Maryland taps Extreme, SignalShare for Wi-Fi at football and basketball venues

Xfinity Center, home of University of Maryland basketball. Credit all photos: University of Maryland website

Xfinity Center, home of University of Maryland basketball. Credit all photos: University of Maryland website

In the second tag-team deal that we know of, the University of Maryland has selected the combination of Extreme Networks and SignalShare for Wi-Fi network and services deployments at both its football and basketball venues, according to a news release today.

Hoops fans will get to test the services first, as according to the press release the network inside the Terrapins’ Xfinity Center will be live for games this season, starting later this month. A Wi-Fi network for the 54,000-seat Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, which is used by Maryland for football and lacrosse, will be fully installed by next season. According to the release, Extreme and SignalShare have already deployed Wi-Fi for luxury suites and press areas in the football facility, and will add services for upper and lower bowl seating by the start of football next year.

Since we haven’t yet had time to talk to anyone from either Maryland or the participating companies, we’ll crib from our previous story about the Extreme-SignalShare collaboration in use at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ EverBank Field.

Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium

Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium

If you are a regular MSR reader you probably know about Extreme and its IdentFi Wi-Fi deployments; the more unknown of the duo is likely SignalShare, a Raleigh, N.C., concern that has both Wi-Fi integration and deployment expertise, as well as an “audience engagement platform” called “Live-Fi” that the company says “leverages real-time analytics and dynamic messaging to deliver location-aware customized content – including offers, discounts and call-to-actions – to attendees’ mobile devices during events.”

SignalShare says it has systems at work for sports clients including the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Indiana Pacers, and has also deployed its systems at other large venues and events, including the U.S. Open tennis tournament and several large outdoor concert venues.

We will, of course, do our best to dig deeper into the whys and hows of the deal, but for now a canned comment from the press release will have to suffice:

“At Maryland, like at many universities across the country, our students live and breathe with their mobile devices,” Maryland director of athletics Kevin Anderson said in a prepared statement. “We want to make sure that when students come to a game, not only can they remain connected to their favorite social networks, sites and apps, but that we can entertain them with new fan engagement initiatives, including the eventual addition of in-seat ordering, game day jersey sales and other interactive experiences and promotions. The solution from SignalShare and Extreme will elevate our game day experience to an enhanced level.”

Xfinity Center indoors

Xfinity Center indoors

RBI Baseball is here; Best ballparks for craft beer

MLB has released R.B.I Baseball 14 to the joy of long-suffering fans of the game who have been waiting and hoping for years that the title would be reinvented and reinvigorated for a new generation of fans as well as older fans.

The game is the first one for consoles developed by the MLBAM and is available as a digital download for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 entertainment systems as well as for iPhones and iPads. The original game was discontinued around 20 years ago.

Quidditch is a real thing?
Apparently not only can you really play quidditch, there is an actual World Cup for the sport. The game that was made famous via the Harry Potter franchise of books and movies, sans magical brooms and a few other minor details, is being played around the globe these days.

Not only is it being played but it is gaining a bit of international support as teams from Canada and Australia will be among the 80 teams participated in the sport’s seventh World Cup in South Carolina last weekend. As a spoiler the University of Texas retained its crown beating Texas State University. Time to start practicing for next year.

Cubs’ fans disappointment may continue for 6 more years

When a new owner comes to town to take over a forlorn franchise there is always hope that they will manage to achieve what so many have failed to do in the past, create a winning atmosphere that will help make up for past failure.

That is what Cubs fans were certainly hoping for when Tom Ricketts et al took over the team. Yet it seems that a stadium and team that do very well in attendance and broadcasting viewership need to wait for new contracts and rebuilding. Or it could be the way the loan is structured and they don’t want to talk about that.

The 10 best ballparks for craft beer
When I started going to baseball games the options for food and beverages were very limited but that has really changed for the better. Now the Daily Meal has taken in upon itself to track down which stadiums have the best craft beer — why is this not a job assignment that I am ever given?

They list #1 as Safeco Field in Seattle, and the overall West Coast is well represented with AT&T and Petco also listed. Also did you know that at Yankee Stadium the space where they sell crafty beer is called ‘beer mixology destination?” Beer Mixology, really?

Qatar World Cup construction worker death rates continue
The World Cup that is due to be played in Qatar has already been under a cloud due to complaints about corruption and the fact that the tournament might have to be moved from summer to winter due to, what else, hot weather. But one issue that also seems to be running under the radar is worker treatment.

