San Antonio Spurs refresh mobile app with new features from YinzCam

Screen shot of new app design for the San Antonio Spurs. Credit: YinzCam

The San Antonio Spurs announced a new version of the team’s mobile app, which includes new features both for fans attending Spurs home games at AT&T Center as well as for fans following the team remotely. The new features were added to the app by developer YinzCam, which also designed previous versions of the team’s app.

According to YinzCam and the Spurs, a new interface designed for clarity and faster navigation will help fans find new features like blue-dot wayfinding (available only for Apple iOS devices) as well as new interactive maps available for both iOS and Android devices. Another update is the inclusion of on-demand replays for fans at AT&T Center, with four different camera angles to choose from, according to YinzCam.

In a nod toward a trend of team and stadium apps adding more attendance-specific services, the new version of the Spurs app will inlcude a “Season Ticket Member Club,” which the Spurs and YinzCam said will provide special offers and discounts, as well as the ability for season ticket holders to have single sign-on access to Ticketmaster’s account manager, which they can then use to digitally manage their tickets.

What’s not clear is if this update is an addition to an update YinzCam was scheduled to provide to the Spurs in the wake of a 2015 deal with the NBA under which YinzCam was to redesign 22 NBA team apps, including the Spurs’. Since that deal several teams have replaced YinzCam with a competitor — the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Hornets are all currently working with VenueNext to deliver their team apps. The Orlando Magic are also a VenueNext client, the first NBA team to pick that developer.

YinzCam, however, still claims to have developed 21 of the NBA team apps in use this season, including apps for the following teams: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards. The Sacramento Kings and the Miami Heat use apps designed by Built.io, another newcomer in the stadium and team-app market. This year the Detroit Pistons turned to Venuetize for their team app in their new home, Little Caesars Arena. According to this release Venuetize also helped design the new app for the Portland Trailblazers. The Dallas Mavericks’ team app is supplied by Tixsee.

BNP Paribas Open serves up new app from YinzCam

Screen shot of new BNP Paribas Open app from YinzCam.

The BNP Paribas Open, one of the premier stops on the professional tennis tour, has tapped YinzCam to provide a new app for this year’s event that includes support for a wide range of services including ticket purchases, wayfinding, transportation to and from the venue, and a schedule of matches.

The new app, available for iOS and Android devices, is the first tennis-venue app for YinzCam, whose market-leading list of customers is mainly in U.S. professional sports, including the NHL, the NFL and the NBA. Reflecting YinzCam’s historic excellence in providing content to mobile apps, the BNP Paribas Open app will include biographies and photos for the more than 200 women and men players from the WTA and the ATP World Tour. According to YinzCam, the app will also support live scoring and real-time match results.

Probably one of the more important features to fans at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the tournament’s host venue, is the interactive map, which provides information on food and beverage options as well as other services (restrooms, ticket offices, etc.) as you scroll through the map. YinzCam said the app also has a chatbot to answer questions, though when we tried asking it “will Roger Federer win?” it asked us to rephrase the question because it didn’t understand.

As previously reported by MSR, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is well covered for Wi-Fi with a network using gear from Ruckus; apparently, the new app replaces the previous app developed by The App Company of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

Tampa Bay Lightning pick Venuetize for new Amalie Arena app

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena have selected developer Venuetize for a new team and stadium app that will bring features including a multi-purpose digital wallet that will help fans manage their ticket options for hockey games and other events at the venue.

Screen shot of the new Amalie Arena app by Venuetize.

Announced in January, the new app is already available for iOS and Android devices. According to the team, the app supports the ability to purchase concessions and merchandise with a mobile device, as well as being able to perform detailed ticketing transactions including transfers and even transfers of discounts.

The deal with the Lightning represents Venuetize’s second NHL deal this season, following the company’s win to provide a similar stadium and team app for the Detroit Red Wings (and the Detroit Pistons) at Little Caesars Arena. Venuetize also previously built an integrated app for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres.

With new entrants like Hopscotch challenging established app players like YinzCam and VenueNext in the stadium and team app arena, Venuetize seems to be claiming its own turf with apps that lean heavily on transaction features, as well as the ability to easily shift between sporting events and other events at stadiums.

YinzCam, which made its name early in the space with content-focused apps, recently unveiled a feature that allows app users to order and pay for food and beverages. Clearly, the ability to support more transaction-based services seems to be part of the increased table stakes in the stadium and team app market going forward.

Spiking the Surface: Why Microsoft’s NFL deal got thrown for a loss

Bill Belichick’s very thorough takedown of the Microsoft Surface slapped a fried egg on the face of Microsoft’s $400 million deal with the NFL to use the tablets on game-day sidelines. In the latest STADIUM TECH REPORT PODCAST, co-hosts Phil Harvey and Paul Kapustka explore why the deal was flawed from the beginning, and whether or not wireless technology can be counted on to perform in NFL sideline environments.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST:

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes!

