Avaya Plays Sports
Most sports sponsorships are little more than advertising. There’s no doubt that some goodwill is generated from Avaya’s sponsorship of the stadium where the San Jose Earthquakes play in California. But the real game is practice development.
Avaya’s decision to sponsor the stadium for 10 years had larger motivations than advertising, though it is highly visible for such a small venue. Avaya Stadium only has about 24,000 seats, but it’s directly across from San Jose Airport, right off highway 101, and seems more visible to me than the new, nearby Levi’s stadium.
While the visibility in Silicon Valley can’t be bad, Avaya engineered a new vertical in sports entertainment. UC companies don’t have a monopoly on transformation. The sports industry is also going through radical changes. Fans don’t just show up to watch a game any more – they watch their smartphones, too. They expect be able to check emails, surf the web, update social networks, and share photos and videos without limitation – regardless of the thousands around them with similar intents. That’s assuming they show-up at all – watching the game is often best from home. The venue owners need to create an at-game, engaging experience to fill the seats.
Prior to smartphones, cell phone coverage was the responsibility of the wireless carriers, but that’s not the story any more. Poor Wi-Fi, or poor Internet access, reflects poorly on the venue – be it airports, conference halls, or stadiums. Venue operators of all types are scrambling to meet burgeoning demand.
Avaya saw a win-win opportunity: the venue operators needed new technologies – contact centers, networking, and new applications – and Avaya wanted to transition from a product orientation to a solution focus. It’s part of Avaya’s larger transition from equipment provider to solution provider.
Avaya Stadium was its first major opportunity, and many of the custom-developed solutions there have been productized for other venues, including the Pepsi Center in Denver, Bell Center in Montreal, Rogers Arena in Vancouver, and many more exist and are expected.
Avaya invited me to the Pepsi Center – home of the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets for a behind-the-scenes tour. The first thing I noticed were old (1970s era) phones. The Pepsi Center does plan to implement new Avaya IP phones, but that part of the solution was pushed to one of the later phases. The primary motivation for new phones is more about a consolidated infrastructure than advanced features on courtesy phones.
However, there was a state-of-the-art contact center capable of supporting over 100 agents. The contact center equipment was on-site, but supporting multiple distributed locations for several teams.
The first stop on the tour was the Business Engagement Center, which is a space that can be booked for private events and meetings. There are multiple event rooms, each with large, built-in HD screens equipped with Avaya Scopia video conferencing technology. Avaya assumed the role of solutions integrator and sourced all of the components, including video switches, controllers, and resources for screen sharing from personal devices.
Outside the Business Center was the Fan Engagement Wall – a social media aggregation point. The Engagement Wall was custom developed by Avaya and a central part of its sports solution. It provides current tweets, Instagrams, and images intended to capture and share the online social buzz. Interspersed between these social updates are game-day facts, schedules, stats, and other information. In the future, Avaya intends to feed this to the Jumbotron, the web, and other digital signage.
Throughout the 675,000 square-foot Pepsi Center is strong Wi-Fi coverage. This is accomplished mostly with ceiling-mounted Avaya 9100 series access points. These are software-based radios that support 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz configurations. The software controls allow instant reconfiguration to accommodate multiple use cases. The Pepsi Center is used for hockey, basketball, concerts and other types of shows which require changes to optimize coverage. For example, while hockey games may seem conceptually similar to a Disney on Ice show, the fact that the giant scoreboard over the ice, with a surface area of 4,400 square feet, is missing impacts the wireless characteristics of the stadium. Even more changes are necessary when transitioning to a basketball game or concert layout.
The wireless network utilizes Avaya switches to connect to the outside world over multiple broadband links. The Avaya network is fully resilient with access points cross-connected to multiple switches.
Also included in Avaya’s vertical specialization is a fan engagement mobile app. Avaya custom-developed this for the Earthquakes in San Jose, and intends to deliver versions to more of its sports customers. The Android and iOS app can provide team news, scores, player bios, venue information, video interviews, photo galleries, schedules, social media updates, and more. Avaya is continuing to improve the app, and intends to offer more in-facility benefits.
The venue managers I met with were extremely pleased with the results. Evidently teams compete in infrastructure as well, and they were confident their technology was a top contender. They also expressed that Avaya’s commitment to improved fan engagement made a tremendous difference over buying piecemeal components.
Dave Michels, TalkingPointz