According to a piece in Slate 1,200 workers have already died building the facilities for the 2022 event. However FIFA said that it would look into it, which since it is responsible for the awarding of the games in the first place seems like the fox watching the hen house.

Wilson brings digital data collection to basketball
Golfers can get a version of a smartwatch that tracks their game and provides real time feedback, there is a host of apps for runners and bicyclists to track their efforts and skiers can get goggles that lay out the run and show speed and slope. Soon recreational basketball will join the digital world with an app that will help Sunday morning athletes track their efforts.

There is more than just an app in the Wilson Smart Basketball program; there is of course a basketball that helps feed in the data. The app and accompanying basketball are scheduled for release for this year’s holiday season.

CBS to get ‘strong’ Thursday Night NFL slate
After outbidding rivals for the newest set of games that the NFL will be playing on Thursday nights CBS appears to be receiving an extra with the deal. It has been reported that the NFL will be taking steps to make those games between what are viewed as strong teams, not necessarily quality teams, but ones that will bring strong viewership.

Of course the quality of the games at the early point of the season, when offensive lines have not yet jelled, rookies are still learning the playbooks and teams have their new coaches is sometimes average at best and add in the fact that teams really only get two days to prepare for Thursday games I am not sure I would put the quality tag on any of these games just yet.

Google teams with NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports for March Madness promo


Google is seeking to make waves during the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament in an effort that teams the Internet giant with the NCAA and its broadcasting and software development partners Turner Sports and CBS Sports.

The effort will revolve around Google’s social network application called Google+, a rival to industry leader Facebook, and it will be interesting to see if Google publishes the results from the effort. You constantly see Facebook listed as an almost default player in this type of event and a major push by Google into sports and other avenues will make for an interesting fight.

The effort actually started on Selection Sunday but will run the length of the tournament. A wide range of NCAA March Madness digital products will be flowing through Google’s pages including NCAA March Madness Live™, the Capital One March Madness NCAA Bracket Challenge™, the NCAA On Demand YouTube channel and the NCAA March Madness Google+ page.

However Google has taken steps to help steer fans who might not be aware of the effort or who might need a gentle reminder of the tournament on a daily basis. It has teamed with its partners to feature March Madness related search insights in Google Trends. This means that fans using Google for search and looking at what is trending will see the topics and teams from the tournament that are popular on Google Search.

Other efforts by the partnership include such features as Turner integrating Google sign-in technology into the NCAA Bracket Challenge game. Fans that follow up from seeing information in the Google Trends can go to a “Google Bracket” that will rank teams throughout the tournament based on Search interest.

Google has also created a number of “Google+ Hangouts” that are related to March Madness. These are social networking microsites where fans can discuss related issues and share photos, among other tasks. The Google+ Hangouts On Air enables fans to interact with Turner Sports and CBS Sports on-air talent and can be entered either from or the NCAA March Madness Google+ page.

Google+ has seemed to be an afterthought to many, although any program that counts its membership in the hundreds of millions should be taken seriously. However this could help promote the company into a more mainstream awareness position with the sporting public at large, or it might just be like a 16 seed and go one and done. Game on, Google.

Friday Grab Bag: A look back at ABA, Sculley returning to High Tech?

If you fondly remember red, white and blue basketballs then this is probably great news for you — ESPN Films is going to explore the history of the American Basketball Association in its latest 30 for 30 documentaries.

One of the few leagues that, at least semi-successfully, challenged an incumbent one, the ABA ran from 1967 until it merged with the NBA in 1976. It helped bring a new degree of flash into the NBA with freewheeling players such as Julius Irving.

Android KitKat and Nexus 5 here
The next generation of the Android operating system, code named KitKat and the Nexus 5 smartphone that is the first device to run the new OS are here this week.

CNN Tech has a nice roundup, and points out that LG will be making the phone that is expected to have a 4.95-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution and have the latest generation of Gorilla Glass 3 for the front cover. Expect to see a new generation of tablets and phones with the OS in the coming months.

Few tablets have paid cellular
When you look at the price for a tablet you often see two figures: one that lists the Wi-Fi only cost and one for having 3G or 4 LTE cellular as well, which is often at least $100 more. A recent study from theConsumer Electronics Association shows that few use cellular.

The survey found that only 29% of tablet owners buy cellular enabled tablets and of these only 49% buy a data plan. Of those who buy it is almost split evenly between those that buy a separate plan for the tablet and for those who bundle.

