If you picture a college student today, you’ll likely picture someone glued to his or her smartphone, constantly posting on social media.
Largely, universities have found that adding technology to college sports is a great way to engage with fans. From Wi-Fi networks to Internet of Things technologies, colleges have been exploring how to deliver the best fan experience.
“People, especially millennials, have this desire/requirement to be always connected [to the internet] and we find that we’ve really been able to provide that while they’re at the game,” says Matthew Almand, the TAMU network architect in charge of the Kyle Field deployment. “It’s all about having a good experience and sharing that with all your friends.”
To deliver to these fans requiring constant internet access, in 2015, TAMU installed more than 1,200 Aruba wireless access points in the stadium, with about 700 in the bowl seating, Aruba’s owner, Hewlett Packard Enterprise reports.
The university is also testing beacon technology in five locations around the stadium in a pilot program. Almand says some of the beacons are offering Kyle Field patrons “infotainment,” including on the background of several stadium statues, but others are looking to gather some valuable information.
“We’ve got a beacon located in a particular area to help us see information on queue management and crowd flow,” says Almand. “Our chokepoints for getting around the stadium don’t stay the same, so we’re anticipating if we had a more pervasive beacon deployment it would help us all strategize and not be purely reactionary.”
Monitoring and Reassessing Drives Tech Performance
As many colleges know, the process of maintaining a network is never over. Stanford University was one of the first to install Wi-Fi in its football stadium in 2011, but now it is in need of an upgrade, EdTech reports.
“The equipment is still in great shape — it’s doing exactly what it did in 2011. It’s just not enough anymore,” says Ray Purpur, the deputy director of athletics, in the article.
For universities on a tighter budget, network monitoring is key to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck. EdTech reports that Baylor University initially limited the bandwidth available to fans with a plan to increase it later if the need strikes.
This plan of monitoring and reassessing is what TAMU is executing with its new beacon technology. Almand says that throughout the remainder of the football season, the IT team will move the beacons around the stadium to collect different data points.
After the football season is over, the TAMU IT team will assess the use of the beacons and develop a plan for offseason technology deployment.