings. This information can be updated on the fly within a mobile app and allows the bot to do the talking for you.
     

    Avaya was one of the first to market with bot technology for stadiums. We launched our Avaya Stadium mobile app in 2015—we started using bot technology to serve up stadium facts in the app. As we continue to innovate, we’re finding more potential in bots when we combine them with AI and big data.

  • Artificial Intelligence: AI can be deployed in many ways. Think of how you interact with platforms like Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant. The queries are quick, responses are fast, and the entire process is all about convenience. In a hyper-busy and fast environment like a sports stadium, AI would be extremely beneficial for improving customer experiences. It could work alongside a chat bot to provide advice, prices, location information, etc.
     

    Modern stadiums are looking to use bots with AI to geo-target offers for more intelligent, personalized opportunities. Based on previous interactions and customer intelligence, bots can begin offering up services based on past behavior. For example, when you enter the stadium, the bot can send you a custom alert letting you know where your favorite beverage is available, info about special offers, and suggested alternatives.

Keep Your Fans at the Forefront

With a little help from technology, stadiums can engage with fans based on who they are, where they are, what they’re doing, and how long they’ve been doing it, delivering personalized mobile experiences based on user location and behavior. Create an immersive experience for fans—whether they’re in your venue or away. Connect them to your team and events all year long.

Get in the technology game! Visit AvayaSports.com and Avaya.com for more information.

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Connected Health: The Digital Transformation of Care Innovation

All around the world, across the spectrum of disease, IT is changing our approach to chronic conditions and how we approach connected health. Text messages remind people living with HIV to take their medication and keep their medical appointments. Smartphone apps diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder by analyzing a user’s voice. Online forums enable breast cancer patients and survivors to trade information related to every stage of their care.

Collectively known as “connected health,” these recent, IT-driven innovations represent the intersection of digital technology and care. They’re transforming not only the way people manage their own health, but also the way they interact with their healthcare providers.

Unintended, but welcomed, consequences

By and large, connected health is an adaptation of technologies that were originally developed for other purposes. Mobile technology started out as a voice communication tool. Instant messaging was an outgrowth of online chat rooms. Social media became a means for making new friends.

Now these technologies have evolved and converged in a way that is overcoming formerly intractable barriers to care. By minding the agenda of day-to-day care, for instance, they give people the opportunity to stay in adherence with their treatments even where clinical visits are impractical due to cost, distance or availability. And by helping patients preserve their privacy, make sense of their conditions, and learn from others with similar experiences, health IT can lift the stifling veil of stigma from disease. 

The implications don’t stop with the individual. Connected health also helps people manage their own disease state so they don’t spread it to others. Across whole populations, it can allow interventions aimed at preventing chronic diseases, such as behavioral modifications that reduce the incidence of obesity.

Changing care innovation paradigms

In all these respects, connectivity is bringing to medicine a level of accountability and democratization that seemed unimaginable not so long ago. But it’s also dialing up the urgency of some unanswered questions. Among them:

  • What information is appropriate to gather? Not all information has value in a healthcare setting.
  • Will information remain proprietary? It’s unclear to what extent stakeholders are willing to advance the interests of the community ahead of the interests of a company.
  • What would a sharing paradigm look like? If companies were to share information, they would need a seamless, cohesive way to do it.
  • How will privacy and security be preserved? Artificial intelligence and machine learning are critical pieces of this equation.
  • How will healthcare use technologies to create new models of care? Today’s applications are largely geared toward improving quality and outcomes of existing care models.

There’s no one-size fits all solution to these questions. Neither is care innovation strictly a technology issue. Technologists must collaborate with clinicians, patients, and patient advocates to take care coordination and operational efficiency to the next level in helping people cope with long-term diseases. A new, technology-powered paradigm—one that transcends existing constraints of time and resources—can bring a welcome transformation in the ongoing management of care coordination and the patient experience.

