Cisco brings fan-facing Wi-Fi to Pebble Beach for U.S. Open

This year’s U.S. Open featured a fan-facing Wi-Fi network at Pebble Beach. Credit: Keith Newman, MSR

Fans at the recent U.S. Open golf championship at Pebble Beach were treated to an on-course Wi-Fi network from Cisco, as part of a sponsorship partnership between Cisco and the U.S. Golf Association.

As the official technology partner for the USGA and its championships, Cisco said it set out with the goal to make this year’s 119th U.S. Open the “most connected” in the event’s history, mainly through the deployment of about 400 Meraki Wi-Fi APs throughout the famed seaside course.

While we don’t have any on-course speedtests or final tournament networking data to share, our special correspondent Keith Newman did spend tournament Saturday at the course, and found the network to provide good connectivity in many places around the grounds. In addition to putting APs on obvious placement spots like the edges of seating areas and on top of hospitality and other temporary structures, Cisco also had some mobile AP placements on towers in strategic locations.

According to Cisco, it brought in gear to create a 10 Gbps backbone for the Wi-Fi network, also including support for tournament back of house operations on that backbone. Static signage at the event directed fans to the Wi-Fi network, and since Cisco also sponsored this year’s U.S. Open mobile app, users of that were also alerted to the free Wi-Fi on the property.

Cisco Vision on the driving range

On the display side of things, Cisco also utilized its Cisco Vision IPTV display management system to help bring more interesting information to fans at the venue. Especially interesting was the incorporation of the Toptracer shot-tracking graphics to show live player performances on the driving range, with the ability to map multiple players and provide a range of stats on shot distance and speed.

The tournament, especially Sunday’s thrilling victory by Gary Woodland over the close-finishing Brooks Koepka, no doubt presented many networking challenges, especially when fans randomly thronged to tee-box areas to try to get a photo or a video of players teeing off.

More photos from Pebble Beach below.

An on-course mobile AP placement. Credit: Cisco


Digital device use soared at the U.S. Open whenever Tiger Woods was around. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR (Screen shot of Fox TV broadcast)

A leaderboard provided space for an AP placement. Credit: Cisco

Toptracer shot-tracking graphics at the driving range, powered by Cisco Vision. Credit: Cisco

Fans clustered around tee boxes, putting extra stress on the network. Credit: Keith Newman, MSR

Broncos Stadium at Mile High sees 12.63 TB of Wi-Fi during Garth Brooks show

The Garth Brooks show in Denver June 8 saw fans use a venue-best 12.68 terabytes of data on the Wi-Fi network at Broncos Stadium at Mile High, according to figures provided by the team’s IT department.

In what sounds like a great time for both attendees and the performer (see Tweet below) there were 48,442 unique devices connected at some point during the night, according to figures sent our way by Russ Trainor, senior vice president of IT for the Broncos. That’s a take rate of about 58 percent, with some 84,000 fans in the stadium that night. Trainor also said that there was a peak concurrent connection total of 34,952 devices, and that the network saw a throughput peak of 17.65 Gbps, also a record for the venue.

The previous top Wi-Fi event at the Broncos’ home was a Taylor Swift concert last year, where the Wi-Fi network saw just over 8 TB of traffic. Looks like the continued improvements to the venue’s Wi-Fi network are able to handle more traffic.

THE MSR TOP 21 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 53, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 3, 2019: Wi-Fi: 24.05 TB
2. NCAA Men’s 2019 Final Four semifinals, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., April 6, 2019: Wi-Fi: 17.8 TB
3. Super Bowl 52, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., Feb. 4, 2018: Wi-Fi: 16.31 TB
4. NCAA Men’s 2019 Final Four championship, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., April 8, 2019: Wi-Fi: 13.4 TB
5. Garth Brooks Tour, Broncos Stadium at Mile High, June 8, 2019: Wi-Fi: 12.63 TB
6. 2018 College Football Playoff Championship, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 8, 2018: Wi-Fi: 12.0 TB*
7. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
8. Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 6, 2018: Wi-Fi: 10.86 TB
9. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
10. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., July 27, 2018: Wi-Fi: 9.76 TB
11. Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, NFC Championship Game, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.76 TB
12. Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.53 TB
13. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Broncos Stadium at Mile High, May 25, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.1 TB
14. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 8.08 TB
15. SEC Championship Game, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 1, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.06 TB*
16. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
17. Stanford vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Sept. 29, 2018: 7.19 TB
18. (tie) Southern California vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Oct. 21, 2017: 7.0 TB
Arkansas State vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Sept 2, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.0 TB
19. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
20. Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.3 TB
21. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB

* = pending official exact data

WaitTime arrives at Sydney Cricket Ground

WaitTime monitor at Sydney Cricket Ground. Credit: WaitTime

Monitors powered by WaitTime showing fans how much time they might spend getting concessions are now live at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia, another big deal for the fan-services startup.

