The Atlanta Super Bowl 2019: A Connectivity-at-Scale Success Story


The 2019 Super Bowl LIII, played between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots at Atlanta’s recently-renovated Mercedes-Benz Stadium, was one of the world’s most connected sporting events to date. Apart from the sheer quantity of data used by attendees during the game itself (over 24 terabytes!), the event deployed a host of behind-the-scenes IoT technology to optimize everything from parking and security to stand concessions and bathroom cleanliness, not to mention the players themselves, who benefited from multiple IoT safety systems. 

The stadium opened for business in August of 2017, using IBM’s cloud as the backbone of a converged IT network employing more than 4,000 miles of fiber cabling to support multiple IoT-connected systems throughout the whole arena. The stadium has over 2,000 WiFi access points, and during the Super Bowl more than 30,000 fans accessed the WiFi network during halftime. The distribution network was substantial enough to theoretically download all 61 Game of Thrones Episodes, in 4K ultra-high-definition quality, in just 46 seconds. 

Fans interacted with IoT from the very moment they entered the stadium, with perimeter and access managed with IoT systems. Event-goers could enter the stadium by tapping ticket-holder RFID cards that are worn on lanyards, or alternatively by scanning bar code electronic tickets from their mobile phones, reducing the incidence of fraudulent tickets. Other security measures included crowd video monitoring and sensor tracking, which fed data directly into the centralized stadium-security team, ensuring a holistic overview of the security situation at any given moment. 

Additional behind-the-scenes systems offered a variety of benefits for fans. A mobile app allowed attendees to locate points of interest within the stadium and even see reviews of those services from other fans. The app also included IoT-enabled transport information, such as real-time public transit updates integrated directly into the app. Attendees were kept comfortable with cooling and power systems optimized through sensors and IoT. Even the audio systems in the stadium were IoT-enabled, with a converged network of connected speakers that could be specifically targeted to certain areas in the stadium. 

Of course, we can’t forget the players. IoT sensors were in both the footballs themselves and the players’ helmets and shoulder pads. The sensors measured player speed and movement, but also sent warnings to team coaches and medical teams if a helmet impact seemed like it may have been strong enough to result in a concussion or other health issue. In addition to the internal team group, media were also given access to some of the data, to quickly report on player performance on the field. 

In sum, the stadium is at the vanguard of “increasing connectivity and removing barriers between digital and physical worlds.” While the principal intention of the IoT-enabled stadium is to improve the fan experience, the data captured through the different sensor systems deployed throughout the stadium provides a wealth of data that can later be analyzed to further improve the fan experience, player and team optimization, building performance, security, environmental impact and many other areas that IoT impacts. 

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