The countdown is on: the big game is Feb. 3, 2019, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. And while the 71,000 guests in attendance can expect a tour de force of entertainment technology, that’s just the beginning. Here’s what NFL fans and tech lovers alike can expect from this year’s most exciting sports Sunday.
Laying the Foundation
The Mercedes-Benz stadium stands out from other NFL venues for the sheer volume and complexity of its tech infrastructure. As noted by CBS Sports executive producer Harold Bryant, the stadium’s broadcast booth is “enormous,” giving the network unparalleled ability to capture, track and augment action on the field.
But this level of game-day orchestration wouldn’t be possible without the necessary infrastructure backbone. As noted by SportTechie, the stadium contains more than 4,000 miles of fiber optic cable and 1,800 wireless access points. In addition, lighting can be instantly adjusted both inside and outside the stadium, letting fans across the city know when great plays are made or touchdown drives cross the line.
So what can fans in the stands and those at home expect to see on game day? Before the kickoff, attendees in Atlanta can check out the 100-foot “mega-column” — a massive digital screen delivering augmented reality profiles of teams and players. Bryant also points to plans for “virtual reality tools for video and graphics, at least in pregame coverage,” says SportTechie. According to Sports Video, CBS plans to use dual “SkyCams” placed high above the field to capture the action from all angles along with the EyeVision 360, a 36-camera system that provides full coverage of any on-field replays.
Then there’s the “Halo Board.” This set of 58-foot tall screens stretches 1,100 feet around the top of the stadium and provides everything from critical game statistics to 4k replays and a virtual first down marker. It’s the biggest board in professional sports, boasting 24 high-speed cameras to provide complete coverage of Super Bowl LIII. Fans at home can enjoy the action through their traditional cable provider or by streaming the game across mobile devices, digital television services and other approved OTT options.
Seeing is believing, but improving the big game technology also depends on collecting athlete and attendee data that isn’t always so obvious. Capitalizing on the long-established link between athletes and information, tech competitions like 1st and Future — hosted the day before the big game — provide exclusive NFL data sets to teams and ask them to draft “creative submissions about rule changes designed to reduce player injury during punt plays.” The competition also invites submissions for any potential product ideas that could help reduce player injury rates and boost overall safety.
Also on tap? Real-time point-of-sale data collection. As noted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, new entertainment technology capable of generating real-time customer feedback reports at point-of-sale locations is on track for the big game. This type of data could be invaluable to help streamline food and beverage operations and identify potential trouble in food service. It makes sense. With the NFL now refocusing on the overall experience of fans both on-site and at home, this kind of democratized data collection is critical to create a unified entertainment experience.
The New Reality
As the most-watched TV event of the year, it’s no surprise that the big game technology is evolving at breakneck speed to keep up with fan expectations and improve the game for players. This year, expect an increasing emphasis on anytime, anywhere connections enhanced by on-demand, 360 coverage and continual tech evolution thanks to data-driven player and consumer analytics.
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