Avaya Equinox, Now with Team Collaboration, Just Got More “Go-To”

 

I recently read that the Apple App Store now contains about 2.2 million apps. It’s an amazing number and a testament to the creativity of developers and the variety of our human interests and needs. But it made me wonder: how many apps can we really use on a regular basis & for what? Are they for fun? Are they informative? Do they increase team collaboration? If your smartphone is like mine, you’ve got a number of go-to apps that you use regularly, let’s say weekly, and probably a few you use daily or almost constantly. Then there are the Tier 2 apps, hiding in your folders that seldom see the light of day. It’s fun to delve into these folders every few months and rediscover the apps that I thought looked so interesting at the time but now languish for months on end.

What’s fun for personal apps however, can often become a nightmare in the work world. We all have someone in the office that has that need to be first with the latest hot app, to provide their take on what’s cool and what’s not and make everyone else feel a little short of the mark for not using it first. Of course most of these apps get frenzied activity for about 3 ½ days and then slip into oblivion. The issue for most of us is we simply have too much on the go to be constantly changing the way we work and coercing others to adopt our favorite app of the week.

What my work day really needs is a true go-to app. One that makes me more productive, more reachable, more on track and that lets me get to my tasks and meetings with a single touch. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know where I’m going with this: my go-to app is Avaya Equinox®. With its “mobile-first” Top of Mind screen, it provides me with at-a-glance visibility to meetings, instant messages and my call history giving me a single place to keep up to date and productive regardless of where my day may take me.

I’m happy to say that my go-to app just got more, well, “go-to”. The Avaya UC experience that I rely on every day is now being extended with the integration of a cloud-based team collaboration capability.  It gives me the full benefits of a team work environment that integrates voice, video, persistent team chat and messaging, along with file and screen sharing, all from within the Avaya Equinox experience.

Let me give you an example of these new Equinox team collaboration capabilities in action. I’m currently working with an external vendor on a major project. Our work will carry on for several quarters with new materials being created that need review, discussion, and likely several rounds of back and forth. To get the project kicked off and a vendor selected, we needed the full gamut of collaboration capabilities from simple voice calls to several all-day video conferences with participants joining from around the world – something easily managed with Avaya Equinox. 

The next step was to establish a core team and shift into a regular cadence of interaction. Adding the participants to the team collaboration space from both inside and outside Avaya was a snap and we were instantly able to communicate with one another – I use one to one instant messaging for small items or questions and chat when I want to involve the entire team for broader issues. Tasks get assigned within Avaya Equinox to keep our review cycles on track and we use the file sharing capability avoid clogging up our email. If I’m off line at some point, due to travel or other activity, a quick glance at Avaya Equinox gets me back up to speed with the team’s progress.

On a weekly basis, we usually need some face time, and Avaya Equinox provides complete meeting capabilities including audio / video conferencing with screen sharing so we all gain the advantages of personal interaction. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can all collaborate on content in real-time – it’s more productive and prevents misunderstandings across a widely distributed team. 

In many ways our team collaboration space has become a virtual “war room”.  Information is clearly visible and easily shared, I can see who’s available at any time and formal and informal discussions can be initiated with ease.

There’s no shortage of apps available to anyone with a mobile device and the time to spend browsing around an app store. The real challenge is finding those few go-to apps that you’ll use every day. If you aren’t using Avaya Equinox yet, I’d encourage you to give it a try. I think it will make your short list of “go-to” apps and in a month or two, you might wonder how you got through your day without it!

Building SMS Text Bots is a Breeze

As a nerdy guy, I love movies about other nerdy guys. Give me movies like “A Beautiful Mind,” “The Theory of Everything,” or “Einstein and Eddington” (two nerdy scientists for the price of one), and I am in geek heaven. Recently, I was thrilled by “The Imitation Game”—the story of Alan Turing and his quest to break Germany’s WWII secret code. While I would never dare to compare myself to Mr. Turing, I like to think that we would have a few things in common. One area would be our shared interest in natural language processing and intelligent behavior.

