Tap.in2 scores food-delivery deal for Cincinnati Bengals’ club seats; could more YinzCam deals follow?

Screenshot of Tap.in2's food ordering and delivery service embedded in the Cincinnati Bengals' team app. (Click on any photo for a larger image) Credit: Tap.in2

Screenshot of Tap.in2’s food ordering and delivery service embedded in the Cincinnati Bengals’ team app. (Click on any photo for a larger image) Credit: Tap.in2

Startup Tap.in2 has signed up the Cincinnati Bengals as its second big-league client for its mobile-app service that enables in-seat food and beverage service in stadiums, with a deal to bring app-based deliveries to 8,000 club-level seats at Paul Brown Stadium this season.

Expected to be formally announced today, the deal has actually been in place all season, according to Tap.in2 representatives. The deal follows Tap.in2’s breakout contract with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to bring similar services to the lower bowl of Quicken Loans Arena. A product of a Cleveland-area startup incubator, Tap.in2 partnered for the second time with Aramark to facilitate the delivery service, which offers a full menu of stadium food and beverage for in-seat delivery.

And while the Bengals are no longer undefeated (losing 10-6 to the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football) select fans at Paul Brown can at least enjoy in-seat concession delivery for the remaining games this year by ordering directly from the team’s stadium app. To our knowledge it’s only the second NFL team to offer app-based food and beverage delivery services, following the San Francisco 49ers and their VenueNext-powered app which supports in-seat delivery to every seat in the 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium.

Let the food-delivery app battles begin

beng1What’s interesting about the Bengals deal is that it has Tap.in2 melding its services with an app built by sports-app giant YinzCam, which does not offer a food-delivery option in the current version of its app used by many NFL teams. However, YinzCam did just sign a big deal with the NBA to re-do 22 NBA team apps, with the option of adding concession delivery services mentioned in the press release; however, YinzCam has not yet stated publicly how it would add such services to its core stadium-app product. Could more deals with Tap.in2 be on the YinzCam horizon?

The well-funded VenueNext, meanwhile, has signed new deals with the NBA’s Orlando Magic as well as the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, to bring more VenueNext features (possibly including food delivery) to those teams’ stadium apps. While some VenueNext features have already crept into the AT&T Stadium app for this season, food ordering and delivery to seats is not yet available at that venue. VenueNext will also provide the app for Super Bowl 50, which will be held at Levi’s Stadium in February.

Though Tap.in2 has not released any actual figures about how many orders were actually taken at games this season, it does claim to have positive feedback from the fans who have used the service, and did claim that orders were being delivered in less than 5 minutes, on average. VenueNext, which did release some food-delivery numbers from Levi’s Stadium last season, is no longer making those statistics available. However the company did say that its app brought in nearly $800,000 in revenue last season, which may give you some idea why this service is hotter than a hot dog when it comes to increasing revenue inside stadiums.

Nokia deal part of new wholesale/white-label strategy for Artemis Networks

Artemis Networks founder Steve Perlman. Credit all photos: Artemis Networks

Artemis Networks founder Steve Perlman. Credit all photos: Artemis Networks

A deal by startup Artemis Networks to provide test deployments of its pCell wireless networking technology to select Tier 1 phone-network customers of telecom equipment giant Nokia Networks is both a “coming out party” as well as a significant shift in the Artemis business strategy, from a consumer and end-user focus to a wholesale, business-to-business plan.

Though no actual customers, users or live pCell networks have yet been announced, Artemis founder and CEO Steve Perlman said he can see the end to the “long and winding road” toward real-world deployments that officially started when Artemis went public with its ideas back in February of 2014. “We look at this [the Nokia announcement] as our coming-out party,” said Perlman in a phone interview with Mobile Sports Report. “You’ll be seeing [customer] announcements soon.”

In addition to the Nokia “memorandum of understanding,” which says that Nokia and Artemis will “jointly test Artemis pCell wireless technology in 2016 with wireless operators, initially in large indoor venues and other high density areas,” Artemis also announced a shift in its plans for its expected commercial network in its home town of San Francisco, which was originally supposed to launch this past summer. (For a detailed explanation of Artemis technology, scroll to the end of this post and its links.)

