Arizona Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium beefs up Wi-Fi and DAS ahead of College Football Playoff championship game

University of Phoenix Stadium before Super Bowl XLIX. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

University of Phoenix Stadium before Super Bowl XLIX. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

After just hosting a Super Bowl, one with record wireless traffic numbers, you might not think that the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., needed to upgrade its Wi-Fi and DAS networks. But with many more big events on the way soon, including hosting this season’s College Football Playoff championship game, the UoP Stadium isn’t sitting still, but instead is fine-tuning and expanding its networks to ensure fans stay connected as well as possible.

According to Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Arizona Cardinals, more Wi-Fi has been added to the stadium networks for this football season, including lawn areas just outside the stadium and the Pat Tillman Plaza area on the north side of the stadium. For the Super Bowl last year the venue had extensive DAS coverage outside from a Crown Castle deployment, but in an email message Feller said adding Wi-Fi to the mix was always part of the plan. Here’s Mark:

“Our plan from the start was to have Wi-Fi outdoors for our fans to use and we are rolling it out as time allows. We have such good weather that there are thousands of people tailgating on game days. In addition, the Cardinals Mobile App (from Yinzcam) provides live Stadium Feeds, Replays, and the Red Zone Channel so our fans can keep up with the early games while they are outside.”

Outside UoP Stadium, where the architecture allows for DAS antenna placement under the fascia as well as behind speaker covers.

Outside UoP Stadium, where the architecture allows for DAS antenna placement under the fascia as well as behind speaker covers.

Inside the stadium, Feller said there are now Gimbal beacons deployed for “selective messaging” alerts that are tied to the stadium app. The team also added a separate Verizon Wireless SSID to its Wi-Fi mix, giving Verizon customers reserved bandwidth as well as the ability to autoconnect. The Wi-Fi network uses Cisco gear and is managed and supported by CDW. At the Cardinals’ most recent home game, a 26-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 26, the Wi-Fi network carried 1.445 terabytes of data, with 22,502 unique connections, according to numbers provided by Feller. Out of the 63,500-seat stadium a maximum number of 19,559 concurrent users was seen that day, with the top sites connected to by fans being Apple, Facebook, Google, iCloud, Yahoo, Instagram, Twitter and ESPN, according to Feller.

Getting ready for the playoff championship

For both the biggest college game of the year (scheduled for Jan. 11, 2016) which like last year should be a big network event, as well as a host of other “big events,” like a U.S. Women’s soccer team game vs. China on Dec. 13 and the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day, Feller said the UoP stadium team is continuing to expand the Crown Castle DAS as well, with more sectors in the stadium’s Club and Loft sections, as well as more coverage outside on the lawns. Portable Wi-Fi is also an option, Feller said, as the stadium adds temporary seating to expand for the big game of the collegiate season:

“Having the Super Bowl here did give us some ideas about increasing density in some areas where we put temporary seating. We tested some different WiFi portable enclosure systems that we could put up and take down quickly and figured out how to get cabling to them quickly as well. That will help us get set up for the CFP Championship.”

Levi’s Stadium update: Wi-Fi traffic steady at 2.3+ TB per game, Amazon and Google lead apps use

Scoreboard promo for the Levi's Wi-Fi network

Scoreboard promo for the Levi’s Wi-Fi network

Usage of the Wi-Fi network at the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium continues to hold steady at 2.3-plus Terabytes of data offloaded per game, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Niners’ network staff.

Though he’s no longer the team’s vice president of technology, former Levi’s network guru Dan Williams remains as a game-day consultant to the team, and he shared some recent network statistics with MSR, including some app usage marks that show Amazon Cloud Drive and Google APIs being among the top two applications being used over the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network.

According to Williams’ numbers, for the Niners’ Nov. 23 day home game against Washington, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network had 22,095 unique users, 35 percent of the total attendance; the peak number of concurrent users was 14,700, reached at 2:50 p.m. (near halftime), and the total data used was 2.31 TB, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

During the Thanksgiving day game against the Seahawks, the network had 23,371 users (36 percent of attendees) who used 2.38 TB of data, with a peak of 16,800 concurrent users at 7:15 p.m.

Video-replay statistics from the Levi’s Stadium app apparently do better when there are more home-team highlights to watch. During the victory over Washington, 1,074 fans watched 4,885 replays, with the 30-yard TD pass from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin racking up 953 total views from 398 unique users — meaning many users are watching the same replay more than once (maybe showing it to people sitting around them?). For the Seahawks game, 1,407 fans watched 3,875 replays, with a Kaepernick pass to Michael Crabtree accounting for the most views, 487 total from 180 unique users.

The top 4 apps used by fans on the network varied a bit from the two close games, but according to Williams Amazon Cloud Drive was the top app for both recent games. For the Seahawks game, the next three top apps were Google APIs, Facebook and SnapChat, while for the Washington game the next three top apps used were stadium video, Google APIs and Apple iTunes.

Nike looks to abandon at least part of wearable effort

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NikeFuel, one of the most widely know sports wearables may be headed to the recycle bin as the company has slashed the development team internally just as a large number of rivals are looking to enter the wearable space.

