Announced today, the deal trails the actual Wi-Fi network, which has been active at the 20.066-seat arena since at least earlier this month. According to Extreme Red Wings fans have already been consuming wireless data from the about 290 Wi-Fi access points currently installed in the venue, with a few more on the way as final network tuning takes place.
Tod Caflisch, director of information technology for the Red Wings, said there had been some previous attempts to bring Wi-Fi into the “Joe,” as it is known locally since opening in 1979, but those efforts didn’t pan out. The latest push, however, found what Caflisch called “an easy choice” in picking the Extreme/SignalShare team to bring Wi-Fi to the stadium, following similar tag-team deals this past year for networks at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ EverBank Field and the University of Maryland’s football and basketball facilities.
“Everybody who we talked to had nothing but great things to say” about the Extreme IdentiFi Wi-Fi technology platform, and its combination with SignalShare’s network optimization skills and its LiveFi audience engagement application. Though there is no mention in the press release about plans to use Extreme’s Purview analytics software or SignalShare’s new LiveFi nGage product suite, some of that may have to do with the fact that the current network at Joe Louis Arena is a bit of a stopgap solution, since the Red Wings are scheduled to move to a brand new home in time for the 2017 season.From the sounds of happy collaboration that echoed through a joint phone call with representatives from the Red Wings, Extreme and SignalShare, it seems like this is a networking partnership that’s just getting started, with lots of promise for the future. Even though it is a bit of a stopgap network, the Wings are still looking to add features like instant replays and in-game contests via the YinzCam-developed app platform that the Red Wings currently have in use.
“We wanted to put in [a network] that would be economical and flexible, since we knew it was going to be short term,” Caflisch said. But in a few years, he joked, “we’re going to go from the Flintstones to the Jetsons” with the new arena. Extreme and SignalShare, he said, “are a very good group of people, who are interested in our specific solution. They made it easy to move forward with this.”
Norman Rice, senior vice president of corporate development for Extreme Networks, said bringing Wi-Fi to a closed-roof hockey arena was a little bit different project for Extreme, which has made its mark in big, open-air NFL stadium deployments that include Gillette Stadium in New England, Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, and Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, among others.“But we were able to work very closely with Tod and his team, and we are very pleased to be working with the Red Wings as our first NHL venue,” said Rice. He compared the Red Wings’ owners, the Ilitch family, to the Kraft family in New England, as holding an influential position among league owners, giving Extreme another “strategic reason” to pursue the Wi-Fi deal.
SignalShare founder Joe Costanzo said that he expects hockey crowds to behave in similar fashion to other crowds using mobile devices at large public venues, mainly spending time connecting with friends via social media. “I think it [the fan activity] will be true to what we see across other venues, mainly skewed toward social media,” Costanzo said. “We’ll learn more as we do the official launch.”
The Red Wings’ Caflisch has already started to learn about wireless fan activity at hockey games, which perhaps not surprisingly has shown peaks when the Zamboni is out clearing the ice. “There are also some noticeable [traffic] spikes right after the Wings score,” Caflisch said. “It’s kind of cool to see that.”