From consumer network to wholesale provider

Instead of operating its own network as originally planned and selling access to consumers, Perlman said Artemis will sell LTE capacity wholesale to any interested network provider as soon as the now-approved network is completed. Artemis, which obtained a lease of spectrum from satellite provider DISH, is now setting up antennas on 58 rooftops in San Francisco, Perlman said, after finally getting FCC approval for its plans a little later than expected.

pCell antenna from Artemis Networking

pCell antenna from Artemis Networking

And instead of having to outsource or build its own customer-facing signup, billing and other back-end systems, the 12-person Artemis will instead sell capacity on its San Francisco network to any interested provider. According to Perlman, there are customers ready to buy, even though none are yet named. Potential customers could include MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) like TracPhone, who don’t own their own networks, or other larger providers looking for roaming capacity or cheap LTE in the crowded city by the Bay.

While it’s less cool than having its own branded devices and network, being a wholesale provider makes sense for the small-size Artemis, instead of trying to compete with wireless giants like Verizon Wireless and AT&T. “Wholesale [capacity] was a market we really didn’t know existed,” said Perlman. “And when they [potential customers] told us what they would pay, it was easy to see B2B as being the way for us.”

Big customers more comfortable with big suppliers

On the networking gear sales side, Perlman said that teaming up with a big equipment provider like Nokia was a necessity to get any traction in the world of LTE cellular networks. As we said before, though pCell’s projected promise of using cellular interference to produce targeted, powerful cellular connectivity could be a boon to builders of large public-venue networks like those found in sports stadiums, owners and operators of those venues are loath to build expensive networks on untested, unproven technology. And big metro wireless providers are even more so.

“We had a lot of Tier 1 operators tell us ‘we love this [pCell technology], we really need this, but we’re not buying from a 12-person startup,’ ” said Perlman. So even while Artemis’ radio technology — which promises huge leaps in performance compared to current gear — was attractive, the company’s lack of any kind of integration with the boring but necessary part of telecom infrastructure, including billing and authentication systems, held it back, Perlman said.

“We were told we could get things done more instantly if we partnered with a large infrastructure company,” Perlman said.

And while real customers from the Nokia deal will probably surface first in a stadium or other large public venue — since such a deployment would be easier to test and install than a new metro network — one team that won’t be using pCell technology any time soon is VenueNext, the app provider for the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium. Though VenueNext was publicly listed as a testing partner last spring, VenueNext has not commented on any results of any testing, and according to multiple sources there was no testing of Artemis equipment at Levi’s Stadium this summer. Though it develops the application and backend systems only, VenueNext does need to work closely with equipment providers, like Aruba Networks at Levi’s Stadium, to integrate its app functionality with the network.

Perlman, who also confirmed there was nothing brewing anymore with VenueNext (“but we’re still friends with VenueNext”), said the app developer also preferred to work with a larger-size developer than the short-bench Artemis. VenueNext, which recently announced the NBA’s Orlando Magic as its second stadium-app customer, has said publicly it would announce an additional 29 new customers before the end of the calendar year.

“We [Artemis] could probably go and do one stadium,” said Perlman about his company’s deployment abilities.

Wi-Fi thrown in for free

And while the main business for Artemis out of the gate will probably be in adding capacity to LTE networks that are running out of spectrum, Perlman said that having Wi-Fi support built into the pCell equipment could make the technology attractive to venues who need or want to bring Wi-Fi services to fans. The Wi-Fi version of pCell technology was also an after-the-fact idea that surfaced after the original pCell announcements.

“The pWave radio heads have [support for] all LTE bands and both Wi-Fi bands,” Perlman said. “So everything that Nokia does [with pCell deployments] can also do Wi-Fi. That’s pretty exciting.”

