Philadelphia Eagles will test CrowdOptic’s Google Glass tech at Lincoln Financial Field

Indiana Pacers cheerleaders wearing Google Glass. Credit: Indiana Pacers.

Indiana Pacers cheerleaders wearing Google Glass. Credit: Indiana Pacers.

After successfully convincing several NBA teams to use its Google Glass infrastructure technology, San Francisco startup CrowdOptic has scored an NFL deal, with the Philadelphia Eagles agreeing to test the company’s wearable-device apps at their home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.

According to a press release out today, CrowdOptic will work with the Eagles’ infrastructure provider, Extreme Networks, which brought high-quality Wi-Fi to the stadium last year.

So far, the CrowdOptic technology has been used by the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic to provide Google Glass views to stadium jumbotrons. While having such an intimate, new point of view is interesting, CrowdOptic’s technology actually goes much deeper than simple broadcast enhancement; it can also provide a “heat map” of what an aggregate of Google Glass wearers are looking at, a feature that has many possible future applications. However, it’s unclear how stadiums and arenas might eventually regulate or administer Google Glass wearing by fans, and whether or not fans will ever be able to “broadcast” their own Google Glass video views.

“We are looking forward to testing this technology and finding ways to incorporate it into our gameday presentation,” said Brian Papson, Eagles Vice President of Marketing, in a prepared statement. “Our goal is always to provide our fans with unique and behind-the-scenes perspectives through a variety of different sources and we’re excited about the potential of using Google Glass technology through CrowdOptic.”

Artemis Networks demos 20 iPads running HD video via one 5 MHz LTE channel

Artemis Networks CEO Steve Perlman shows off a "wall" of iPads, all simultaneously running video off one 5 MHz LTE channel via an Artemis pCell network. Credit: Artemis Networks.

Artemis Networks CEO Steve Perlman shows off a “wall” of iPads, all simultaneously running video off one 5 MHz LTE channel via an Artemis pCell network. Credit: Artemis Networks.

We won’t be there to confirm it, but Artemis Networks is scheduled to demonstrate its latest trick today at the Code Conference, using its revolutionary pCell network gear to stream video simultaneously to 20 Apple iPads via a single 5 MHz LTE channel.

In case you’re not a networking or cellular nerd, the ability to send that much data to a cluster of nearby devices is basically un-doable with currently deployed LTE technologies. What makes the trick possible is Artemis’s new method of combining signal interference to provide a direct connection to each client device, something that has worked well in demos but as of yet has no commercial deployment.

Still, with the track record of entrepreneur CEO Steve Perlman, best known for developing QuickTime and WebTV, it’s a good bet that Artemis will deliver something, sometime soon, to a paying customer. Artemis, which quickly added Wi-Fi and stadium networking to its target lists, says its technology addresses the big problem facing networks in large public venues, according to Perlman, who spoke with MSR in a phone interview earlier this week.

“The biggest strain on a [stadium] system is HD video,” said Perlman. And though many stadiums are adding Wi-Fi networks, almost all right now have some kind of enhanced cellular infrastructure or a cellular DAS, which these days includes LTE. A cluster of LTE devices close together trying to run video, Perlman said, “is exactly the problem [stadium networks] are facing today.”

Artemis’s pCell technology currently works only with LTE networks, though the company is working on developing a version for Wi-Fi as well. Part of the lure of the technology is that it works with off-the-shelf client devices; at the demonstration Thursday Perlman was scheduled to add the 20th iPad to his “wall of iPads” by unpacking it right at the event, to show how nothing needs to be done to client devices to add them to a pCell network.

Guest Post: How CrowdOptic is helping the Indiana Pacers and the NBA use Google Glass

Pacers GlassEditor’s note: The following post is by Jon Fisher, CEO of CrowdOptic, the San Francisco company whose technology is helping bring Google Glass views to NBA arenas. While there’s been a lot of talk about how this is happening Fisher explains the deployment in some more detail here. The feature is being used at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for today’s opening game in the Eastern Conference Finals.

By Jon Fisher, CrowdOptic

The Pacers deployed Google Glass in real time powered by CrowdOptic in every home game since it first launched against the Miami Heat on March 26, and are deploying against Miami Sunday and through the playoffs.

Former Pacer Rik Smits with Google Glass at Sunday's game.

Former Pacer Rik Smits with Google Glass at Sunday’s game.

The solution is a package of 11 Glass devices positioned at court level — worn by a variety of Pacers employees and fans (including celebrities) to contribute immersive points of view of the action. These views are seen on the arena’s Jumbotron and have included scenes like the referees deliberating from the point of view of the game announcer right in front of them. The Pacers run this solution completely on their own logistically; they hand out Glass units and the CrowdOptic software runs on a server and laptops with dashboards in the AV room and truck.

