“Smart Stadiums” or the process of change towards the football stadiums of the future

Amsterdam Arena, the largest football stadium in the Netherlands, has opened an innovation center, Innovation Arena, which emerged in 2014 with the aim of improving all the services of the sports venue through the technology of different entrepreneurial companies. The ultimate purpose of this initiative: to shape the stadium of the future through technology and entrepreneurship.

In 2014, Amsterdam Arena closed a deal with Huawei and other technology companies to provide the field with largest existing WiFi network in the Netherlands. This is how the project was born Innovation Arena, an example of an intelligent and efficient stadium.

This initiative, promoted by the stadium administration and supported by large technology companies, has a budget of 60 million euros facing the celebration of the euro in 2020. Basically, it is a proposal aimed at startups to develop different technological projects that are related to improving the visitor experience with respect to the stadium. Specifically, Innovation Arena poses various challenges: improving security, avoiding and reducing waiting times, enabling healthy food and drink options, optimizing the total visitor experience, etc., and all this through sustainability and connectivity.

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To organize and promote the challenges for entrepreneurs, the meeting takes place on the first Monday of each month “Amazing Monday”, where project organizers expose the devices created by the startups participating in each challenge. Here the candidate companies have to convince a group of experts of the usefulness of their respective projects. If the proposal is liked by the jury, the participant will receive funding to test it for three more months. If it ultimately generates revenue, serves to optimize the visitor experience and contributes to sustainability, the project is finally implemented in the stadium. In short, an ideas contest similar to the one proposed, for example, by Intel’s Edison Challenge, supported by Telefónica Open Future and other large companies in the sector, which promotes innovation and entrepreneurship through innovative solutions.

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A constantly evolving stadium

As we said, the objective of this project is to improve the user experience around the stadium. What is a soccer field for? A very simple question that seems to have an even simpler answer. It is a place that houses the most popular sports in the world, a place of pilgrimage for the most staunch fans, a place that gives off the passion and feelings of thousands of people … but, does a stadium have more uses than the mere fact of hosting football matches? The answer is yes. And it is that the final idea of ​​this project is to achieve the recreation of a “smart city”That serves to improve the operation of the complex and of all its users. A great approach supported by large companies in the ICT sector, which also provide the stadium with the largest WiFi network in the Netherlands. Specifically, these are, for the moment, the partners of the initiative: local government of Amsterdam, Huawei, KPMG, KPN, Microsoft and TNO. The common objective: to improve the proper functioning of the venue in different areas: energy and efficiency, entertainment, visitor experience, mobility and accessibility and security.

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“Smart Stadiums” or the process of change towards the football stadiums of the future

In short, the Innovation Arena project wants to turn the stadium into a multifunctional space (concert venue, conventions, workspace) to become the benchmark innovative center in the Netherlands.

The challenges of Innovation Arena

And what kind of services will be susceptible to improvement through the Arena stadium innovation initiative? According to the organization, the improvement will affect everyone: from those who give the fans the most headaches, such as long waits in queues; even to the creation of a good security system that allows anyone to feel safe in the premises; going also through the ability to connect visitors and fans online. In total, the stadium network will allow close 35,000 people can connect and enjoy high-quality content, although the purpose of the stadium management and Huawei is that in the very near future the number of beneficiaries of the project reaches the full capacity: 53,000.

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In short, the consumption of applications and the creation of the WiFi network will allow optimizing the overall experience of the fan or mere visitor to the Amsterdam Arena stadium. As an example, one of the projects we are currently working on consists of the development of an app that will allow us to view goals and important plays on smartphones in 360º, using all the cameras installed in the stadium. In addition, various “wearable” tools that will collect live player performance data for fans are still under investigation, although, at the moment, they are only available to technical staff.

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Savings and more income

In the opinion of the Amsterdam Arena CIO, Henk Van Raan, it is vital that anyone visiting the stadium has a good experience, something that is now possible because everything is connected. “The retentions in the round trips, the difficulty of finding parking, the waits to be able to access the public toilets…. To improve all these situations we are innovating so that tickets can be purchased online, and even allowing users to locate each other to share a vehicle and speed up transport through a postal code application, for example ”. “In short, we want to be an example of functionality as a smart city for Amsterdam and the rest of the smart cities in the world. This is much more than just apps for visitors’ mobiles. We want to implement solutions for the sustainability, security and accessibility of the complex ”.

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But also, another of the main reasons for the launch of this project in Amsterdam Arena, apart from preserving the quality of the facilities and services inside and outside the stadium, it has to do with savings: a 20% reduction in costs and an increase in profits of more than 20% are expected. “We do not see innovation as an activity but as a strategy to improve our operations, not only in sales and income, but also in terms of image and value created for the city of Amsterdam”, Henk Van Raan clarifies.

Improve visitor experience

At this point, it is worth considering how far the makeover of a football stadium can go with an initiative of this magnitude. Will it be an example to follow for the rest of the large sports complexes in the short and medium term? Be that as it may, Innovation Arena is one more step towards the consolidation of “smart cities”. Let the example spread.

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