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Smart stadiums: integrated approach

In the second part of this smart stadiums feature we highlight the considerations from a non-sporting event perspective and the benefits of one central platform linking all applications.

In the first part of this smart stadiums feature we revealed that sound specification is becoming evermore critical above and beyond the essential requirements, here we highlight the considerations from a non-sporting event perspective and the benefits of one central platform linking all applications.

For non-sports events, such as concerts, a high quality stadium PA may be used to augment the substantial loudspeaker system that will be brought in by the band’s audio rental company. “By plugging in parts of the stadium PA as delays it is possible that a venue will be able to sell more seats for concerts,” explains Roland Hemming, founder/consultant, RH Consulting. “A good example of this is Amsterdam ArenA, where they plug into the delays and rotate the clusters to ‘concert mode’. This enables them to reduce the amount of temporary PA equipment that needs to be brought in for concerts, which is obviously good for the [overall cost base] of events.”

However, just because well-specified venues do have this capability doesn’t mean that they always take advantage of it. Hemming cites personal experience of a recent UK stadium gig by a very well-known rock band in which the house PA was left unused in favour of temporary delays “which sounded quite appalling where we were sitting. It was just as well that I knew the songs because I could not hear the words – and the between-song chat was also unintelligible. A lot of people around me were complaining about it too.”

With the mass availability of highly directional speaker systems, such oversights are difficult to justify – and hardly likely to win over a not-insignificant group of music fans who remain unconvinced of the merits of the stadium gig experience. As ticket prices continue to rise – frequently hitting three figures for even the least desirable seats once booking fees are taken into account – it’s an issue that could become increasingly acute for those venues wishing to maintain their lucrative non-musical ‘sidelines’.

Smart (re)configuration

Of course, plenty of stadiums are getting it right – and for Guillermo Wabi – professional sound application design manager, Bosch Building Technologies, Communications Systems Division, integral to the success of many is an integrated approach that sees all applications being masterminded from one central platform, with the ease of re-configuration that this implies. Not surprisingly, IP has proven to be the great enabler here.

In truly smart stadiums, he says, “the audio system is now linked to the security system, the fire system, access control, evacuation, video systems and mechanical systems. All can be interfaced to one multi-platform and multi-functional system, with self-monitoring and diagnostics.” Adopting such an holistic approach paves the way for stadium owners to benefit from a “lower cost of ownership and a better and more consistent fan experience, resulting in higher profits to the owners with the added benefit of higher safety and security for the public.”

Different configurations can be created for different event types, meaning that “with the push of a button we can change the system from sports mode to concert mode, and the system operator can dial in the correct delay to the stadium system in order to align with the temporary concert system and function as a support or delay system to the live concert.”

Equipping a control room with this kind of overarching control functionality also makes it easier for venues to furnish conference and seminar suites with varying audio content. Corporate gatherings and social events are another common contributor to (in the words of Wabi) “providing a constant revenue stream” for stadiums, so it’s unsurprising that some integrators have benefited from a steady stream of related indoor audio upgrade schemes.

NEXT: How are industry standards evolving and will the stadium of the future resemble more of a ‘micro-city’ than a traditional venue?