Closer images than anything else

With the Google Glass experience, fans see faces and lips move from a more immersive perspective than a traditional broadcast camera allows. And Glass isn’t simply a GoPro-like camera in these situations (Glass is a computer) as the Pacers can text through the Glass interface telling the Glass wearers when they’re broadcasting live and/or to look in a different direction if necessary to capture a desired angle using a GUI / radar interface. The Glass wearers can dynamically change their broadcasting quality (bit rate) to conserve battery life. And the Pacers just announced the capability that anyone wearing Glass in-stadium will be able to zoom into these POVs on demand and even the POVs of the Pacers’ own stadium cameras.

Jeff Van Gundy looks very Evil Empire with Google Glass on.

Jeff Van Gundy looks very Evil Empire with Google Glass on.

This is possible using CrowdOptic technology (including U.S. Patent 8,527,340) to understand when and where the Glass units are aimed in common so inferior views of the action can be discarded for quality thereby translating the noise from the 11 Glass units into manageable broadcast streams algorithmically. Glass units aimed in the same direction can also be merged using the same technology, enabling one wearer to inherit the view of another authorized wearer.

It’s this zoom capability that the Pacers announced yesterday that we think completely changes the game. Finally, CrowdOptic is the only company currently capable of broadcasting from multiple Glass units in high density simply because we were focusing on this difficult problem early. We convert the Glass Wi-Fi signal from 2.4 to 5.0 GHz frequencies, we have optimized our code for large live events and are integrated with Wi-Fi deployers SignalShare and soon Extreme Networks, and we even have a WiMAX solution.

Jon Fisher, CEO of CrowdOptic, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, inventor, author and economic analyst. Earlier he co-founded and was CEO of Bharosa, an Oracle Corporation company, which produced the Oracle Adaptive Access Manager. Fisheris a named inventor on six U.S. and eight foreign patents, and three U.S. and 17 foreign patents pending. Fisher is a recipient of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award.

Stadium Tech Report: Wi-Fi, DAS and live video get good reception at Barclays Center

Concessions feature of Barclays Stadium app. Credit: Barclays Center

Concessions feature of Barclays Stadium app. Credit: Barclays Center

Sometimes, the best surprise is no surprise. That’s the case when it comes to technology deployments at the still-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Wi-Fi, DAS and live video on both fixed and mobile platforms are all performing pretty much as expected.

According to Chip Foley, vice president of building technology for Forest City Ratner Companies (the developer of Barclays Center), perhaps the only mild surprise so far at the just-over-a-year-old Barclays is that the biggest Wi-Fi usage came not during a sporting event, but instead at the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony this past August.

“We had 7,000 people using the Wi-Fi network at the VMAs, and I was a little surprised at that,” said Foley. At Brooklyn Nets games, Foley said, the average Wi-Fi load in the 17,500-seat arena is somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 users per game. In a recent phone interview, Foley recapped the performance of the stadium’s cutting-edge technology, which also includes one of the first deployments of Cisco’s StadiumVision Mobile, which brings live video feeds to fans using the stadium app. There’s also Cisco-powered digital displays throughout the arena, and a robust DAS deployment to make sure regular cellular connections don’t fail.

HD Wi-Fi attracts 20 percent of attendees

Barclays Center, which opened in September of 2012, had the benefit that few NBA stadiums have in that it was built from the ground up with networking as a key component. If Foley has any regrets about the Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi deployment, it’s that it hasn’t really been fully tested yet. Even during the VMAs, Foley said he was using the in-building Wi-Fi to watch 10 different streaming video views on his laptop, from the red carpet cameras to the behind-the-scenes views of stars getting their awards.

Chip Foley

Chip Foley

“Our goal was to build as robust a network as possible, so that we can handle big needs of one-off events [like the VMAs] as well as the 41+ Nets games every season,” Foley said. With two 1-gigabit backbone lines providing Internet access, Foley said the Barclays network is meeting its goal of being “as fast as your fiber connection at home.”

The only drawback so far seems to be getting more fans to try out the network connection when they are at the games or events. According to Foley, despite advertising and promotions, Nets crowds almost always hit a figure of between 20 percent and 25 percent of them being online, a “Groundhog Day” situation that has Foley wondering whether it’s a natural limit.

“That may just be the number of fans who want to use it [the network]” at a game, Foley said.

The Barclays Center DAS, deployed by ExteNet Systems using gear in part from TE Connectivity, is another non-surprise center for Foley.

“The DAS is great, we never get complaints [about cellular connectivity],” Foley said. “You dread hearing that people can’t send texts. That just hasn’t happened.”

