Beating the competition: your sofa

The smart venues of the future will make going out almost as effortless as staying home …

August 2019

Words by Katie Puckett

Fans cheering during a football match
At San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, you can use the official app to order food to be delivered to your seat, find the shortest queues or a place to park. Photo: Jim Simmons Photography
At Taylor Swift’s Rose Bowl concert in May 2018, a kiosk equipped with facial recognition cameras showed rehearsal clips. As fans watched, their images were being cross-referenced with a database of hundreds of her known stalkers. Meanwhile, Live Nation has invested in Blink Identity, a start-up that uses military facial recognition technology to identify people passing at full walking speed, even if they are not looking at the camera

Immersive sound, virtual reality, instant 360° replays …
the venues of the future will offer all of this — but so will home entertainment systems. It’s a lot more convenient to stay home. You can eat whatever you want. You can sit with your friends. You get the best views. You don’t have to travel, brave lengthy queues or pay exorbitant prices. When you put it like that, why would you ever leave the sofa?

So we have to make it easy. In tomorrow’s venues, the technology you can see will be just the tip of an AI-powered iceberg working to optimize every part of the experience and make it as frictionless as possible.

“We need to raise expectations of what a digital service should be,” says Matthew Marson, head of smart buildings at WSP. “I don’t want a paper ticket or to have to look for a parking space. I expect food to come to me, and if I miss that all-important shot, I want to be able to go back and watch it in my own time.” This will make for a radically different guest experience, but it will not necessary require physical changes to existing buildings: “We can just overlay them with a set of digital services.”

“The point of smart buildings is to enhance the spectator experience. People want to get in and out quickly and safely, be comfortable, and not have to queue for ages for a beer”

Peter Chipchase, WSP

With digital ticketing, there’s no need to print out tickets or pick them up — they’re already pre-loaded onto your phone. If you’re taking your personal vehicle, you’re automatically directed to your pre-booked parking space, and can find it again easily. We could even extend the wayfinding experience with turn-by-turn instructions to reach your seat.

Security will be more rigorous but less visible, as biometric identification and intelligent video analytics become the norm. Cameras with built-in AI will monitor footage and identify unattended bags, for example, or changes in the way a crowd is moving. “Computers can watch all the screens at the same time and they don’t miss small details,” says Marson. “They can see if the crowd has started to move in an unusual way, and flag up that someone needs help.”

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The system could even identify when rival fans go into the opposing team’s area: “If it’s Manchester City versus Manchester United and someone in a blue shirt goes over to the red-shirt side, you can put in a virtual tripwire to alert security staff.”

Long queues will be a thing of the past. Bluetooth beacons can monitor foot traffic and the length of food queues, directing spectators to the shortest ones. But why leave your seat at all? “The beacons provide such accurate locations that rather than having to go and queue for food, it comes to you,” says Marson. “You order it on the app and the delivery person can see where you are.”

Combining all of this data with information from occupancy sensors in lighting systems will make maintenance and cleaning more reactive — the restrooms of the future will never run out of toilet paper or soap. And for those who like to plan every detail, the app could show you a concert setlist, so you can choose the perfect moment to go.

This data will also play an invaluable role in key decisions about everything from sponsorship to event management, says Jay Wratten, sport sector lead at WSP in the US. “Mobile devices allow us to interact with fans in a very different way, from an operator and marketing perspective. Data and analytics about their fan base is hugely important to how teams establish partnerships with sponsors and how they weigh the success of different initiatives.”

From The Possible, issue 05

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Datasets on how people buy tickets, their preferred food and their social media interactions during and after an event could be mined to drive engagement or secure funding. “For a sports team today, there is no off-season. They need to be in front of fans 24/7, 365 days a year, constantly engaging. That’s the way we now consume entertainment. Going to the venue is part of it, but your loyalty to the team or artist is built digitally. These facilities represent the culmination of that relationship.”

This article appeared in The Possible issue 05, as part of a longer feature on the future of entertainment

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