With 59 dedicated monitors positioned around the 46,000-seat venue in Moor Park, Australia, WaitTime can let fans know in real time how long it might take them to get something from a nearby concession stand, with left-or-right pointers showing them the way.

While the deal itself is another solid customer win for the Detroit-based startup, WaitTime CEO Zachary Klima said the Sydney Cricket Ground deal was significant from another standpoint, as it was the first done in conjunction with stadium technology giant Cisco and its Cisco Vision IPTV display management system.

According to Klima, the Cisco Vision system can be used at Sydney Cricket Ground to administer the WaitTime displays, which exclusively show WaitTime content. “This is our most significant partner,” Klima said of Cisco, calling it a potential “tipping point” for the company as it attempts to bring its display application to more venues.

By using its now-patented system of cameras mounted near concession stands and artificial-intelligence software to help parse the camera information, WaitTime can provide real-time information mainly on the length of lines at stands, so fans can decide the best way to use their concourse time. Originally planned as a mobile-only application, WaitTime has found growing acceptance for its monitor-based systems, including at American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat. Klima said the WaitTime service will be added to the Sydney Cricket Ground app in the near future, but the monitors went live at the end of May.

Rendering of what the monitors at Sydney Cricket Ground might look like

Federated Wireless completes ESC network for CBRS

One of the coastal sensors deployed in Federated Wireless’ ESC network. Credit: Federated Wireless

Federated Wireless announced Monday the completion of its environmental sensing capability (ESC) network, in what may be one of the final stepping stones toward commercial deployments of networks in the CBRS band.

Under the unique shared-spectrum licensing structure of the CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) band, a swath of 150 MHz in the 3.5 GHz range, an ESC network must be in place to sense when U.S. Navy ships are using the band. What Federated is announcing Monday is that its ESC network is ready to go, one of the final things needed before commercial customers of Federated’s products and services would be able to formally start operating their networks.

Though the Federated ESC network is still pending final FCC approval, Federated president and CEO Iyad Tarazi said in a phone interview that the company “expects to get the green light [from the FCC] in June,” with the commercial customer launches following soon behind. Federated, a pure-CBRS startup with $75 million in funding, also offers Spectrum Access Services (SAS), another part of the CBRS puzzle to help ensure that any network operators who want to play in the shared-space sandbox that is CBRS are only using spectrum chunks that are free of any higher-priority traffic.

According to Tarazi Federated already has 25 customers testing its gear and services in getting ready to launch CBRS networks, a yet-unnamed group of entities that Tarazi said includes wireless carriers, enterprise companies looking to launch private networks, and even some large public venues.

Private networks first for venues?

The early thinking on CBRS use cases for sports stadiums includes the possibility of using private LTE networks for sensitive internal operations like ticketing and concessions, or even for closed-system video streaming and push-to-talk voice support. In the longer-term future, CBRS has been touted as a potential way to provide a neutral-host network that could support fan-facing carrier offload much like a current distributed antenna system (DAS), but to get to that place will still likely require some more-advanced SIM technology to be developed and deployed in client devices like cellphones.

But the potential of a new, huge chunk of spectrum — and the possibility of teams, leagues and venues being able to own and operate their own networks — has created a wide range of interest in CBRS among sports operations. While many of those same entities already operate stadium Wi-Fi networks, CBRS’s support for the cellular LTE standard theoretically could support faster, more secure networks. However, the emerging Wi-Fi 6 standard may close the performance gaps between cellular and Wi-Fi in the near future; many networking observers now seem to agree that most venues will likely see a continued mix of Wi-Fi and cellular systems in the near future, possibly including CBRS.

Already, the PGA and NASCAR have live tests of CBRS networks underway, and the NFL and Verizon have kicked the ball around with CBRS tests, reportedly for possible sideline headset network use.

While CBRS will potentially get more interesting when the commercial deployments become public, if you’re a network geek you will be able to appreciate some of the work done by Federated to get its ESC network operational, starting with the deployments of sensors on coastal structures as varied as “biker bars and luxe beach resorts,” according to a Federated blog post.

Tarazi, who was most recently vice president of network development at Sprint, said the Federated ESC network is “triple redundant,” since losing just one sensor could render a big chunk of spectrum unusable.

“If you lose a sensor, you lose hundreds of square miles of [available] network,” Tarazi said. “That’s a big deal.”

And ensuring network availability is in part what Federated’s clients will be paying the company for, part of the puzzle that when put together will theoretically open up wireless spectrum at a much lower cost compared to purchasing licensed spectrum at auction. As one of the pick-and-shovel providers in the CBRS gold rush, Tarazi and Federated may be the only ESC game in town for a while, as the joint effort between CommScope and Google to build another ESC is not expected to be completed until later this year at the earliest.

“I feel like we’re at an inflection point now,” Tarazi said. “It feels good to be leading this wave.”

