Qatar’s smart stadiums: Taking fans and players to the next level

by  — 5 June 2016

As Qatar continues to implement its strategy to gain recognition as a global sporting capital, big data analytics can change the game for teams and coaches, stadium operators, and fans and media to the 2022 World Cup and beyond, writes Gergi Abboud.

With the help of big data analytics, stadium operators can improve fan and player experience significantly. (Image Getty Images)  

By analysing data from sensors and on-field cameras, today’s coaches and players can gain unparalleled insights on player speed, positioning, and possession. As a result, coaches and scouts can improve player performance and reduce injuries, while optimising team line-ups and strategies. Already, Qatar can deploy these best practices in technology from leading teams and stadiums worldwide.

Real-time software

After the 2014 World Cup final game, fans and football analysts celebrated Germany’s precision and teamwork. But what common football fans may not realise is that Germany was assisted by a 12th man – big data analytics.

Before the World Cup, Germany relied on scouts and coaches watching hundreds of hours of video recorded from stadium cameras to analyse matches and plan strategies.

Thanks to a co-innovation partnership with German-headquartered enterprise software company SAP, they developed the Match Insights solution, now called Sports One, to take sports analytics to the next level.

Using eight high-definition panoramic video cameras from Panasonic, the Sports One solution breaks down the pitch into a grid, with each player tagged and tracked virtually. Football generates a massive amount of data – in only 10 minutes, 10 players with three balls produce over seven million data points.

Sports One uses the power of the real-time SAP HANA database platform to crunch this data on the cloud via in-stadium WiFi. As a result, users can play back matches on their smartphones and tablets, and track passing and scoring trends, time of possession, and even estimates of player’s fatigue. During practice sessions, teams can also put sensors on the players themselves, giving more in-depth insights on health.

Still, the data alone only accomplishes so much – the execution comes down to the coaches and players.

With the insights, Germany reduced average possession time from 3.4 to 1.1 seconds, and developed strategies that helped them clinch the championship.

Mobile-optimised stadiums

Another German sports club, FC Bayern Munich wanted to take the player and fan experience to the next level. In addition to using SAP Sports One, they decided to use SAP HANA to transform the in-match experience at Allianz Arena, Munich.

On the back end, FC Bayern Munich upgraded its enterprise resource management (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence solutions to the SAP HANA platform, providing them with real-time insights on fans’ past interactions and current context using in-stadium WiFi and sensors.

Imagine the opening ceremony at the 2022 World Cup, with tens of thousands of fans using mobile apps that allow them to order concession from their seats. They will not have to leave their seats, and instead can have concessions delivered directly to them. This will not only cut down on lines, but also allow stadiums to optimise their food and beverage stocking and reduce supply chain costs.

When fans roam the concourse, the same technology can deliver geo-location based discounts and special offers to their mobile phones. Walk by the gift shop, and a fan can receive a 10 percent off on a football jersey for their child, or a special promotion on slow-moving concessions such as sushi or pretzels.

By 2022, the world will not only be mobile – but driven by smartphones, with industry reports predicting that two thirds of all mobile connections will be on smartphones, reaching a total of roughly six billion.

At matches, we are seeing a rising trend of fans uploading as much digital content as they are downloading. While they may be downloading content such as video playbacks and real-time match statistics, they are also uploading photos and videos to their social networks – which reaches a ‘fever pitch’ during major matches.

As a result, World Cup stadium operators will need the real-time mobile network analytics to provide ultrafast mobile broadband and WiFi where and when fans need it in the stadium.

These kinds of network analytics can also let teams and operators optimise apps for the type of mobile device and browser being used, allowing fans to replay matches on their mobile phones, and gain the same insights that players and coaches have on the field, and media with the insights to enhance their reporting.

On a global scale, the same software enables FC Bayern Munich to support its international growth, and monitor social media sentiment from its 400 million-strong global fan base.

By 2022, social media will be completely integrated into our daily lives, from what we watch to what we buy. During the world cup, national teams will no longer court only their home country supporters, but harness real-time social media analytics to effectively engage with fans around the world, on any mobile device.

Increasingly, social media is serving as a virtual majlis for sports, where fans debate the games. In the near future, teams will host social media Q&As with star players, and interactive discussions with fans on everything from strategies to lifestyle trends – and potentially translate in real-time from different languages.

Teams like FC Bayern Munich are using apps and social media to deliver relevant, personalised video content, and developing innovative behind-the-scenes mobile experiences for global fandoms.

With Qatar ramping up as a global sporting capital, these kinds of solutions can be deployed in stadiums and arenas across the country – transforming the player and fan experience in local leagues, and for mega-events such as the 2019 World Championships in Athletics, the 2022 World Cup, and the 2023 FINA World Championships.

The entire world will be watching these events, and Qatar will be able to demonstrate the most advanced sporting technology, from team line-ups, to sustainability, and fan-friendly features.   

Gergi Abboud is managing director of the Middle East at SAP, driving global sports technology innovation.


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