What’s yet unknown is how the ongoing acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent by Nokia may affect any potential pCell deployments. In the best possible scenario for Artemis, the acquisition could provide more entry points if the pCell technology gets integrated with Alcatel-Lucent telecom gear.

Pebble takes second step in smartwatch space


Pebble has brought out its second generation smartwatch with the $249 Pebble Steel Watch, a more fashionable, and expensive version of the original $150 Pebble offering from last year. The watch is being shown at the current CES International trade show in Las Vegas.

The Steel Watch will be available in either a brushed stainless or black matte finish as the company develops a look that would not look garish on an executive. It replaces the plastic cover with Gorilla Glass and comes with both steel and leather straps.

The battery life is good for between 5 and 7 days and it is waterproof to 5 meters. The company has added a tri-colored LED and as with the earlier model will run both the Android and the iOS operating system. Scheduled to ship at the end of the month the move coincides with the launching of the Pebble Appstore, a place where users can easily find apps designed to run on the device.

Pebble, the Kickstarter favorite, wow the market when its funding effort went massively over the amount that the company founders were seeking, something that slightly harmed the company, at least public relations wise, by forcing it deliver the product late because it needed to build significantly more than it had expected in its early run. Not that this is not a problem that most startup companies would kill for.

Pebble was certainly one of the groundbreakers, if not the groundbreaker in the wearable computing technology with mainstream devices that connected a watch with a cell phone to bring data to your wrist. There were already sports specific devices that did some of the same features in areas such as golf and running but none that seemed to serve as a pure extension of your mobile phone.

That started a land rush by larger mobile developers to lay claim to this space as well, with Samsung, Apple, Google, Sony, Dell and others delivering products, planning to or simple becoming part of the rumor mill that they have one in the works.

Samsung, Qualcomm and Sony have already brought out products with the Samsung Gear, Qualcomm Toq and the Sony SmartWatch and I am sure this year we will see a wave of additional devices introduced to the market, much like how the tablet space exploded a few years ago. A number will be simply me-too devices while others will take the time to create truly differentiated offerings.

NFL analytic app for fans, IronRank, comes to Android


There has been a huge upsurge in using advanced statistical analysis in all aspects of pro sports, with baseball leading the way, but football is rapidly catching up. IronRank has developed an app that allows fans to take advantage of the current generation of analysis.

The company has developed a method of ranking players and teams based on the standard Elo rating system and then takes the numbers it gets from the analysis and assign them to each team, which in turn is used to predict the score.

The program does an analysis on the entire team but also does separate ones for both the offense and the defenses of each team as well evaluating how teams do in the red zone, passing yards, touchdowns and other related categories. For a full look at how it does its analysis look here.

If the Elo system sounds familiar that might be because it has been used for evaluating tennis players as well as chess matches and has been found to be very accurate. IronRank said that the program so far has been successful picking winners 65% of the time and as the season progresses and more statistical information become available it increases its accuracy.

The program provides predictions on each game and ranks teams based on their division as well as their offensive and defensive capabilities. It features all of the stats that a fan could wish for and also provides past game results and provides a solid overview of a team’s performance as the season progresses.

The company now has an app available for Android devices and is working on one for iPhones. It also has a web site that has been up and running for some time. You can also follow the site at Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

There has been plenty of sports betting apps that have been released over the past few years, and few have had much staying power. However what appears to be different here is that the program uses a widely recognized, and successful system and simply applied it to the NFL. It will be interesting to see how IronRank does over the next season or two.

Sportsmanias.com Gains Funding: Rolls Out New Team-Focused App


Sports news aggregator startup Sportsmanias has raised $1 million in venture funding as it seeks to expand its reach by providing a new team-focused sports app that will enable users to track hard news about their favorite teams by focusing on news and reports from team beat writers.

The recent $1 million investment has come from Mas Equity Partners, which is led by founder Jorge Mas, who also serves as Chairman of the Board of MasTec, a $4 billion infrastructure engineering and construction company based in Coral Gables, Fla.

