The technological infrastructure now backing Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles sets up one of the most followed Major League Baseball franchises to deliver a new in-venue experience for fans when they return to the building. To prepare, the Los Angeles Dodgers are practicing now, planning for changes and investigating future advances (they see you, facial recognition).
“No longer are we fighting fires or alleviating bottlenecks,” says Ralph Esquibel, Dodgers vice president, information technology, “we can make decisions faster and look at more innovation in and around the ballpark.”
For fans, that means immediate changes upon a return to the venue, whenever that happens, of a more contactless experience, including with the Dodgers going cashless. While cashless isn’t a new concept in sports, expect it to become more common across the nation. But what the installation of Cisco’s HyperFlex Infrastructure with Intel
Esquibel says that just this last weekend he was sitting in the venue’s sports bar thinking about new fan opportunities. Using the empty building as a testing ground to “look at the future and double-check our work,” at one point Cody Bellinger came to bat and analytical data appeared on the bar’s digital screens in real time, showing the probability for an out, hit, home run and more. Bellinger knocked one out and Esquibel saw the percentages shift in real-time. “It is pretty cool,” he says. “If you are sitting around our venue hanging out with friends, you can hypothesize based on the information you can see. It is a very unique experience.”
Expect that analytics component to be a near-term focus, connecting fans from concourse to concourse with every digital board looping in real-time data. “You are participating in a game within the game,” he says. “You are seeing those nuances and experiencing exactly what the play on the field is outputting.” From spin ratios, launch angles to probability, Esquibel expects the Dodgers — with their capability to handle high amounts of data efficiently — to explore the world of stats anew.
That infrastructure upgrade, something conceived well before the pandemic, put a focus on removing data bottlenecks, creating capacity to handle data spikes and handling the volume of data moving throughout a venue, all while building new fan experiences.
“Infrastructure helps provide flexibility inside or outside to maintain contact between the franchise and fans,” says Chris Tobias, general manager, Optane Solutions Division, Intel. “Can your IT infrastructure adapt rapidly to provide the best fan experience and fan engagement?”
Not only has the sheer scale of people bringing devices into a venue — many now have at least two, with a phone and a watch — grown, but DD Dasgupta, vice president, product management of cloud and compute for Cisco, says the security needs have increased because of the pandemic as people must even further rely on mobile applications and digital payment systems. “We are looking at scale, security and data (volume) coming together at the same time,” he says.
Cisco’s big push with HyperFlex is to efficiently distribute data. “We will not just process so much more, but do it in a smarter way,” Dasgupta says, offering the example of a fan looing to order something on their phone. “Smart infrastructure can know what a user is trying to do,” Dasgupta says, “and create prioritization within the infrastructure” to make that transaction smoother and faster.
The technology backbone already has Esquibel thinking about the value of using facial recognition to give fans personalized experiences. While cognizant of concerns some individuals have over privacy, Esquibel says facial recognition capability can benefit fans by tailoring experiences and opportunities and create a safer experience because at no point can someone take your identity or something that was reserved for a specific person. “Those are the types of elements we are looking at incorporating once our culture catches up to the technology,” Esquibel says, “and people understand the benefits.”
With the push for contactless delivery speeding up largely due to the pandemic, expect to see the Dodgers go cashless, improve contactless entry and build more digital experiences, allowing fans to transact on their phone, including the potential for virtual meet and greets and other pandemic-era experiences. Digital signage will also get an immediate upgrade, allowing far more agility, from analytics displays to real-time promotions pushed to specific locations.
When the Dodgers do welcome fans back into the building they also expect to explore the full depth of their new technology, such as the new WiFi 6 from Cisco or the 5G capabilities to help push real-time data in terms of wait times and routing, areas the Dodgers can’t tune until they are at capacity.
Venues prepared, both from an infrastructure and programming standpoint, will be the ones most poised to capture and elevate the fan experience. “If they are not prepared,” Dasgupta says, “you can’t support all these devices and can’t support safe transactions and will take five steps back. They want to be ready.”