There are few facts yet in the situation as Nike has not yet released an official announcement about its moves but last Friday C/Net broke the news story saying that Nike had laid off as many as 55 people from the 70 person division that develops the FuelBand. Its Digital Sports arm will still employ approximately 150 people after the cuts.

It looks like not only the FuelBand but also its sportswatch and any other wearables that were on the drawing board are now on the chopping block. Nike confirmed to C/Net that a change in direction and layoffs were in the works but said that it would continue to support and sell the Nike+FuelBand SE for the foreseeable future.

However the move does not mean that Nike is leaving the space, or that the money and effort that went into its recently opened lab in San Francisco are going to waste, instead the company is shifting its focus to software, which as the core mission for its just opened lab.

Of course this opens the door for a whole new range of speculation. Will Nike, which has appeared to favor Apple and its platform, continue down this road and possibly be the supplier of the software to the expected Apple smartwatch? Apple has a long history of doing both its own hardware and software and while it has been happy to accept Nike support on the app side, is that what Nike wants?

Then it could focus more on Google, which is the largest mobile OS provider and has a major push in the wearable space. While Google Glass gets most of the attention that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Google recently announced its Android Wear project designed to expand the wearable space and with it use of the company’s operating system.

This will be an interesting trend to follow and could show the impact that the growing strength of Google is having on a wide range of market segments going forward.

MLB streaming comes to Google Chromecast


You can now add Google Chromecast to the platforms that stream Major League Baseball broadcasts in the U.S. Subscribers of MLB.TV who own one of the Chromecast sticks that plug into the back of many modern televisions will be very happy.

MLB.TV enables fans to watch home and away games of out of market teams and once subscribed can use not only the Chromecast but also smartphones and tablets to watch games. Be sure to check what qualifies as an out of market team since some areas such as Las Vegas are claimed by multiple teams.

English Premier League gains additional network partners for finals
The Premier League will now be available on additional channels as NBCUniversal has opened up its family of stations to the broadcast of the league’s finale that will consist of 10 matches held on May 11.

It now plans to simultaneously broadcast the games not only on NBC and NBCSN but also on Bravo, Syfy, Oxygen, USA, CNBC, MSNBC, Esquire Network and E!, channels better known for broadcasting anything but exciting soccer.

Rate the MLB announcers
It may be a bit late to join all of the fun but over at Awful Announcing they are having a contest to rate all of Major League Baseball’s individual broadcast teams. It has been ongoing for a few days but is still worth checking in to see how your favorite, or least favorite voices are doing. Do you like or detest homers, are some too bland, off message or just plain head scratching? Time to make your opinion known! The national broadcast teams on stations such as ESPN and Fox Sports will not be included in this poll.

Google lays out details for modular smartphone
Last year when Google first started talking about its “Project Ara” we did not pay that much attention since it was basically just some mockup photos and not much detail. Last week the company put meat on the Ara bones and started explaining what its intentions are in that area.

The goal of the project is simple but grandiose; it wants to revolutionize the smartphone market, and in 1 year. The idea is very simply, a phone that has a number of replaceable components that a user can select to include in their version of the phone. Think of a Lego phone as a comparable. Users could swap in processors, memory, storage and even type of connectors.

USA Today offers rare sports prints
USA Today has launched an endeavor called the USA Today Sports store and to kick it off it is offering customers a chance to buy a select number of images taken of Muhammad Ali early in his career that originally came from the Courier-Journal in Louisville.

While these images will be available for a silent auction fundraiser to benefit the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute this weekend there are a large number of images available at thestore.

Google seeks to expand ‘wearable’ options with Android Wear program

The Moto 360 Android

The Moto 360 Android

Google made a lot of noise a few years back with its push for Google Glass project, a pair of glasses that are connected to the Internet and now it is adding a second front in the wearable war with a push that it calls Android Wear.

The company has launched the Android Wear project in an effort to greatly expand the market for wearable hardware and related technology, with but not limited to helping a new generation watches running the company’s Android operating system.

The core of the effort will be a Software Developers Kit (SDK) that the company will be delivering to interested developers later this year.

While connected watches seem to be the first area that this effort will have an impact Google sees the effort expanding into other areas including bringing additional technology to more established platforms such as tablets.

However watches seem to be at the forefront of this space and potential developers that include everybody from Nike to Apple have indicated some level of interest in developing a watch. In addition there are already several connected watches on the market such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Pebble’s Steel Watch. Google has a number that have now announced their intention. With such a huge position in the smartphone operating system already Google has a huge advantage and it looks to be building on it quite quickly.

Several partners have already announced intentions to build watches and in some cases have shown examples of their development efforts. Motorola, unsurprisingly, has one in development called the Moto 360 Android that it said will be available this summer while LG Electronics said it would introduce its first Android watch, the G Watch, sometime this quarter.

The watches will be equipped with a variety of sensors and the ability to connect to an Android phone. So it can sub for the fitness trackers that are popular with the athletically inclined. It will allow notifications and text messages to be forwarded from a user’s phone and enable voice replies.

I imagine it would be a great tool to use to cheat on exams, but that might just be me. However being in a meeting and getting, say, March Madness game updates, could be a boon for those times when it is frowned upon to look at your smartphone. However the flip side of this is that many, at least those of us old enough, might just see this as a glorified pager with a bit more functionality.

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

google

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 NCAA.com/hangouts 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.