Digital Stadium technology trialled by Albion fans

Digital Stadium technology trialled by Albion fans

A trial of the digitalStadium app, which connects football fans' phones to create a network without the need for infrastructure WiFi, took place last night (May 13th), at Brighton & Hove Albion's final home game of the season.

Many football clubs want to develop better contact with fans during matches using digital technology, but the cost of equipping a stadium with the necessary WiFi infrastructure can be prohibitive (around £400,000).

The steel and concrete structures so typical of modern stadium design also make it difficult for smartphone users to get a signal. Anyone who’s tried to email or make a call on a smartphone when at a festival or match will know how difficult it is to get connected when there are thousands of other phones in use all around.

What makes the digitalStadium app unique, however, is the software solution that supports the app. Designed by Dr Ian Wakeman and Dr Dan Chalmers and their team at the University of Sussex in collaboration with Brighton and Hove Albion FC and Corridor Design, Digital Stadium software enables smart phones to act as mobile computers and build networks with other phones in the crowd.

Dr Wakeman said: “With the new generation of smartphones, we can start to democratise the means of communication, helping people to pool their resources and cooperate, rather than compete for the limited resources available from the phone network. I'm passionate about getting computers to communicate, and passionate about football. It’s wonderful to bring the two together.”

The digitalStadium app enables fans and the club to communicate with each other during a match, providing real-time information on other key games, league table stats and travel information. Fans will also be able to take part in Twitter debates and even competitions such as 'Rate the Ref' while watching the game from the stands, while a live ticker feed will deliver the latest news, views and special offers from the club during the game.

Fans who trialled the app at the Amex on Monday evening were able to draw down digital information and share it with other app users in the stadium. This approach means that even small bandwith capacity can be exploited across a large group of people.

Monday's fixture marked the last match of a five-match development period in which avid Albion fans have been using the app, and suggesting changes. There has already been an enthusiastic response from fans keen to use technology to build stronger links between themselves and with the club. The Albion trial has helped the researchers to refine their software further.

Albion fan Steve, from Ferring, said: "The app was very useful during the last game of season to check the live league table and see who we would end up playing in the playoffs and who was going down. It was also good to keep up to date with what the football community on Twitter thought of the goings-on in championship as the games were taking place. Neither of these would have been possible without the app."

The next stage will be to seek commercial roll-out for the product (currently compatible only with Android smartphones) and make the technology available to football clubs, festivals and other big events. The University is supporting the researchers in securing a patent for the innovation and Sussex Innovation Centre is currently exploring how the technology can be developed for commercial use.

Albion's head of media Paul Camillin said: “It's a common problem for many clubs and stadia across the globe, and not one easily solved - and also requires some serious investment too. However, that doesn't stop fans and spectators wishing to access various data to enhance their stadium experience, but due to the sheer volume of people this isn't easy. The Digital Stadium team is seeking to change that via ground-breaking new technology, and we are really enthused by the progress they are making.

“The initial trials have been really encouraging, providing fans with team news, score updates, travel news and other essential match-day information.”

The research was undertaken as a collaborative project between the University of Sussex, BHAFC and Brighton-based company Corridor Design, and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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