NE Patriots Use WiFi Technology to Enhance In-Stadium Fan Experience
The team at the time wanted to bring wireless connectivity to those in the premium seats—about 6,000 people—and began looking for a vendor to partner with. Cisco Systems was considered but couldn't make certain guarantees, Kraft said. After speaking with other companies, the team settled on Enterasys Networks, which Extreme bought in 2013 for $180 million. Enterasys committed to metrics the Patriots were looking for, he said. Over the years, the Patriots—which were the first team to bring customer-facing WiFi to a stadium and the first to put up a website—have expanded what they offer. Most recently, Extreme is about 80 percent done expanding the WiFi capabilities in the stadium, increasing the number of wireless access points (APs) from 362 to more than 1,120, including putting some under seats. Kraft said the result is a 10-fold improvement in network performance. In addition, the team has created a mobile app that offers fans a wide array of services. For example, a user can plug in his or her seat location, and the app can reply with the waiting times at the nearest bathrooms. In addition, the app indexes every play, enabling fans to go back to see a particular play from a number of camera angles, and fans can take selfies, post them to the stadium's video board and, with one click, post them to their social networks. For the Patriots, the app gives the team visibility into what the fans are doing—for example, when they're on the internet or where they go in the stadium.The team also is investigating what other services they can offer, he said. Augmented reality (AR) will play a role. For example, fans watching the game on TV at home get a lot of value out of seeing the yellow line on the screen that marks the first-down line, Kraft said. A new mobile service will enable fans at the stadium to hold their smartphones to the field and see the yellow line. Another idea is enabling fans to hold their phones to the field and not only see the players but also information on the screen about the players. The Patriots also have beta tested ways to make it easier and faster for fans to get food, including being able to order and pay for food through the mobile app and have the app alert the fan when the food is ready and where it can be picked up. However, Kraft said they still haven't figured out a way to enable that type of service to scale to the point where it can serve almost 70,000 fans. "You'll see us do a lot of experimenting," he said. "That will help us and help the fan get to watch [the game] how they want."
"We want to see what they're doing … while in the stadium," Kraft said. "It just lets us know all about our guests so we can better serve them."