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Brighton Fans To Test New Technology

Mon 13th May 2013 | IT & Technology

It will be a testing time in more ways than one for football fans at Brighton’s Amex Community Stadium when 100 Albion followers try out new technology from the University of Sussex during tonight’s nail-biting bid for a place in the Premier League.

During the home leg of the play-off battle against Crystal Palace, 100 Brighton and Hove Albion FC volunteers using a phone app called digitalStadium will be helping scientists at Sussex test new software that connects fans and clubs via digital technology without the need for infra-structure wifi.

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 infra-structure can be prohibitive.

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

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, the software enables smart phones to act as mobile computers and build networks with other phones in the crowd. 

Dr Wakeman says: “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 will enable 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.

Phone-owning fans using the app at the Amex tonight will be 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.

Albion’s play-off home tie is the last match of a five-match development period in which 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.

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 by exploring how the technology can be developed for commercial use through the University’s hi-tech business incubation hub, the Sussex Innovation Centre.

Albion's head of media Paul Camillin says: “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 via the obvious methods.

“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 digitalStadium 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).

 

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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