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A Tour of Brooklyn's Super-Connected Barclays Center
The Barclays Center is one of the most technologically sophisticated venues in the world. Home of the Brooklyn Nets and The New York Islanders, the multi-purpose event space has hosted everyone from Jay Z to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The audience for these events is incredibly diverse, but they all have one thing in common—they want to stay connected.
The tech team behind the arena delivers connectivity, but does more than just provide access. The building's technology redefines the way people interact with the structure around them. The Cisco Connected Stadium intelligent network—implemented by High Point Solutions—controls the Barclays infrastructure, including customer Internet access, security, surveillance, ticketing, and point of sale transactions.
"Barclays is a great showcase for people to understand how technology can complement the live experience," says Chris White, SVP of Internet of Things and Internet of Everything at Cisco. "People want to share and amplify the experience."
If you are inside the Barclays Center, you can access Wi-Fi. White says 98 percent of attendees show up with a smartphone, and 70-80 percent expect to get online at an event. Delivering wireless access in an arena that can hold up to 19,000 people isn't easy.
"The actual design of how you put Wi-Fi in a stadium is extraordinarily complex," White says. "This it isn't about heading down to Best Buy and picking up some routers."
Travis Sampson is the Senior Director Information Technology at the Barclays Center. It was his job to make sure that Wi-Fi network actually worked. "We went with a high-density Wi-Fi," Sampson explained. "We can allow up 21,000 people on Wi-Fi with a continuous connection at any time."
Another big part of the Barclays connected experience is the venue's app. Available for Android and iOS, it serves as a handheld control panel for the entire arena, with background information on the team or artist you are watching, as well as the option to order a beer and have it delivered to your seat.
"Now that I am connected, how do I make that experience seamless? The app helps you get to your seat faster, makes it easier to upgrade, you can see multiple camera angles. You just have a stickier experience," White explains.
One of the eerie things about standing in an empty Barclays Center is how dark it is. The branding and banners are turned off because the center uses digital signage almost exclusively. A single control room controls more than 700 HDTVs, 100 concession menu boards, and the giant, hanging display at the center of the arena. From the control room, you can deliver an ad or a replay video to any of those screens simultaneously.
Many nights, it is Logan Meyer sitting in that control room managing all of those displays. We asked him what all those buttons are for.
"Barclays jumped onto the digital signage play very early," White says. "Just think about the efficiency and flexibility of being able to reconfigure your marketing message on a dime."
Barclays also micro-targets customers inside the stadium to area businesses. "One of the unique things about Barclays is that they try to connect with the community," White says. "If you are a smaller vendor you can get into the Center to market to the local microbreweries and the local pizza places."
Ultimately, all the technology inside Barclays needs to offer something to the user, whether it is Wi-Fi, the location of the nearest bathroom, or a hot dog delivered to your seat. "The customer isn't going to connect with you if they are not getting anything out of it," White explains. "And if they don't connect, how do you stay in touch with your customers?"