UPDATE: Super Bowl 50 stadium app will only support in-seat beverage delivery

Screenshot of home page of Super Bowl 50 stadium app. (Click on any photo for a larger image)

Screenshot of home page of Super Bowl 50 stadium app. (Click on any photo for a larger image)

UPDATE, 1/29/16, 11 a.m. — One of the most interesting features of Levi’s Stadium and its ground-breaking stadium app — the ability for fans to order food and beverages on their phones and have them delivered to any seat in the stadium — will be only half-enabled as part of the Super Bowl 50 app, with beverages the only items available to be delivered to fans in their seats.

While the app originally showed food items available for delivery service when it went live Wednesday night, by Thursday morning only beverages were showing up in the In-Seat Delivery menu. Food items and merchandise, however, can be ordered in advance and picked up at express windows throughout the stadium.

Developed for the NFL by VenueNext, the developer behind the regular Levi’s Stadium app, the Super Bowl 50 stadium app otherwise has most of the regular bells and whistles enjoyed by San Francisco 49ers fans the last two seasons, including the live wayfinding maps feature.

In a quick run-through of the app the other new feature we didn’t see was the ability to send food and beverages to a friend in the stadium, which makes sense to leave out since a Super Bowl crowd probably doesn’t have as many friends at the venue as a regular Niners crowd would. The Super Bowl 50 stadium app also has some NFL-specific add-ons, including a Super Bowl Fan Guide (what to bring, what not to bring) and a link to the NFL Experience promotional site, as well as a direct link to download the NFL Mobile App. Features not visible yet on the app that will be there for game day include game-action instant replays, as well as a “Celebrity cam” and a way to see Super Bowl commercials from the game broadcast via the app after they air on TV.

Niners, NFL agreed on keeping food delivery sidelined

If there was a component that would really make this Super Bowl different from past Super Bowls it would have been regular Levi’s Stadium food-ordering and delivery options, which are unmatched in any other large stadium we are aware of. From our personal experience the food ordering and delivery system worked well at a past Niners regular-season game, and enabled us to watch a full Niners touchdown drive instead of having to stand in a line to purchase a beer and a pretzel.

Food and drink delivery order page on Super Bowl stadium app, including the $13 Bud Light.

Food and drink delivery order page on Super Bowl stadium app, including the $13 Bud Light.

In its first year the in-seat delivery service was only used a couple thousand times a game at most during Niners regular season home games, which apparently didn’t stress the system. But at the first real “big event” at Levi’s Stadium — the Coors Light Stadium Series outdoor hockey game between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21, 2015 — a massive amount of food orders by hockey fans overwhelmed the delivery system, leading to long wait times and many canceled orders, and lots of frustrated fans.

It didn’t help that the stadium that night also suffered from some Wi-Fi outages and some disconnect on the Verizon cellular network, but the failure of the app and the delivery system (which included not having enough human runners on hand to fulfill all the orders) introduced doubt as to whether Levi’s Stadium could deliver on its delivery promise for a big-game crowd.

According to San Francisco 49ers chief operating officer Al Guido, the decision to only have beverage deliveries at Super Bowl 50 was one reached jointly by the NFL, the Niners and VenueNext, and the catering company for the stadium, Centerplate. In a phone interview Friday Guido said that the potential “amount of education” for all the fans new to the stadium and new to the app led the league, the Niners and the caterers toward a path of greater simplicity, namely just having beverages available for in-seat delivery.

“It was a risk-reward decision about the amount of fan education needed,” Guido said. “There’s so much going on at a Super Bowl and so many people new to the stadium that it didn’t seem worth it to us to risk someone not getting an order delivered because of their error, or our error.” Guido added that with all the extra breaks in action for a Super Bowl, and additional concessions stands, “there’s enough time to get around” to get food.

At the very least, Super Bowl 50 fans won’t need to leave their seats to order beer, wine, sodas, Gatorade and water, the only items currently on the delivery list. What shouldn’t be a big concern to the high-rolling Super Bowl attendees is the $5 service charge for delivery and the high concession prices, including the $13 bottle of Bud Light. For the record, Guido said the delivery system performed at similar levels this regular season compared to last, with about 2,000 to 2,500 delivery orders per game.

Screenshot of wayfinding features in Levi's Stadium app. Photo: Aruba

Screenshot of wayfinding features in Levi’s Stadium app. Photo: Aruba

The app can also determine which windows are closest or have the shortest lines, to help fans satisfy their hunger or thirst needs as efficiently as possible. Using the express pickup option, fans can choose items and pay for them and have them ready for quick pickup at the closest or least-trafficked nearby stand, also cutting the time needed to get fed.

