Vodafone, smart stadiums and the 2022 Qatar World Cup

- Technology - Oct 14, 2016

Vodafone is leading the way with the development of smart sporting stadiums, no better demonstrated by its work for the London 2012 Olympics, Besitkas FC in Turkey and plans for the Qatar 2022 football World Cup.

We asked Vodafone Qatar’s Chief Operating Officer Mohamed Al Sadah all about it.   

BRE: What is a ‘smart stadium’?

MAS: From our perspective, the concept of a smart stadium encompasses two main aspects: fan experiences and improved operations. In terms of fan experiences, a ‘smart stadium’ uses technologically advanced infrastructure and digital technologies to deliver greater connectivity and create unforgettable sports experiences for sports fans.

Smart stadiums are sports venues that have been designed and developed to offer a wide range of benefits – for example, high-speed broadband network connections, rich content displays, interactive technologies and more. Together these provide fans at sporting events with an end-to-end digital experience.

Smart technologies can also enhance and improve the operations of a stadium. For instance, smart technology can be deployed to ensure the safety, security and integrity of a venue on match day. Such technologies can support the multitude of logistical and operational activities that are involved in the running of such venues – from ticketing, to parking, to payments and more.

Tell me about the Vodafone Arena. How is it ‘smart’ and what services is Vodafone providing there?

The Besitkas Vodafone Arena is Turkey’s first smart stadium, and provides a glimpse into the fan experience of the future.

At every home game played by Turkish Super League side, Besitkas JK, more than 40,000 fans have access to Wi-Fi, 2G, 3G, and 4.5G ready broadband network connections. They are able to access rich-content displays on the 850 video walls.

In addition, visitors to the stadium can access a specially developed Vodafone Arena mobile application and interactive HD screens that broadcast all the content that fans dream of – including interviews, match statistics and live updates on other games.

During the last match played at the Vodafone Arena, nearly 12,000 people used a total of 413 GB data through Vodafone SuperNet 4.5G with speeds up to 150 Gbps; about 7,000 people used a total of 785 GB data through Vodafone SuperNet Wi-Fi with speeds up to 300 Gbps.

The Vodafone arena features a unique, five layer digital infrastructure. The basis of this is the system and telecom rooms which make up the ‘digital heart’ of the smart stadium infrastructure. The second layer supporting the intelligent infrastructure is the Wi-Fi, 2G, 3G and 4.5g compatible network connections that simultaneously meet the needs of up to 50,000 visitors. The third layer comprises digital displays installed at different locations around the stadium, facilitating the broadcast of a wide range of content. The fourth layer is the Vodafone Arena App through which we deliver rich content to fans and visitors. The final layer comprises special services designed to enhance visitors’ match-day experience through location-based services powered by beacon technology.

We recognise that sports fans are increasingly tech-savvy and more connected than ever, frequently using social media to post during events and sharing ever more content. The Vodafone Arena is the perfect example of how such smart stadiums can support these growing expectations and digital behaviour.

What are you plans for smart stadiums for the 2022 World Cup? What experience do you want to deliver for fans?

Our leading Internet of Things (IoT) platform is now available in 40 markets including Qatar, as part of our strategic direction to bring all that’s innovative to the country. This demonstrates how we are always looking to bring expertise and innovation from all around the world to Qatar.

We have abundant experience in delivering smart stadium experiences – from the Vodafone Arena in Turkey, to the London Olympics and our work with Valencia Football Club in Spain.

These strengths underpin our ability to support Qatar’s efforts in delivering an amazing 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarTM, the first in the Middle East. As preparations for the World Cup accelerate, so will fans’ expectation for super-fast connectivity. The ability to share videos, pictures and messages with people online will be an important aspect of the fan experience in six and a half years’ time. So a big part of our involvement is supporting the authorities and the large number of stakeholders involved in delivering a World Cup that fulfils the promise of a fan experience like no other.

We are the ideal partner to work with organisations like the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, helping them realise the promise and the potential of the smart stadium experience. We’re also ideally placed to support the State of Qatar more broadly as the country develops the necessary infrastructure around World Cup projects and smart cities such as Msheireb emerge, offering the promise of enhancing people’s lifestyle as well as empowering businesses through efficient and sustainable services delivered by an integrated ICT infrastructure.

How is the Vodafone Arena being used as a template?

We intend to make the lessons learned from the Vodafone Arena, as well as from our other successful smart technology projects such as the London Olympics and in Spain, available to bodies such as the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.

Qatar is building seven new stadiums and refurbishing one other. Each has its own unique characteristics, features and setting. We would not suggest that there is a ‘one size fits’ all template that can or should be applied to stadia, since each venue must be designed and tailored according to the specific groups of fans it caters to, the sports it accommodates and the operational requirements of the building and the facility.

However, our experience at the Vodafone Arena provides a useful blueprint in two key areas: enhancing the fan experience and improving stadium operations.

The Vodafone Arena provides a tangible model of how a stadium can provide an end-to-end digital experience – through high speed broadband network connections, rich content displays, interactive technologies and more – enabling greater connectivity and an unforgettable fan experience.

It also tangibly demonstrates how smart technologies can enhance and improve the operation of a stadium. For instance, smart technology at the Vodafone Arena helps ensure the safety, security and integrity of the venue on match days. It facilitates a multitude of logistical and operational activities and enables us to enhance visitors’ enjoyment and experience of games through providing location-based services powered by beacon technology.

Thanks to this technology, subscribers will be able to easily find their seats, and in the near future, they will be able to place food and drink orders to be delivered directly to their seats. In the near future we will also be able to provide access to match content including stats and facts as well as enabling match-goers to access payment systems.

How will you be working with Vodafone Turkey and Be%u015Fikta%u015F to deliver these smart stadiums?

Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) designed to accelerate the transfer of knowledge, expertise and technological know-how from Turkey’s first smart-stadium, the Vodafone Arena in the Besitkas district of Istanbul to one of the world’s fastest growing football markets in Qatar.

Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey have agreed to enter into a collaboration to enable Vodafone Qatar to receive the benefit of Vodafone Turkey’s expertise, knowledge and experience in smart stadium technologies and the implementation of such technologies. This will cover the following key elements:

  • Knowledge and information based on Vodafone Turkey’s flagship implementation of smart stadium technologies in the Vodafone Arena;
  • Technical solution design, capability and functionality;
  • Resources and personnel experienced in the design and implementation of smart stadium technologies.
     

Through this partnership, we are ideally placed to provide sport fans at the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarTM with the ultimate digital experience as well as for a variety of other venues and stadiums hosting major sports events taking place around the region.

What will happen after the tournament?

We see that the technology will very much still be in use following the tournament. Qatar will no doubt be frequently hosting major sports events and the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarTM stadiums could potentially be fully prepared and equipped with Vodafone’s state-of-the-art IoT technologies.

Read the October 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine. 

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