Self-serve concession kiosks seem set to arrive in more stadiums

Appetize self-serve concession kiosks at LSU. Credit: Appetize (click on any picture for a larger image)

In what might seem like an overdue no-brainer strategy shift, it’s a good bet that more stadiums are going to start adding self-serve concession stand kiosks, where fans can use digital display systems to order and pay for food more quickly than standing in a human-powered line.

Some recent news and analysis from two of the top operators in the venue concessions point-of-sale systems arena — Oracle Food and Beverage and Appetize — offers some positive proof points in concession kiosk use, with Appetize reporting higher and bigger sales at some of its customer sites for kiosks vs. human stands, while Oracle F&B (the new name for the company formerly known as Micros) has released a fan survey showing that 71 percent of interviewed fans said they’d use a self-service kiosk while at the game.

From where we sit here at Mobile Sports Report, more self-serve kiosks can’t arrive fast enough. While it’s interesting to sift through some of the replies to the Oracle survey, it doesn’t take any research to guess that if you offer fans a faster way to get concessions and get back to their seats, they’re going to be in favor of it. Likewise, while the sample size of results offered by Appetize is somewhat small (its percentage gains are based on install numbers of just a few stations in each of the venues it mentions), the hard data does show that kiosks can produce double-digit gains in per-order sizes, a goal appealing to any concession operation.

“There’s no stadium that doesn’t want more food and beverage money,” said Jeff Pinc, AVP of sales for Oracle’s Food and Beverage division, in a recent phone interview. Adding self-service kiosks, he said, is an easy decision for many venues since fans are “sort of demanding it.

“Fans see these systems already in use everywhere else, and they’re asking ‘how come they’re not here?’ ” Pinc said. For the stadium owner and operator, Pinc said the self-service systems have already established their worth in many fast-casual dining establishments, and the benefits should pass over to the sports venue world.

“Fast-casual has been doing this [self-service kiosks] for some time now and it’s known that the basket size (per order) gets bigger,” Pinc said. Digital kiosks, he added, can also be more efficient at upselling customers, something that human employees may forget to do.

LSU, AT&T Center see kiosk gains

Appetize’s news announcement said that the eight kiosks installed at LSU’s basketball arena, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, produced a 16% increase in average order size and 25% more items per order compared to human-operated terminals at point of sale counters. At the San Antonio Spurs’ AT&T Center, an initial test in the stadium’s Rock & Brews location was positive and led to the installation of six of the Appetize “Interact” kiosks, where the stadium saw an 18 percent increase in order size.

Self-serve kiosks in the Denver Broncos’ club-area food court. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

“The Appetize Interact platform offers a modern and dynamic digital experience for guests while driving increased share of wallet for the business,” said Max Roper, co-founder and CEO at Appetize, in a prepared statement. “In the past six months, over 45% of our deployments have included self-service kiosks, and we expect this trend to continue as businesses require more automation and consumers desire a more frictionless experience.”

Oracle’s Pinc, whose company uses its Simphony POS system to help enable all operations including kiosk support, said that small, proof-of-concept deployments are a good start for any stadium interested in kiosks, since there are real-world details that need to go along with the automated systems.

“There’s a lot of thought that needs to go into a kiosk install, from educating the customer to where you put it, to where you go to pick up the food,” Pinc said. “There’s a lot of trial and error.”

Last fall MSR did a profile on how the Seattle Seahawks were using the Clear system to speed up beer-line payments, and also did some hands-on driving at a self-service POS terminal at the Denver Broncos’ Bronco Stadium at Mile High, where a system developed by Centerplate and PingHD was used to let fans order from individual chef stations in the club-level food court. Though Centerplate is no longer the concessionaire at Mile High, it’s just another sign that self-service is increasing inside stadiums, which is good news for fans tired of waiting behind the guy ordering 20 different things.

AT&T sees 2.5 TB of DAS traffic at men’s Final Four championship game

The concourses at U.S. Bank Stadium were well covered by DAS and Wi-Fi antennas for the recent Final Four. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

In addition to the big Wi-Fi numbers seen at the NCAA men’s 2019 basketball championship game, AT&T said it saw 2.5 terabytes of data used by its customers on its DAS network at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for the final game of the men’s Final Four weekend.

The neutral-host DAS in U.S. Bank Stadium, which is operated by Verizon, tested strong during MSR’s visit to the Final Four — we saw a mark of 37.5 Mbps on the download and 45.0 Mbps on the upload during the championship game, on a Verizon phone. Verizon, however, declined to provide any data totals from the Final Four.

In addition to its championship game numbers, AT&T said it saw 44.6 TB of data used on its networks in and around U.S. Bank Stadium for the entire men’s Final Four weekend.

Women’s Final Four sees 1.1 TB of DAS

At the NCAA women’s Final Four weekend in Tampa, Fla., AT&T said it saw a total of 1.1 TB of traffic used by its customers on the new MatSing Ball-powered DAS at Amalie Arena. That number includes traffic from both semifinal games as well as the championship game on April 7.