Red Bull Arena grabs Wi-Fi by the horns

The New York Redbulls take on NYCFC at Red Bull Arena on Sunday night May 9, 2015 in Harrison, NJ.
Ben Solomon/NYRB

The New York Red Bulls have proven themselves very goal-oriented on the soccer pitch, so it was no surprise the team was equally methodical when they began a Wi-Fi upgrade in November 2016.

Teams and stadium owners like to say their technology improvements are intended to improve fan experience. The Red Bulls are no exception, but Peter Katic, senior director, IT and arena systems for the team, said there were other issues driving the Wi-Fi upgrade. Mostly, the team wanted technology that wouldn’t need to be supplemented or gotten rid of in a couple years. “We didn’t want to have to keep changing the cores or access points and doing site surveys,” Katic said. “We wanted something that would evolve with us, and after months of research we found the Cisco Meraki solution really fit the bill.”

Red Bull Arena is relatively new by sporting standards; it opened in 2010 on the banks of the Passaic River in New Jersey and seats 25,000. But the venue has never had fan-facing Wi-Fi. On the corporate side, the organization uses Aruba/Hewlett Packard for its wireless connectivity needs but keeps that network separate from fans.

A close-up look at a Wi-Fi antenna deployment, Credit: Red Bull Arena

In tandem with the new Wi-Fi installation, the Red Bulls bought Cisco switches for the entire venue’s networking requirements, and layered on the Meraki wireless gear. The new network, including 172 APs, went live this past March, Katic added.

The Red Bulls partnered with Safari Telecom for the heavy lifting part of the technology upgrade. “One of our biggest challenges was the I-beams and side beams on the sections of the lower bowl,” Katic said. Safari custom-built clamps and anchors for mounting the APs, since drilling through the beams wasn’t an option. “Safari did a great job working in subzero temperatures during the offseason, mounting this stuff and getting it activated for our first event,” an international mini-tournament, not a Red Bulls game, he said.

All the Meraki APs were mounted overhead, avoiding the extra cost of under-seat APs. “There wasn’t really a business need to mount APs underneath the seats to provide coverage to patrons, not to mention the additional resources and labor,” he explained, adding that Red Bull is a company that values aesthetics. “We’re a premium brand… even the color of the AP really fit into the stadium aesthetic.”

Red Bulls fans like iPhones

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The Red Bulls are already taking advantage of the Wi-Fi system’s native applications – things like analytics; total data downloads and uploads; identification of device types used by patrons as well as the websites they visit.

Another Wi-Fi AP deployment

“Facebook seems to be the king here, but fans are also on YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter,” Katic said. More than two-thirds of fans — 68% — use iPhones. “That’s an interesting statistic, especially for the app, which will need to be optimized for the iPhone,” he added.

So far, the highest number of connected users for a single game has been 3,200, with a peak rate of 2,400 simultaneous users. The arena’s Wi-Fi system is engineered with a take rate of 40 percent, and fans are getting upload and download speeds ranging from 40 to 80 Mbps during events, according to Katic.

“We’re always tweaking it, but the Wi-Fi performance has been better than we expected,” he said. At a recent match, fans downloaded about 490 GB of data and uploaded approximately 145 GB, according to figures Katic pulled off the Meraki dashboard, which he judged easy to use. “You don’t need to be an IT guru to get into the dashboard or run the analytics.”

There’s also a free API in the Cisco Meraki solution that allows the Red Bulls to add features and capabilities as needed. Though the Red Bulls haven’t tapped the API just yet, they’ve got lots of plans. “We intend to use the API for our splash page, target marketing, wayfinding, in-venue engagement, and loyalty and revenue-driving campaigns,” Katic said. “In this way, we really provide the fans what they want.”

There’s no companion app at the moment, but that’s likely to change. “We’re looking at it, but MLS is going to be launching a league-wide app for all the teams,” Katic added. It’s another smart way to build and deepen connection with Red Bull fans.

A good look at Wi-Fi deployments in the Red Bull Arena upper seating.

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Friday Grab Bag: Everest site of new wing suit record attempt

If imitation is the highest form of flattery then Felix Baumgartner, the man who jumped from space, must be very flattered that his action is being imitated by climber Joby Ogwyn who will do a similar stunt, this time from the top of the world’s highest peak.

If all goes as planned the Discovery Channel will be broadcasting the feat on live TV this May as it covers the last stage of Ogwyn’s climb and subsequent jump. It is expected to cover five miles and feature three stages. It will be covered by 15 cameras including some that are mounted in the wing suit.

Tim Tebow to be face of A-11 League?
There is a new spring pro football league forming called the A-11 FL that is planning on starting to play this year with first games slated for May. Initially the league will have eight teams at its formation that will span cities across the United

Now there are reports that one of the teams, not surprisingly based in Tampa, is looking to give Tim Tebow a shot at redemption by selecting him as its quarterback. A league official said that Tebow would become the face of the league.

