January 25, 2022

Stadiums around the world allow seating capacities that rival small cities. Those crowds can get even bigger when it comes to big games and major championships. When these larger venues are filled to capacity, it  can bring a whole new level of infrastructure demand. Their size presents challenges that mirror the predicted challenges of our increasingly urbanized world: lots of vehicular traffic, huge network demands and public safety concerns. 

There’s a growing body of research that argues that these venues provide a laboratory for smart cities technology. 

Traffic Congestion

Large crowds arrive and leave major sporting events at the same time, creating huge traffic jams. Sometimes, navigation apps may even divert people to side streets, creating ancillary jams in residential areas. 

“AI can be used to optimize the travel experience to and from the stadium so that you don’t have to wait for hours in your car,” said IEEE Member Bilin Aksun-Guvenc. “Your parking space can also be reserved and your vehicle can be parked autonomously.” 

Energy Efficiency and Consumption

Sports stadiums use massive amounts of energy, during game time and downtime. There’s significant interest in using IoT sensors to manage lighting and power consumption in stadiums, by, for example, dimming the lights in empty portions of stadiums, and automatically brightening them for storms or to signal to staff of imminent emergencies. 

But big games like football championships and a World Cup Match can have significant impacts well outside the stadium. The transition to half-time, when people get up to make food or wash dishes, can lead to large frequency fluctuations in power grids that must be managed. 

Network Capacity

Live, in-person sports have a major competitor: It’s easy, and comfortable, to watch events at home. So stadium operators are investing in features to improve the fan experience. Augmented reality is often seen as a solution. Some stadiums have experimented with AR “bobbleheads.” Another proposed system would turn a smartphone into a window through which to watch the game. When the phone’s camera spots a player, the system would tag the player in the display and also offer enhanced stats. 

These features add to the already enormous demands from simply hosting tens of thousands of people in a single location.  

IEEE Life Senior Member Raul Colcher said that the Internet of Things-based contribute to demands – including services that monitor the movement of people to and from exits, guide them to seats, and facial recognition apps to manage payments. 

“For all this to be possible with a high concentration of people, new telecommunications resources, in public and proprietary networks, must be made available,” Colcher said. “Naturally, this poses new challenges regarding the massive availability of broadband access in confined environments.”

Smart cities infrastructure is critical to the operation of live sporting events, and that role will only grow.  If you want a glimpse of how smart cities technology and smart infrastructure might be deployed, look no further than your local stadium.

If you’d like to learn more about how integrated and open IoT systems could help manage transportation to and from stadiums at FIFA 2022 In Qatar, check out this paper from IEEE Access. 


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