IBM, a legendary technology corporation, is now trying to cover a new business field. Their goal is to create a new kind of stadiums that can interact with the public. The company signed a deal with Texas A&M University and the Atlanta Falcons in order to help the team improve the dialog with their fans.
The construction of the new stadium is expected to be completed in 2017. By that time IBM, hired by the Falcons, should make a network and find the technology solutions to the team’s list of tasks.
IBM has been involved in sports life for several years already, but until this time they were mostly sponsoring the development of mobile applications for Wimbledon and the Masters.
The first time IBM decided to interact directly with sports was in May 2013 when the company took part in the $485 million renovation of College Station’s football stadium Kyle Field and hired sports industry veteran Jim Rushton to be a leader in entertainment, sports, and live events practice at IBM Interactive Experience. Before that, he was the Chief Revenue Officer and was running the show for the Miami Dolphins.
Apart from this, IBM has developed a technology platform that allows to manage traffic flow more effectively, to monitor weather patterns, and to analyze fan’s expenses on merchandise and concessions.
Once the Falcons’ officials saw the technological innovations that were done at Kyle Field, they hired IBM for their project. Rushton was also involved in this new project for making the presentations and as a sales consultant.
It is not the first time when the large companies try to develop sports technology: there is a kind of unofficial competition in this sector between such huge companies like Siemens, Mobilitie, Extreme Network, plus Cisco, and Johnson Controls. IBM has joined the race with the new strategy of developing hardware and software systems based on data analytics and of consulting developing multiple sports-related technologies.
The IBM/Falcons project
In addition to partnering with a group of companies (the Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium) to create a hardware infrastructure at stadiums and arenas ( e.g., to provide a wireless connection in the area), IBM Interactive Experience is also consulting sports teams on the ways to improve the interaction with their fans.
According to Rushton, they want first to bring together 18-20 partners for working in a consortium in order to update the infrastructure in either the new stadium or the existing one. They want to install big screens and scoreboards all around the stadium, develop mobile applications for fans, for the NFL team, for the stadium, and for other purposes as well.
But the IBM ambitions are larger than this. They also want to provide an interactive connection between the football team and their fans outside the arena or even at home to maximize and improve the team-fans relationship. IBM wants to solve the most common problem sports teams face on this issue by making disparate systems work together.
According to some analysts, this kind of idea is quite unusual for IBM. But at the same time, it is not surprising that they decided to launch sports-related practices, as this is a massive business that is only starting experimenting with digital technology transformation. It gives lots of opportunities to change the way sporting events are spread in the media and social networks, and how these events are delivered to the sports fans when they are in and outside the stadium, at home or during the matches.
Challenges on the way
Now we can observe a dramatic shift in sports. Now sports meets the similar problems as the movie theater industry: why should people pay for a season ticket if they can experience the event at home watching the match on a crystal clear big-screen smart TV. The falling prices on HDTVs affected ticket sales significantly. This made the sports clubs look for alternative ways of attracting sports fans to the stadium. Teams need to provide a unique experience that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
There are certain challenges waiting for the IBM and the Falcons during the project execution. As Rushton told the media, this is a relatively new area for IBM, and the company develops a huge amount of experience to realize the idea. It is easier to provide the new systems to a brand-new stadium (though it still requires time and resources to be finished) than to retrofit existing arenas. There are lots of piecemeal technologies without a master plan, and the IBM’s task is to find the end-to-end solution to make everything function properly all year long.