Digital displays, both mobile and fixed

One of the more compelling features of the Barclays tech experience is the implementation of Cisco’s StadiumVision Mobile technology, which brings several live “channels” of video to any fan using the Wi-Fi connection and the stadium app, which was built by WillowTree. With views from the benches, behind the basket and quick replays, Barclays can bring an up-close and personal view to even those far away from the court.

StadiumVision Mobile app being used in Barclays Center. Credit: Barclays Center

StadiumVision Mobile app being used in Barclays Center. Credit: Barclays Center

“StadiumVision Mobile is great for the upper pavilion seats, you can now get a view from a different perspective, and get replays,” Foley said. According to Foley, Cisco engineers tested the technology’s performance to ensure that it worked at every seat in the house.

Fixed digital displays are also a key technology at Barclays, starting with the unique Oculus display built into the striking exterior of the building, and continuing to the hundreds of digital displays inside. Using the Cisco Stadium Vision digital display technology, Barclays Center is able to change and update information on single screens or on all screens on the fly, allowing for greater flexibility in terms of messaging and information like concession-stand prices. Barclays also uses its displays to show train schedules, giving fans better information to plan their departures from events.

“The Stadium Vision displays have been nothing but great for us — we sold a lot of advertising on them even before launch,” Foley said. “It’s fun for our content group to build out content for the L-boards [displays where an L-shaped advertisement brackets other information on the screen], and keep it changing. Restaurant operators can use an iPad to change prices [on their screens] right before an event. They don’t have to talk to us. Overall, it’s a lot less maintenance than I expected or anticipated.”

If Foley had one chance to do anything over again with displays, it would be to add more of them to the original mix. His lesson to future stadium display builders is: If you’re in doubt, put up more.

“We must have had 30-plus meetings regarding [internal] TV locations, with 3D modeling and fly-throughs,” Foley said. “For the most part, I’m happy. But if I could, I would have more clusters [of screens]. Wherever there is one screen now, I wish I had three. People always look at a cluster.”

Adding new screens after the fact, Foley said, isn’t as simple as going to Best Buy to pick up a discount TV.

“You might be able to buy a TV for a couple hundred bucks on Black Friday, but no one tells you that to put that in a venue, once you get past union costs, connectivity and everything else, it’s about $5,000,” Foley said. “It’s way more money to add them now.”

What’s next: iBeacon, Google Glass and more analytics

What’s in the future for Barclays technology? For starters, Foley will oversee deployment of Wi-Fi services for the outside spaces surrounding the arena.

“It’d be nice to have Wi-Fi for ticket scanning outside the venue,” said Foley. “That’s one of those things that you don’t understand the need for it until you open the stadium and see what happens.”

Barclays is also looking into testing the Apple iBeacon technology, which can send text messages to devices in very close proximity. Technologies like iBeacon and even digital signage must also cross internal administrative hurdles, such as simply training sales forces and alerting advertisers to the opportunities.

“For some of the streams, there’s the question of ‘how do we sell this’ — the team has never done this and sponsors may not be aware,” Foley said. “You also have to figure out things like how many notifications and emails should we send out. You don’t want to send out too many, because that turns people off.”

Foley said the Barclays social media team is also at the start of a process of mining statistics from places like Twitter, Facebook and other social media streams, to get a better handle on what fans are using the technology for and how the experience might be improved. One possible way is through a Google Glass application, something Foley agreed might not be for everyone.

“I’m fascinated by the possibility of something like an XML stats feed [in Google Glass] where you’d still be able to watch the game,” Foley said. “We’re getting closer! It’s not for everybody, but some portion of the population is probably thinking that way.”

Wednesday Wi-Fi Whispers: DAS, but no Wi-Fi, for Niners at Candlestick

There’s already buzz building in Silicon Valley for the new Niners stadium being constructed in Santa Clara, as the team is already out front saying the facility will be an example of how to do stadium technology right.

Unfortunately for Niners fans, the next two home seasons will still be played in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, which has historically been one of the worst places to try to get a cellular signal. Though a new Distributed Antenna System (DAS) deployment should help matters some this season, there is no stadium-wide Wi-Fi in the cards, a bit of a bummer since the team’s new game-day app features lots of video — which you need Wi-Fi to watch.

With an edict from the commish Roger Goodell to put Wi-Fi into every stadium, teams across the league are moving quickly to figure out how to get that done (see the second part of this post about Carolina’s new spiffy network). Caught in the middle of this deployment strategy is Candlestick, which has to be one of the worst geographic locations for wireless traffic. Not only is the stadium hidden by a small hill directly to the west (which can block signals from nearby cell towers), it is surrounded on its three other sides by the San Francisco Bay — in case you weren’t aware, wide open spaces of water also play havoc with wireless signals, and you don’t see too many antenna towers floating around.

