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Why Mobile Connectivity is now a critical service in stadiums

As stadiums across the world begin to welcome back crowds, clubs are looking to improve the overall experience for fans in a post COVID-19 world.

Mobile connectivity continues to be an increasingly important utility in stadiums, with fans now somewhat expecting the service at the football grounds they visit.

UK company Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) own and operate the nation’s largest selection of indoor mobile networks, serving over 1.25 billion visitors each year.

Working with all UK mobile network operators, WIG have direct experience in designing, installing and operating mobile infrastructure and lead the market in network deployment and management in stadiums and sports venues.

2020 saw the biggest ever growth in the UK for mobile devise usage, with users trying to stay connected whilst offices, businesses and venues were closed due to the pandemic.

These figures are expected to increase again in 2021, with mobile device usage now exceeding time spent watching live TV.

Vijay Sodiwala, Commercial Director at WIG, believes that these increases during the COVID period will impact supporters’ expectations of the matchday experience in stadiums.

“It is inevitable that fan behaviour will have changed significantly in terms of how much they interact with their mobile devices and the quality of connectivity and service they expect as part of their overall stadium experience,” he told fcbusiness.

“Fans will expect dedicated coverage and a high-speed data capability allowing them to access the internet, stream videos, interact on social media, text and make calls to friends and family before, during and after matches.

“They will be less tolerant of a poorer mobile experience, especially in venues that are charging them to attend events.”

Sodiwala explains the best possible way to address poor mobile connectivity in stadiums.

“Outdoor networks (such as masts, towers and rooftop installations) are just not designed to deliver the capacity that is needed when you have stadiums operating at full capacity and it is no longer appropriate to look to the mobile network operators to solve these problems for us,” he said.

“The most efficient solution for enabling properly dimensioned mobile services within a stadium is a distributed digital network approach.

“This is a single network deployed around the stadium that can support all of the mobile network operators and all of their technologies (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G) at the same time. It can also support private network capabilities that stadiums operators and clubs have started to use as a secure, high capacity, flexible and lower-cost alternative to WiFi and traditional wired networks.”

Leading stadium owners and clubs across the UK, including Premier League clubs, have teamed up with WIG to create their own dedicated infrastructure solution.

“Stadium owners and clubs have started to look at investing in their own network infrastructure and partnering with Wireless Infrastructure Group to design, deploy, operate and maintain their stadium networks and provide the interface to the mobile network operators to enable service.”

Sodiwala outlined that because of the rapidly changing behavioural habits of fans, it is an appropriate time for clubs to invest in technology to improve their digital strategic footprint.

“The pandemic has resulted in a seismic shift in consumer behaviour with an increased reliance on mobile devices and adoption of digital technologies,” he said.

“Think of how much our daily interaction has gone digital – from attending meetings to ordering groceries – and stadiums are not exempt. Fans will understandably be relived to return to live events, but their expectations on stadium experience will be markedly different.

“Some of our stadium partners (clubs) have seen the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic as an opportunity to address this.

“Firstly, to use digital as a more effective way of engaging and connecting with fans through a more immersive and content rich experience. Secondly, clubs are looking at capturing operational efficiencies which have the potential to improve the bottom line – mobile ticketing, in- seat ordering, and mobile payments are the sort of things that come to mind here.

“Underpinning all of this of course is the realisation that high quality mobile service is key to a successful digital strategy.

“A desire to drive fan engagement, improve stadium experience and reduce operational costs certainly feels like a strong response from clubs in a post-pandemic environment. Investing in the right infrastructure approach with the right partner is the first step on that journey.”

More information on the Wireless Infrastructure Group can be found here: https://www.wirelessinfrastructure.co.uk/

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Swan Retail: Promoting clubs through powerful app 

Swan Retail’s software development has seen the creation of FUSE – an app that has all the best fan engagement features in the one place. 

It’s been a mixed bag for Australian audiences wanting to go to live sporting events, as lockdowns and restrictions have not always gone in our favour. 

For sport clubs, they have become more reliant on finding ways to engage with their fan bases via digital, as the typical match day inclusions do not always go to plan, with unpredictable Covid-19 changes. However, what is for certain is that clubs cannot be stopped in exploring ways to promote their team in a variety of ways. 

Swan Retail has identified the demand for digital and online resources, where they have taken their expertise into the sports & stadium area. 25 years’ worth of experience has lended itself towards furniture & homeware, fashion and specialty retail to name a few. 

Swan Retails app, FUSE, encapsulates that a club is searching for when it comes to fan engagement. It is completely branded to suit a club’s identity and includes an immerse news feed to create engaging content that you would see on a social media platform. The only difference here is that the app takes everything from a club and showcases that directly to a fan, rather than trapping it in amongst other competitors.

When a fan uses FUSE, their sole focus is on the team they support. FUSE is the application that integrates quality engagement, offering clubs the chance to interact with their fans, build their brand, reward loyalty and drive sales. 