New Thursday & Saturday NFL games this year
If you had CBS as the station that would win the bidding war for new Thursday Night Football games step up and accept your prize! The channel will be airing eight games this upcoming season, which will be simulcast with the NFL Network broadcast. The NFL Network will also exclusively show eight late season games.

Then there is the expansion to Saturday, where the league will show two games on Dec. 20, Week 16 of the season and after all of the bye weeks have passed for the teams. The kickoff times and teams are still being determined.

1904 Olympics must have been something
While the current Olympics in Sochi are getting a good deal of grief prior to the opening ceremony you have to wonder what people would be saying if the games imitated on that took place over 100 years ago?

The Smithsonian has an interesting piece on the games that took place in 1904 in St Louis, Mo. and specifically on the top event, the Marathon. One feature was that they intentionally allowed the athletes to become dehydrated during the run to see what effect that would have.

Baseball Corporate Sponsors: A History
It appears that all but eight stadiums in MLB have a corporate sponsor, and with the Texas Rangers selling the naming rights to Globe Life and Accident Insurance Co. there are now only nine without an extended title that just rolls off of your tongue.

Yet just 20 years ago, according to the Consumerist, there was only one that had a sponsor name while most were simply named for their location and one, San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium, was even named after a sports writer of all things. Take a look at how some of the names have undergone change in the last two decades.

Mobile Sports Report Grab Bag: MLB Man Cave, Red Bull Crash

Last fall ESPN rolled out a new stat that it claimed would be the be-all and end-all in quarterback ratings called the Total Quarterback Ratings or (QBR). The company said that it went much further than other rating systems by adding in such important features as how clutch the performance was.

Now fast forward a year and use of the number has fallen off a cliff at ESPN. A good look at this is provided by The Classical which provides a good overview of the inner workings of how QBR is figured. I guess they can put this next to the last attempt at creating its own stats – Productive Outs in baseball.

Samsung wins another round vs Apple
A Dutch court has ruled that Apple’s multitouch patent was not infringed on by Samsung last week. The Court of The Hague ruled that the patent that describes technology that prevents smartphone users from pushing two on-screen buttons at the same time is not the same as the technology that Samsung does use in its Galaxy products.

As part of the ruling the court has ordered Apple to pay Samsung court costs, which are in excess of $422,000, according to CIO.com. Where this leaves the overall case, with each player winning and losing versions of it around the globe is anybody’s guess.

MLB taking applications for 2013 Fan Cave
If you think that the Fan Cave contest is a waste of time consider the case of Ashley Chavez, Ricardo Marquez and Kyle Thompson who are all at the current World Series and one will be declared Fan Cave Champion.

Sound interesting? Well it is too late for this year obviously but MLB is accepting applications for 2013 to be part of the “Fan Cave.” After the application process is closed there are elimination rounds and then a final lineup of nine fans. Did I mention they also went to the All Star Game this year?

Miscellaneous earnings reports
Earnings reports were in and it was a very mixed bag. HTC reported sales down 23% from previous quarter to $2.4 billion and said that it expects a weaker Q4 at approximately $2bn. Samsung however saw a huge spike in sales of its Galaxy that helped it set a new all time highs in sales and profits, driven by an estimated sale of 56 million smartphones in the quarter. It had net profit of$ 5.9 billion.

Apple reports 24% increase in earnings at $8.2bn and a 27% increase in revenue at $36bn, and disappointed Wall Street. The company said that it shipped 26.9 million iPhones in the quarter and was still heavily backlogged. Amazon when back into the red for the first time in four years when it reported a $274 million loss on sales of $13.81bn. The company took a $169 million write down on its stake in Living Social, a daily deal site.

Cost of Instagram deal drops
When Facebook purchased Instagram for an estimated $1 billion in April quite a few in the market were astounded at the price tag. Now that the dust has settled, and the deal paid for, the price tag has dropped quite a bit.

According to a filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission Facebook’s final cost for the deal was $715 million that consisted of $300 million in cash and 23 million shares of stock. The original price was based on Facebook’s estimated $30 per share stock price, pre-IPO.

Looking for a great crash video? Red Bull has the answer
Here is a video taken from the helmet cam of extreme mountain biker Cam Zink taken during an attempt to cross a 68-foot canyon. Guess how he fared.

Is RIM, among others, doomed?
Digi Times is reporting that due to mounting losses Research in Motion may be broken up and sold to other high tech companies. This is not that really surprising if it happens, its management has said in the past that all options are on the board and the company’s losses continue to mount.

What is surprising is that the article goes on to say that both Nokia and Motorola may also be on the chopping block for exactly the same reasons, even though Motorola is now owned by Google. I suspect that Google will want to keep the patents at the very least.

Mobile Sports Report Friday Grab Bag: Legos Leap, Ravens Grasp Social Media

It seems that all anyone could talk about at the start of this week was the amazing feat that Felix Baumgartner accomplished by setting a free fall record and breaking the sound barrier while doing so with a jump from 128,097 feet above sea level.