The historically terrible cellular situation at Candlestick was brought even more to light by last year’s “blackout” game, a Monday night tilt against the Steelers that saw the stadium lose power not once but twice. Though we didn’t hear any reports of fan panic (no shaking) we did hear from a lot of folks about how nobody knew what was going on because nobody could get a cell signal to check Twitter.

To help alleivate the problem the Niners and the top three wireless carriers — Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and Sprint Nextel — collaborated on the installment of a DAS system at Candlestick, essentially a bunch of small cellular antennas mounted inside the stadium to make it easier for fans to connect. Apparently there is also a day-of-game Wi-Fi network in service at Niners games, though we haven’t been able to find any press material telling us where the service can be accessed. While we wait for the Niners’ reps to get back to us we will take a wild guess and post that it is a parking-lot or concession-area only network, and not something you can use at your seat.

So, Niners fans — even though there is a spiffy new game-day app, you probably aren’t going to get much use out of the video component at Candlestick. And since it doesn’t make sense to drop a few million bucks on a Wi-Fi network that will only be used less than a couple dozen times before the team moves south, unless the Niners can figure out how to bring in a portable Wi-Fi network the Candlestick fans are probably stuck with the DAS deployment as their best connection. Though DAS deployments are better than nothing, they simply don’t have the bandwidth that a robust Wi-Fi network can bring to the table.

Carolina Gets Stadium-Wide Wi-Fi, Courtesy of AT&T

In stark contrast to the situation at Candlestick is the news from the Carolina Panthers, who will have a powerful new Wi-Fi network at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte this year, courtesy of Ma Bell.

You can read the press release and from it what jumps out at us is the 460 Wi-Fi access points, a huge number that should keep everyone there connected. According to the release the Wi-Fi access is free and easy for AT&T customers, with users of other carrier systems having to connect via a “simple login.” Anyone out there in Panther land sample the new network yet? If so give us some SpeedTest results in the comments.

NFL’s Mobile Device Stadium Strategy Slowly Coming into View

There is no official announcement we have seen but if you peruse any NFL team web page you will see a bunch of little widgets popping up saying things like “Watch 49ers games online” with a link to the new preseason and rewind tablet apps that Greg Quick wrote about last week. There are also several teams, like the Niners, who apparently have some kind of GameDay Live-branded app — if this reminds you at all of MLB.com and its AtBat app strategy, it’s not a coincidence. You don’t need a press release to see what is happening, albeit a bit slowly — the NFL, like baseball, is moving to a single app for live mobile-device action, and it will cost you a bunch of extra dollars to watch it.

I think the fly in the ointment right now is the NFL’s current exclusive deal with Verizon for the NFL Mobile app, but I think that contract is up soon and I would be surprised if the NFL renews it. More likely we will see an MLB.com strategy emerge, where you purchase mobile-device access on a monthly or season-long basis. For the current year the NFL will take baby steps as it tries to help teams get networks put into stadiums. But I bet by next year there is a cohesive digital device content strategy that will cost fans a few more bucks. Might be worth it though, to get other games and RedZone while you are tailgating or waiting through halftime.

RadioShack Tour Tracker Will Return For Second USA Pro Challenge Mobile Coverage

The USA Pro Challenge debuted in Colorado in 2011 as a new stage race but with a long history in some respects dating to the iconic Coors Classic which ended in 1988. The high degree of the new event's success even surprised race organizers.

Strong online and mobile event coverage helped in 2011, and it will return for the race's second edition, Aug. 20-26, beginning in Durango, Colo., via the RadioShack Tour Tracker.

Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), the third-place finisher in this year’s Tour de France, 2011 Tour de France titlist Cadel Evans (BMC) of Australia and defending race titlist Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) of the United States are among the favorites for the Colorado race.

Five of the top 13 finishers in this year’s Tour de France plus a host of other Tour de France and Olympic riders will participate in the 683-mile, seven-stage race that will take the expected field of 126 cyclists from 16 teams to Denv

er.

The free RadioShack Tour Tracker (RSTT) app is downloadable from the Apple app store and Google Play. Available as a mobile and web-based app (online at prochallenge.com/RadioShack-TourTracker), RSTT features live video coupled with real time data, including stats and the standing of each rider.

Each stage will be detailed “on the road” and will immediately report breakaways, time gaps, speed and road gradient.

Fans viewing the race in person can use the RadioShack Tour Tracker’s integrated GPS tracking to monitor race progress on the detailed course map and anticipate the arrival time at their viewing point.

The TourTracker is considered the premier online and mobile race coverage platform. (Editor's note: We profiled Tour Tracker last year.) It addition to the USA Pro Challenge, it's utilized in the Tour de France, Tour of California, Tour of Utah and other international cycling events.

James Raia is a California-based journalist who writes about sports, travel and leisure. Visit his cycling site at tourdefrancelife.com

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