Directions, maps helpful too

What also might be extremely helpful to many of the first-time Levi’s Stadium visitors are the app’s ability to get fans to Levi’s Stadium, and then help them find their way around once they get there. The former feature is one we’ve been having fun with since it links to Google Maps and gives fans options for public transit, walking and bicycling to the stadium — according to the app it will only take us 16 days to walk to Levi’s Stadium from our home here in Boulder, Colo., or five days by bike. Apparently the app isn’t familiar with winter or mountains, but that shouldn’t affect those who use it while in the San Francisco Bay area.

Inside the stadium, the 2,000+ Bluetooth beacons allow the app to offer interactive wayfinding, via maps that show users as a familiar blue dot walking around the stadium. Fans will need to turn on location services and Bluetooth for the mapping features to work.

Aruba expands beacon management options, adds VenueNext as app development partner

An Aruba Sensor "in the wild" at the University of Oklahoma library, part of a test deployment of the new hardware. Photo: Aruba (click on any photo for a larger image)

An Aruba Sensor “in the wild” at the University of Oklahoma library, part of a test deployment of the new hardware. Photo: Aruba (click on any photo for a larger image)

Stadiums and other large public venues that use any type of Wi-Fi hardware will now be able to use Aruba’s beacon-based apps and beacon management systems, thanks to a new “beacon sensor” introduced by Aruba today.

Part of a wide-ranging announcement heralding “version 2.0” or Aruba’s “mobile engagement” platform, the new beacon sensor — a $195 plug-into-the-wall device that can monitor and manage up to 10 nearby beacons — enables networks using any vendor’s Wi-Fi gear to utilize Aruba’s proven beacon software systems, which include the ability to support wayfinding apps. Prior to today’s announcement, only Aruba-based Wi-Fi networks could closely integrate with the Aruba beacon-based apps, a factor that limited market potential for Aruba’s beacon efforts. The new beacon sensors, Aruba said, also allow for cloud-based management of beacon deployments, which could save huge amounts of time by eliminating the need to physically visit or monitor each beacon in a network.

With the ability now to reach out to non-Aruba Wi-Fi customers, the former Aruba Networks — now formally known as “Aruba, a Hewlett Packard enterprise company” — also expanded its app developer partner program to target several different vertical markets where beacons might find a welcome home, like health care and retail/office situations. VenueNext, the developer of the Levi’s Stadium app — perhaps the poster child deployment of Aruba’s beacon offerings — is now a formal partner with Aruba, which may help VenueNext in its goal of bringing Levi’s Stadium app features like wayfinding maps to other stadiums, including those without Aruba-based Wi-Fi networks.

Aruba beacon at Levi's Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Aruba beacon at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Bringing beacon management to other networks

Jeff Hardison, director of product marketing for mobile engagement at Aruba, said the beacon sensor came out of internal questioning about how Aruba could help make beacons more mainstream, “and more useful.”

The solution is a small box, not much bigger than a beacon, which has inside both Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi radios, allowing it to connect both to nearby beacons via Bluetooth and to Wi-Fi access points — importantly, Wi-Fi access points from any vendor. The devices, available for ordering today for $195 each, plug into standard electrical outlets and can manage about 9 to 10 beacons each, Hardison said, depending on proximity.

For VenueNext, the sensor could help the company more easily bring its beacon-based app features to stadiums and venues that don’t have Aruba Wi-Fi networks like Levi’s Stadium. Earlier this year, VenueNext had said it would announce 30 new venues using its apps by the end of the year, but so far it has identified only three new customers, the Orlando Magic, the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys, in particular, have a Cisco Wi-Fi network in AT&T Stadium, so it remains to be seen if Aruba beacon sensors will be used there to integrate the wayfinding feature in the AT&T Stadium app.

Screenshot of wayfinding features in Levi's Stadium app. Photo: Aruba

Screenshot of wayfinding features in Levi’s Stadium app. Photo: Aruba

Along with the sensors, with Aruba’s new beacon and sensor management system administrators can also manage beacons remotely, cutting down the time needed to visit each beacon in person to check battery life, software updates or other settings. As beacon deployments start to climb into the thousands per network, such remote management could be a huge time-saver, Hardison said. The beacon management system can also be used with the sensors in non-Aruba Wi-Fi deployments, Aruba said.

On beyond stadiums to libraries, hospitals, airports and more

While the Levi’s Stadium app’s wayfinding feature — which allows San Francisco 49ers fans to follow themselves as a blue dot walking through a map of the venue — is perhaps the most well-known Aruba beacon app, the Meridian platform (obtained by Aruba in a 2013 purchase of indoor Wi-Fi location company Meridian) is also being used to manage beacons at the Orlando International Airport, and is being trialed at the University of Oklahoma’s libraries, according to Aruba.

New software partners in the Aruba mobile engagement stable include Robin, which has a meeting room booking application, and companies with apps to help with navigation in hospitals and schools. The Meridian/Aruba beacon system was also previously used in apps at the Nebraska Furniture Mart and the American Museum of Natural History.