Sportsmanias.com, founded just last fall, has an existing web site and app that serves as a news aggregator for all major US sports including NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and the NCAA. In addition it covers a wide variety of domestic and international soccer news, teams and leagues. The news feed that a user gets can be customized to meet their sporting preferences. The company was founded by the mother/son team of Aymara Del Aguila, an advertising executive and son Vicente J. Fernandez, a student-athlete and sports writer at the University of Chicago.

Now the company has enhanced its presence in the mobile digital world with an updated free app for both iOS and Android powered devices. The Team News app will focus on providing news that has been originated by beat writers that regularly cover the team, rather than just culling all news stories that are generated about a team across the nation, often from sources that do not have direct contact and coverage of the team.

The app does not just exclusively provide beat reporter news on a specific team. It also provides team and player tweets. Two interesting features are the Rumor Filter, which collects league and team-specific rumors from top rumor sites, and a Video Filter, which aggregates footage from YouTube and Twitter.

These features have the ability to data mine rumors and videos in real time so that a fan can be up-to-date on what is going on as well as what is suspected to be about to happen. Other new features for the app include a scoreboard to follow ongoing games, and keyword search capabilities.

The company said that it currently is getting 500,000 unique visitors to its web site monthly and that with the new features and capabilities of its app it expects that it will see a strong jump to 1.5 million monthly visitors by year end.

The upgrades look to be a very good move by the company because increasingly flexibility and customization are now becoming standard in sports apps. The rumor and video filters are solid features that will help them create separation from many of the current apps that are now available, as many as just text based, and any rumors tend to be generated in house. However the need for these features, particularly video is obvious and others are headed in this direction.

Friday Grab Bag: ESPN’s Open Coverage, Dell Smartwatch?

The Guardian is reporting that Dell could be the latest to throw its hat into the ring with a smartwatch offering. Dell’s global vice president of personal computing told the paper that it was exploring ideas in the wearable computing space.

With Apple, Samsung, Google and just about every major player in consumer electronics and/or computing it is no surprise. The Kickstarter success story Pebble and its smartwatch has to be something that everybody is watching. The company was oversubscribed as it sought funding with $10 million pledged and an exclusive deal with Best Buy with a preorder of 85,000 watches.

ESPN to broadcast The Open Championship
If you are hoping to catch a few rounds of the 142nd Open Championship, golf’s oldest major, you are in luck as ESPN will be broadcasting all four days next week from July 18-21.

The network will be reaching out to fans not only via live television broadcasts and encore presentations but also live radio, and a range of digital offerings for computers, tablets and other mobile devices. It will also be using digital technology to enhance its broadcasts with technologies such as Flight Tracker.

[Editor’s note: You can also follow via The Open’s own app, online at The Open’s website and on social media like twitter. Go to The Open website for all info.]

Microsoft to slash Surface RT prices?
The Verge is reporting that Microsoft will be cutting the price of its entry level 32GB Surface RT tablet down to $350 with the version with the Touch Cover keyboard will be $450 as will the 64GB Surface RT without the cover and $550 with the cover.

The news comes as reports are also emerging that the company has an additional two more Surface tablets on the drawing board that it will release sometime in 2014. ZDNet reported that a recently seen Microsoft roadmap includes the tablets as well as a host of additional offerings from the company ranging from an Windows Office App Store to enhanced Skype support.

Apple Store hits 5th Anniversary
The Apple App Store, now no longer a pawn in a patent battle, also had other news this week as it celebrated its 5th year in business providing apps and tools, initially for the iPhone but now also includes apps for the iPad as well.

The success for the store can be seen in the fact that the number of apps it offers has grown from 500 at birth to approximately 900,000 now. There has been over 50 billion app downloads in the five years.

Google updates maps app
Most people I know use Google Maps on a regular basis and they will be happy to hear that not only has the company updated the program but made it faster as well, a common complaint. The company has made the Android updates available now with iPhone and iPad updates coming soon.

It has navigation features that include warnings for bad conditio0ns on a trip including accidents, offline map saving and better exploration features according to an early review in The New York Times.