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All hail the halo | Mercedes-Benz Stadium readies technology for grand opening

  • Extensive fibre optic network will give stadium unprecedented connectivity
  • Infrastructure is being provided to cope with increase in data opportunities
  • IBM supporting WiFi network, which will be 'quickest in the world' for sports venue

The panoramic screen that forms a ‘halo’ under the roof is perhaps the most iconic feature of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opens later this year.

However, behind the 360-degree display and all 82,500 square feet of LED display space in the venue, sophisticated and flexible technology infrastructure is being installed to support advertising messaging, the fan experience, in fact all aspects of the stadium operation.

“Fans’ data use during games is growing exponentially – doubling year on year – and we need to accommodate that,” says chief technology officer Jared Miller. “We also want to tie the screens in with interactive experiences – such as polls during games – though without distracting too much from the action on the field.”

VIDEO: A fly-through tour of the new stadium (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco claimed to have the fastest WiFi connectivity of any sports venue when it opened two years ago, at 4 gb/s, but Miller says Mercedes Benz stadium will be “significantly” quicker.

“We are using advanced fibre optic infrastructure, a passive optical network with over 4,000 miles of cable,” he explains. “We think that’s 10 times more than in any other sports venue. It supports not only fans’ mobile devices, but also the LED screens, security cameras, point-of-sale areas, the building control system. The network will have over 1,800 access points, of which 1,000 are in the seating bowl.”

The network has built in flexibility for increasing demand, and Miller reckons only half its bandwidth capability will be used initially.

Fans will access the WiFi through an app, which is being developed by the stadium’s technology partner, IBM.

VIDEO: A time-lapse video of Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

“At first, it will be foremost a utility app – providing wayfinding, information about the event on the field,” Miller says. “If we don’t get that right, we can’t augment the app with other features. But we will collect data on fans behaviour, and use that to improve the fan experience. And when appropriate, we will leverage that data, and introduce some tie-ins with founding partners, for example on food and beverage promotions.”

But what can we expect on that halo? So far, we have seen visualisations of a Mercedez Benz car ‘driving’ around the screen. Miller is reluctant to give too much away, but says messages from other founding partners are being trialled on a ‘test bed’ created for designers.

“We have simulated a portion of the halo screen which allows us to test creative content,” he explains. “This is not a flat two-dimensional canvas; it’s one of a kind and we need to take advantage of the 3D opportunity.”

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