CEA to debut WristRevolution at 2014 International CES
With Samsung, Sony, Google and a host of others now chasing the ‘wearable tech’ space the International Consumer Electronics Show will have a section that is devoted to products and technologies coming out for this market segment.

In the past products that perform some of these functions such as health monitors/wrist watches would be found across the huge show floors but now they will be gathered into a single area so that both hardware and software developments can be easily tracked.

First ticket for wearing Google Glass?
Speaking of wearable technology it is being reported that a California driver was ticketed for wearing Google Glass while driving. The officer cited a law that starts with “person shall not drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other similar means of visually displaying…” They were also speeding.

John Sculley to buy BlackBerry?
Former Apple and Pepsi CEO John Sculley is now being rumored to be in the running to buy the beleaguered smart deceive manufacturer BlackBerry, according to a report carried in the IT Wire, originally from the Globe and Mail.

Sculley is probably best known for pushing out Steve Jobs, one of Apple’s founders and the man that recruited him for the job while at Apple. He has been active in high tech since leaving Apple and is said to be working to bring a group of investors together to buy BlackBerry.

FIBA to push for 3 on 3 Basketball as Olympic Sport

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA), which governs international basketball competition, is seeking to establish its three on three (3×3) version of the sport as an Olympic event in the coming years, it has said. It is shooting for the 2020 games at the latest.

While you hear about plenty of sports seeking Olympic recognition, 3×3 looks like it has an inside track. It has been played competitively, and by this we mean on a world stage not the inner city asphalt courts of its birth, since 2007 and made its worldwide debut at the 2010 Youth Olympics.

It is a widely played version of the sports and FIBA has massive federation membership numbers, with over 213 national federations spread over five geographical zones; Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. FIBA said that it sees the sports adoption much in the way that beach volleyball followed indoor volleyball in to the Olympic camp.

Currently FIBA is launching a new three on three tournament that will follow its 3×3 World Tour. The world tour will have teams playing in six cities this year with several of them have already been played: Sao Paulo (July 14-15); Vladivostok, Russia (July 21-22); N.Y. (Aug. 18-19); Istanbul (Sept. 1-2); Madrid (Sept. 8-9) and Miami (Sept. 22-23).

There was a series of 70 qualifiers that were held to hone down the teams that were allowed to play in the event. The event looks to have an informal feel to it as aside from players’ skill events it also invites local street artists and DJs to perform and has an open to the public contest as well.

The Miami games will be the finals and there are a variety of teams broken down by age and sex playing in the tournaments. Nike and Samsung are major sponsors for the events.

NCAA’s March Madness Connects With Facebook

I was reading an interesting piece in Mashable about a partnership between Facebook and the NCAA in regards to the March Madness tournament that featured a fan contest and so I hustled on over to participate.

I imagined glory in my picking ability; after all I was first in my pool last year. Well at least after the first day, overall I finished dead last which one fellow member told me was almost mathematically impossible, but these things happen.

Sadly when I got to the Facebook page the contest was closed, which was a pity. However it was not a contest to pick the winners of the tournament, although one of those might be in the offing. Rather the contest, called the Super 10, is a very cleaver twist on the tournament and really meant for a much more serious college hoops fan than myself.

The contest selected 10 hardcore fans and teaches them about the intricacies of the selection process and how the choices are made. It was more than just filling out a form or sending in your name, A 30-second video was required as well in which the entrant needed to explain why their in-depth understanding of the sport made them the perfect choice for the contest. After the entries are all in a fan vote would select the 10 winners.

Well sadly that is all said and done and now 10 people will be flown to Atlanta and given a 4 day/3 night stay with tickets to the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament and a tour of Turner studios as part of the prize.

What is interesting is that this is a very clever way for the NCAA to tout its tournament in a new way to fans using social media as the primary tool to attract them and to judge the winners. All this without getting into trouble by looking like they are promoting gambling, which they would never do.

As a first attempt to partner with social media it is a very strong one, and the only failing I can see is that it was not well enough known by some groups of fans. I talked to a number of huge hoops fans while watching the Super Bowl and most said that they would have liked to participate, although several expressed some concern about making the video.

According to the stats on the Facebook site roughly 217,000 liked the contest, but that is really just a drop in the bucket. There will probably be that many office pools in California alone once the tournament starts.

This is the first partnership between Facebook and the NCAA and it will surely not be the last. The power of social media is growing daily, from a source of protest to positioning products. With almost a billion users it is an easy tool for the NCAA to reach both its base but also to reach out to new markets.