Now you can watch the entire event played out before you, by Legos!

Intel’s weak Q4 Outlook
Intel’s earnings were released this week and they disappointed, with its profits falling 14% amid a decline in sales of personal computers. The company had revenue of $13.6 billion and reported a profit of $2.97 billion.

The company warned about its outlook for the next quarter as it expects demand for personal computers to remain weak and the global economy to be soft. Also an issue is the demand for tablets, which appears to be siphoning away sales, although Intel will be looking to move further into this space when Microsoft releases its Windows 8 operating system later this month.

FBI warns on Android Malware
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has issued a release that said that a number of different malware apps are attacking mobile phones that run the Android operating system. Some of the latest known versions of this type of malware are Loozfon and FinFisher. Loozfon is an information-stealing piece of malware.

IC3 has a list of helpful hints that are designed to help prevent infection or to let you know how to deal with one when it occurs. Among them are use encryption is offered on the phone, use a pass code and be careful with apps that use Geo-locate.

NBC Sports Group in 4-year partnership deal with Formula One
NBC Sports Group will be showing all of the Formula 1 Grand Prix races starting next year including qualifying and practice rounds after it signed a 4-year deal with the Formula One Management. Four races will be on NBC and the remaining 16 will be available on NBC Sports Network.

The 2013 F1 Grand Prix schedule starts next March and runs through November and will include 20 races in 19 countries with the season starting on March 17 in Australia on NBC Sports Network and concludes on Sunday, Nov. 24 in Brazil on NBC.

NPD Group breaks down Windows Surface rumors
Want an advanced look at the forthcoming Windows Surface Tablet? Well we cannot help you there but the NPD Group has taken the trouble to parse down all the rumors and provide what appears to be a solid outline of the product and the company’s plans for it.

It looks as if there will be 3-5 million built and available on the initial run and that it will feature a Tegra processor, 32 and 64GB of flash memory, and a 1377×768 screen with a starting price in the range of $499 for a base model and the next step up at $100 more.

The Baltimore Ravens: Digital Powerhouse
There is an short piece in the Baltimore Sun about how the Ravens have embraced digital and social media as tools to not only reach out and embrace and inform the fans but also as a tool to publish and profit from that experience.

The image with the article is where the meat is, it shows that the team has a unified approach that includes Twitter, Facebook and mobile alerts along with mobile apps and other digital media all tied into its BaltimoreRavens.com site.

Apple loses too cool appeal
Apple has lost its latest legal round with Samsung when Britain’s Court of Appeal backed a lower court’s earlier judgment that Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet did not infringe on Apple iPad copyrights. The reason the lower court used was that the Galaxy is “not as cool” as the iPad.

Can’t we all be friends? Google event to compete with Microsoft’s
It seems that increasingly plotting the date for a hot new release has become a tough chore as a requirement seems to be to steal a rival’s thunder as well as promote your own product. Many believe that Apple’s iPad event that is expected for next week is one such scheduling example.

Now Google has jumped on the bandwagon and is hosting an Android launch event in New York City on Oct. 29, the same day that Microsoft is launching Windows Phone 8 in San Francisco.

The World Wingsuit League Jumps into Action backed by Red Bull China

While the news of a new sports league often seems like old news being just an imitation of an existing sports league, the World Wingsuit League, that leaps into being tomorrow in China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park seems assured of not being another knock off pro league.

The league is kicking off with the Tianmen Mountain Grand Prix Wingsuit Race where contestants will start the race by jumping off a 900-foot cliff, which you have to say is very different than how most sporting events begin.


The event is brought to us, not surprisingly, by Red Bull China, and will feature 16 athletes dressed in wingsuit who will not just leap off of a cliff but then complete a three quarter mile long obstacle course while flying. While maybe not quite the Red Bull Stratos experiment this looks like a real thrilling and exciting event.

They will fly around a course marker platform on the ground below that is roughly the size of a tennis court seconds after jumping, then swoop down the mountain and under the tramway cable finish line before opening their parachutes and landing at the mountain’s foot.

Just doing the jump once seems like an award winning feat and that is really just the start. There will be two rounds of two runs each with the first being an elimination round with all 16 wingsuit pilots, then a finals round with the top eight. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the top finishers. In addition, the Grand Prix champion will earn $20,000, 2nd place will win $10,000 and 3rd place will take home $5,000 while the fastest time gets a trophy.

From the images posted at its Facebook page it looks like in the practice runs the athletes are diving into a fog bank. I am pretty sure that there is no way you could get me to do that. So far the fastest round in the qualifying rounds was by James Boole and his time was 23.83 seconds

I think this looks like a great event and one that I would be very happy to watch but unfortunately it looks like it will only be broadcast live in China. The WWL said that it is working hard to get a live streaming video of the events that will take place on the 13-14 of this month, but so far no news. You can follow the league on its Facebook page. It also has a YouTube channel but it does not say if that will have live video.

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