Feb 05 2016

Super Bowl 50: Technology Leaves Its Mark on the Big Game

Everything from the fan experience to team operations is being shaped by technology, even more this year.

Super Bowl 50, which will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is poised to be a monumental event that breaks the mold on several fronts.

First, it’s the first Super Bowl game to eschew the NFL’s Roman numeral tradition and instead use the Arabic numerals that most of us are familiar with.

Second, it’s only the second appearance for the Carolina Panthers. So history will be made on Sunday night, if the Panthers win, or it will repeat itself if the two-time champion Broncos win.

But perhaps the most noticeable shift is how tech-driven this year’s big game is. CNET is calling Super Bowl 50 “the most high-tech Super Bowl to date,” citing how the stadium has pulled out all the stops to provide in-stadium wireless connectivity, an intelligent mobile app and engaging fan experiences with virtual reality.

This impressive tech influence shouldn’t be too much of a surprise though, given that Levi’s Stadium is in Silicon Valley, the technological heart of America.

A Fan Experience That Connects on All Fronts

Last year’s Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona was no slouch in the Wi-Fi department, as the Arizona Cardinals IT team installed 800 access points in the venue to support fans’ ravenous appetite for wireless data. This year, Super Bowl fans can expect even more of a Wi-Fi wow factor, as Levi’s Stadium is equipped with IT infrastructure that is designed to “withstand wireless traffic more than doubling last year’s Super Bowl total,” according to the International Business Times.

Beyond connectivity, the NFL is continuing to enhance the fan experience with its mobile app. The league’s Super Bowl App made its debut last year, and this year fans in the stadium can use the app to place drink orders and have them delivered to their seats, reports WIRED. In a unique twist, fans in Levi’s Stadium will get some of the TV fan experience as well, as they’ll be able to view the ever popular Super Bowl TV commercials via the app during the game.

While an enhanced fan experience is important, even more impressive are the business benefits of the app. VenueNext, the company that produces the NFL’s app, has built a similar app for the 49ers that has been in use for the past season at Levi’s Stadium and it has “helped the stadium both reduce its food and beverage costs and raise its sales revenue,” according to the IB Times article.

Tech Makes the Broadcast Truly Super

While it’s great that fans in-stadium will have access to better technology, fans watching the game at home shouldn’t feel left out, as CBS has upped the ante with its camera technology for this year’s game.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the new replay system installed for the game will “give viewers a 360-degree perspective and higher resolution than previously ever seen for the game.” In addition to the replay system, CBS will “use eight custom-molded pylons that house 16 cameras to film the goal lines and sidelines,” along with embedded microphones that are designed to enhance the game’s natural sound.

Imagining a Truly Interactive NFL Experience

Microsoft, which is already an official partner of the NFL and supplier of the league’s Microsoft Surface sideline tablets, has decided to spark the imagination of football fans everywhere with an impressive concept video on what tech, namely its Demolition Man–inspired virtual reality HoloLens product, can do for future Super Bowl games.

Many fans who watch the video will undoubtedly feel a sudden and strong urge to yell “shut up and take my money,” but they’ll have to be patient. HoloLens doesn’t have an official release date, and even optimistic guesses put it in consumers’ hands sometime around 2020 at the earliest.

Still, with the technology advances that are made each year at the Super Bowl, this interactive, immersive, augmented and virtual concept is well within our lifetime, and shows how in just a very short time, the way we attend or watch the big game could radically transform.