As Vice President of Facilities for the Maryland Stadium Authority, Jeff Provenzano has seen the rise of the Internet of Things first-hand. Provenzano, who oversees operations at M and T Bank Stadium, the home of the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the home of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, remembers the first time he saw the IoT make an impact for professional sports and stadiums.
“Point-of-sale was the first real Internet of Things in stadiums, if you ask me,” Provenzano said. “That was our first real use.”
Since POS systems first started springing up in sports stadiums, arenas have become more and more connected in an effort to save teams and stadium operators money and give fans the best experience possible.
One of the most important developments for teams has been the ability to more closely monitor energy and utility usage. Provenzano said that as the costs of utilities continue to rise, the need for information about how and where those resources are being used is more crucial than ever.
“Water is becoming a commodity in certain parts of the country. Of all my utilities, I’m a nutcase for the water,” he said. “We just approved an extensive metering plan,” he said, which would track what sections of the stadium use the most water, electricity or other utilities, allowing Provenzano and his team to identify areas of concern or in need of improvement.
Tracking usage has already had a big impact at the Stadium Authority. Provenzano said that the public agency, which is operated by the State of Maryland and is not owned by either team, started using a usage monitoring website last year and has made cost-savings decisions based on the information they learned.
“We went from 16 million kWh (kilowatt hours) a year to roughly 11 million in a couple of years, just paying attention to what we were doing, but you have to be able to see what you’re doing,” Provenzano said. “So that’s about 500 grand a year that’s saved just in electricity,” he said. “The Internet allows us to know a lot more about what we’re doing.”
The Stadium Authority isn’t just saving money with IoT solutions, but also time.
“We’re not unique in size, there’s a lot of big facilities, but just to walk around either one of these stadiums is about a half-mile,” Provenzano said. “Just to get from where they start their day to the worksite could be a 15, 20-minute journey, and in the past they would have to do their work and go back to their computer, do the tickets, do the paper work,” Provenzano explained. “Now they’re out in the field, theoretically, most of the day, so again they go right to their work. Their schedule is on their phone, they go out to follow the schedule, complete the work and it’s on to the next task. It’s all done mobile and saving us thousands of hours a year.”
It isn’t only about cutting time and costs, however. IoT technology is also being used to improve the fan experience at the two stadiums by enhancing security and adding new features to the arenas. The Stadium Authority recently installed 400 Web-based cameras across the two facilities in an effort to better secure the stadiums, Provenzano said.
Baltimore fans may also be noticing new technology when they visit M and T Bank Stadium this year. The lighting is all computerized, according to Joe March, the Stadium Authority’s IT Manager.
“We have LEDs all around the concourse and upper concourse, around the poles themselves, these big concrete poles, they have the ability to change any color the Ravens want,” March explained. “It can be controlled from a computer or by a panel on the wall they have in the control room.”
With the computerized lights, the Ravens and the Stadium Authority can change the colors of the lights throughout the facility for celebrations and events. For example, the stadium is lit up in purple after the team wins a game or scores a touchdown, and glows pink in observance of breast cancer awareness month.
Lighting throughout the stadium, along with electricity, climate controls, water controls and more, can all be controlled remotely, giving Provenzano and his team more control over the stadium, even if they’re not around.
“Besides football and baseball, we do a couple hundred of catered events every year — weddings, bar-mitzvahs, and it’s never good when the lights don’t go on,” Provenzano said. “Same with our building automation system. Our technicians can log-in from home and raise the temperature, lower the temperature, see what’s going on. Everything is alarmed, so if something goes bad, everyone gets an alarm at home.”
Cellphone reception is also improving. Wi-Fi and Distributed Antenna systems were recently installed, Provenzano explained, designed to allow fans better access to their smartphone from the comfort of their seat.
“This is all about allowing people to use their smartphones at the stadium without interruption,” Provenzano said. “It’s the 21st century, people expect these things. We get on a plane, we expect to have Wi-Fi.”
Getting stadiums, especially older ones equipped with modern Wi-Fi and cellphone networks, can be tricky, however.
When Oriole Park at Camden Yard first opened in 1992, it was widely considered the retro-modern crown jewel of Major League Baseball. It’s now the ninth-oldest stadium in use in the league. That means it was built before the advent of the Internet and cellphones, which can pose challenges when it’s time for an upgrade.
For instance, the cable trays at both M and T Stadium, which is now 16 years old, and Oriole Park were small, by state-of-the-art comparison. The stadiums had only one cable tray, used to support insulated electric cables used for power distribution and communication, measuring roughly three-feet wide.
Compare that to MetLife Stadium, the new home of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets. That complex opened in 2010 with more than a dozen cable trays. Provenzano visited MetLife stadium soon after it opened and after seeing how advanced the new stadium was, decided to take a closer look at the Stadium Authority’s technological capacity.
“I started going into the budgets of everything I noticed one thing that every line item that had anything to do with software, Internet was very small and municipal,” Provenzano said. “That’s when I woke up and realized how much we were missing and not paying attention to that was coming down the road and what we were going to inherit in 10 or 15 years.”
In the time since, Provenzano said he has learned plenty of lessons about how to integrate technology into the stadiums.
“Ten years ago, most of my procurements and the contracts we do and the projects we do, we never would have involved the IT department,” Provenzano said. “They were just a secondary thought after everything was put together, whereas now every major project, any major contract that we’re doing for a service that requires Internet or requires software, Joe [March] is right in the room with us. He’s right there, which is critical, because there are so many mistakes I’ve learned with software, so many mistakes. I’ve learned the hard way.”
So what’s next for IoT in stadiums? Provenzano said he sees an exciting future ahead.
“I remember sitting in a room with someone close to me and saying ‘Before I leave, I want my Starship Enterprise,’” Provenzano recalled, citing the large command center from the famous Star Trek fleet.
“We’re getting there, it might be a retirement gift, but we’re getting there,” he said. “I want to be able to just look at my big screen or look at the reports I get or the graphs I get, the data I receive and understand what’s going on without going too far. And we’re getting there, we really are. I can say for the first time, that seriously it may be a retirement gift, I’m giving away my age, but we’re getting closer every year.”
Baltimore sports fans – prepare to engage?
The April edition of the PYMNTS.com® Internet of Things Tracker, delivers the latest news and trends, in addition to a directory of 61 IoT players, including 10 new profiles. To stay up-to-date on everything IoT, check out the April 2016 Internet of Things Tracker.