Sports stadiums, concert arenas, and other large events venues are poised to become important locations for the use of edge computing, a growing IT trend that involves the use of local, on-site data processing capabilities. The ability to process data locally, at “the edge”, instead of sending it to a cloud data center for processing, makes it possible to run new digital services and applications that depend on high levels of performance (e.g. high definition streaming video) or real-time data processing (e.g. real-time data analytics related to a specific sports event).
Edge computing is already being used in stadiums and large event venues around the world, including those in China, Qatar, the United States, Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. So far several broad trends are evident:
Stadiums are ideal venues for edge computing
Firstly, the existing or intended use cases for edge computing within major event venues are broad and include real-time data processing for crowd and stadium management, and the deployment of “audience experience” applications such as high definition (HD) video streaming, real time player analytics, or applications based on virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR). For example, the SoFi stadium in Los Angeles uses edge computing and networking technologies from Cisco to deliver streaming media and other digital content to audiences. In Germany meanwhile, Vodafone recently allowed 1,000 football fans to test a new 5G app at Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena. The new app, which also runs on edge computing, allows fans to access real-time information and match statistics via their smartphones.
Secondly, early use cases that involve edge computing showcase a broader trend whereby service providers collaborate with ecosystem partners and combine several technologies to enable actual use cases. In Qatar, Ooredoo is working with Dell Technologies and Ericsson and to equip the venues that will host the 2022 World Cup games with edge computing capabilities and increased 5G network capacity. In Australia, Telstra is working with Google and Accenture to deliver new “virtual experiences” based on edge and other technologies at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium. And in the United States, Verizon recently partnered with Extreme Networks to target emerging technology opportunities at stadiums using a combination of 5G, high density Wi-Fi, and multi-access edge computing (MEC).
These examples illustrate another important point: within sports stadiums and other major venues edge computing is typically deployed as an enabling technology alongside things such as 5G or Wi-Fi 6 networking, IPTV, VR/AR, or Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for data collection.
Finally, many of the existing applications of edge computing in large event arenas are embryonic, with some still in the early testing stages. For example, in France’s Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, Orange Business Services is testing the potential for various use cases that will combine the latest 5G, edge computing, and IoT technologies.
These will include crowd management, facilities management, and new audience experiences that could also leverage 8K video streaming and VR/AR headsets. Meanwhile, in China, Intel, China Unicom, Nokia and Tencent Cloud have been working together to trial MEC-based Edge Video Orchestration services at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena. If successful, some of these early use cases of edge computing are highly likely to be expanded to support more sophisticated use cases or replicated elsewhere in other large venues.