Way back in 1950, Turing crystallized his research into these studies in what has become known as The Turing Test. Simply put, The Turing Test is a test of a machine’s ability to impersonate a human being. For a machine to pass The Turing Test, it must be able to participate in a conversation with a human being to the point where the human doesn’t realize that he or she is interacting with a machine. I can only imagine what Turing would think of today’s technology such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Home. Better yet, imagine Alan conversing with the robot, Sophia. Would he be excited or frightened? Personally, I am a little of both.

Real or Not

If you have been reading my articles on No Jitter and here on the Avaya blog, you know how enamored I am of the Breeze and Zang workflow designers. Although I have spent the bulk of my professional life writing software in programming languages such C++ and Java, I have fallen in love with how quickly I can use the Breeze/Zang tools to go from idea, to prototype, to a production-quality application. I like to say that if you can draw it on a whiteboard, you can “code” it with Breeze.

So, the day I decided to build a text bot, I knew exactly how I was going to do it. Starting with a list of things I wanted my text bot to do, I was soon drawing out message flows and decision points (if this, do that). Once I was happy I had captured all the salient points, I turned to my computer and began typing. Early on, I realized that there was no way on earth I could capture all the different text messages my application would need to process. For instance, how many different ways can you ask for the location of a store? “Where are you located?” “What is your address?” “What city are you in?” “How can I find you?” The variations are nearly endless.

To solve this problem, I turned to natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). That, of course, led me to the 500-pound gorilla in the room—IBM Watson. With Watson, I can build “Conversations” that allow me to create intents, entities, and dialogs. Intents are used to classify a request. You can think of entities as modifiers to those intents. Dialogs are the words you want to “speak” after determining the intent.

For example, consider the phrase “Are you open on Sunday?” Here, the intent could be classified as “hours.” The entity is “Sunday.” A proper dialog could be, “We are open on Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00.” To keep things simple, I created three intents for my bot: Directions, Holidays, Hours. Those intents resulted in three dialogs. I left off entities for now.

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My next decision point had to do with maintaining a conversation over many text messages. For that I choose Avaya’s Contest Store, which allows me to temporarily store information about a text conversation. This information can then be accessed over the life of the chat.

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Now that I had an engine to process incoming text messages (Watson), and a method of maintaining a chat’s context (Contest Store), it was time to launch the Avaya Breeze Engagement Designer. I will admit that I still had a few logic problems to work through, but I would not be stretching the truth if I said that I had a rough draft of my text bot up and running in less than an hour. Working through those remaining issues consumed another couple of hours, but in a fraction of the time it would take me to write my application in Java, my bot was accepting text messages, building contexts, and texting back replies.

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I should also say that my bot is fully multi-user. It didn’t matter if one or one hundred people were all texting in at the same time. My bot kept track of each individual conversation and no one received a text meant for someone else.

 
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While my example bot is fairly simple in terms of what it can handle, the framework is extendable to just about any SMS conversations you might want to support. Future plans have me using Context Store to save the entire conversation between human and machine. Not only could this be useful for determining how accurately my bot responds to incoming requests, but it could also be used to help better serve customers. A recorded chat sessions could be presented to a human agent in the case where the user moved from text to a phone call.

Next, I would love to incorporate some of the other features that Watson provides. For example, by detecting the tone/sentiment of the conversation, my bot could sense if the human was becoming frustrated with the answers he or she was receiving from my bot. This would allow the bot to either escalate the chat to a live agent, or have an agent follow up afterwards to help soothe over what might have been an unpleasant experience – or both.

Mischief Managed

Human to human conversations aren’t going away anytime soon, but more and more machines are going to step in to handle the easy to moderately hard stuff. The point is not to trick people into thinking they are talking to a human being. The point is that machines can handle tedious jobs without coming across as machines.

While I highly doubt that anyone will ever make a movie about Andrew and his fabulous text bots, it isn’t all about fame and glory, right? This is exciting technology and the fact that I can use Breeze to create sophisticated bots by easily combining powerful, but disparate technologies, is red-carpet stuff.