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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Kari’s Law: An Emotional Journey Leads to a Bittersweet Ending

Our long journey leading up to the presidential signing of Kari’s Law began well before the precious life of Kari Hunt tragically ended on Dec. 1, 2013. (Learn about Kari’s story.)

For me, it actually began in the spring of 2013 when I noticed a sign on my hotel door, which read: “In case of an emergency, dial 0 for the operator.” I remember thinking, “The operator isn’t trained to handle an emergency. I should be able to dial 9-1-1 from my room phone.”

Sadly, this occurrence wasn’t an anomaly. I found it to be a common bad practice adopted by too many hotels across the United States.

There’s no doubt their intentions were good. Hotels were looking to be proactive, and they wanted to expedite not delay emergency response times. To make matters worse, direct access to 9-1-1 from Multi Line Telephone System (MLTS) was flawed because guests couldn’t dial 9-1-1 directly. They needed to dial an extra 9 just to get an outside line. That proved to be a fatal flaw in Kari’s case because her 9-year-old daughter couldn’t get through to 9-1-1. MLTS legislation also didn’t exist or, if it did, it was limited to a handful of states, and much of that dealt with the reporting location. It didn’t address the issue of access and notification.

Throughout the year, I used social media to increase awareness and drive meaningful change. I spoke at conferences and even began a podcast series dedicated to this very topic.

Then one day in December 2013, everything changed. My Google Alerts for 9-1-1 came up with a Change.org petition that was raised by Hank Hunt after his daughter Kari was brutally murdered in her hotel room.

I reached out to Hank on Facebook and offered to help him in his cause. Having an innovative tech leader like Avaya backing me increased Hank’s confidence in my ability to help him bring about the changes he sought.

My previous experience immediately proved useful, and we were able to go straight to the top at the FCC. (I had served on the Emergency Access Advisory Committee under Chairman Julius Genechowski, who had just turned the agency over to Chairman Tom Wheeler. Talk about timing!)

Following a number of tweets and letters, including an Open Letter to the FCC Chairman Wheeler, we received a call from Commissioner Ajit Pai’s office and a meeting was scheduled for Jan. 10, 2014. That meeting turned into a 45-minute discussion on the issues, the fix, and the challenges we faced.

Over the next several months, Hank and I garnered the interest of legislators in cities and states across the country: Suffolk County in Long Island, the state of Illinois, Maryland, et al.

In Texas, Avaya participated in hearings, and offered our unique expertise. We introduced the idea of a “Waiver Clause,” which stated that a business could obtain an exemption if they showed financial hardship. With the exemption was the requirement to register the make and model number of the system. This uncovered many systems that were actually capable of being compliant, and eased the adoption of the new law.

More states followed embraced the legislation—it was a full-on domino effect—except at the federal level where every attempt to bring a bill to life stalled. But then in 2018, that changed too.

After an all-night session ending on Feb. 9 on what would have been Kari’s 36th birthday, the House of Representatives passed the Senate amendment of H.R. 582, and it was officially on the way to the president of the U.S. for signature.

We quietly celebrated, knowing Kari’s murder would not be in vain.

The cherry on the cake was being invited by Hank, Kari’s father, to witness the president sign the bill into law on Feb. 16, 2018. I was both humbled and honored, and invited my former colleague Avaya Sales Engineer Dan Wilson to enjoy the moment with us. Dan had worked tirelessly on this legislation, clocking 12 miles of walking in the Maryland House and Senate.

The West Wing is everything you’d imagine: intimidating, wonderful and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a pleasure to not only stand beside Hank and witness the signing, but to also be in the company of people who supported our endeavor since day one: Ajit Pai, my good friend and now Chairman of the FCC, Congressman Louie Gohmert who introduced the bill, as well as other Congressional reps with interest in public safety. After reading a prepared statement, President Trump uncapped the ceremonial pen and placed it on the paper. As it started to move, we were overcome with emotion. To think, 50 years to the day, and quite nearly the minute, following the first ever 9-1-1 call, Kari’s Law had become the “Law of the Land.”

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.