Available on the App Store and Google Play, FUSE has a host of features to maximise marketing potential: 

  • Build and theme a business app. 
  • Clubs can customise their branding. 
  • Scale up only when clubs need to. 
  • Deploy to iOS & Android. 
  • Potential to be live within four weeks. 
  • Deliver engaging content through the app feed. 
  • Segment, target and deliver content based on purchase data. 
  • Display real-time loyalty points and loyalty account balances. 
  • Wrap and enhance a mobile website. 
  • Harness the power of push notifications. 
  • Drive footfall, sales, traffic and conversion. 

FUSE can bring fan engagement benefits that are developed around loyalty. To build and sustain a fan base, Swan Retail helps to bring promotions to life. The app provides the go-to resource for planning and delivering promotional campaigns, leading to an increased rate of revenue. 

Clubs can bring across their creativity and connect with fans in a more personalised manner, whether it be game day or to provide greater access off the pitch. Swan Retail have partnered with Warrington Wolves Rugby Club, Ipswich Town Football Club and Stoke City Football Club who have already seen the following benefits: 

  • News, events, polls and promotions form the pivotal part of FUSE, making content the app’s bread and butter. This can be implemented further by integrating an online shop, which can be a post of a goal celebration during the match with a promotion applied to the player’s kit. 
  • Push notifications as a regularity can consistently bring fans to the app once they have been informed of new content, rewards and timely promotions that all contribute to driving sales. 
  • Loyalty points can be accrued to make fans feel part of something special and to be rewarded for their support. 
  • A website within the app to collaborate a fans’ online experience by seamlessly allowing them to browse and buy from a store without leaving the app. 
  • Calls-to-action as a way of offering new products such as kit releases and the ability to use redeem promotions and use rewards points. 
  • Custom forms can be created as a crowdsourcing tool to get feedback and insights from the people that make the club tick and learn more about how to maximise profits. 

To learn more about Swan Retail, and to have a read of their case studies, you can find it here. 

Blink Identity: Walk straight into an event 

Blink Identity offers the latest solution for quick and easy access to events, as face recognition software can be used as a ticket.

Recently, we’ve seen QR codes become as prominent as ever with Covid-19 protocols in mind – particularly for checking in to venues. 

Blink Identity offers the latest solution for quick and easy access to events, as face recognition software can be used as a ticket – rather than having a physical or digital copy on hand. 

Backed by decades of experience, they have been developing identity systems for enterprises in high-risk environments. The biometric matching system has utilised military-grade technology to accurately identify people walking at a typical pace, adaptable to any lighting conditions. 

The basis of Blink Identity is simple – when a sports club or venue is partnered up with the company and has the camera software in place, visitors are required to enrol in the service by taking a ‘selfie’ photograph on their phone. 

Face recognition like a barcode

By taking a photograph in a matter of seconds, this leads to enormous time saved when the visitor has arrived to enter a stadium or venue, where this eliminates the risk of waiting in lines. Blink Identity collects an image of a person’s face to then be converted into a special unique code known as a mathematical template for identification purposes (like a barcode). Basic contact details involving full name and email address are used for a personalised greeting and if Blink Identity needs to contact the person respectively, with this information to ensure that a spectator can be identified at a venue and if any problems arise with the account. 

With a Blink Identity lane in operation, all the visitor needs to do is walk through and the sensor takes another photograph – to be converted into a template – which is then immediately deleted and is not saved on the sensor. This process is simply to compare the initial template (selfie) with the latest version from when the person enters a venue. 

The versatility and reliability of this technology has not only been tested with lighting conditions, but also to adjust for slight changes to a person’s appearance from one photo to the next. For instance, anyone wearing hats, glasses, colored contacts, head scarves or has a beard does not affect Blink Identity’s system. The vast majority of sunglasses, face paint schemes and sequins have also been proven to not change how the sensors operate. The system, which can identify identical twins better than the human eye, caters for any changes to a person’s appearance. In addition, customers wearing face masks are matched using periocular recognition. This is a special type of face matching that focuses on the area of the face around the eye. 

The Blink Identity Sensor

Likened to walking in like a red carpet, Blink Identity is virtually a replica with that same VIP-type feel for successful entry. Once inside the venue, the use of Blink Identity’s sensors can expand towards purchasing food and merchandise, where customer experience is advanced. For instance, if an ID check is required from a customer, a simple face recognition check can be completed, rather than sifting through pockets trying to find a driver’s license or similar.

The ease of this technology is not only positive for visitors, but for companies as well who hold events. Blink Identity integrates with standard frameworks and workflows to handle everything from implementation and enrollment to privacy compliance. By switching to Blink Identity’s system, it connects to existing ticketing, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), point of sale (POS), time & attendance and security systems. This will allow organisations to get a better insight of fan data, promoting increased revenues and analytics. 

As countries start to welcome back more fans on the other side of Covid-19 outbreaks, Blink Identity can help manage the reintroduction of these fans through seamless entry. It’s an extra piece of technology that can certainly speed up the process at popular crowded events.  

For everything you need to know about Blink Identity, you can find it here. 

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