A unique alliance comprising Arizona State University (ASU) and Dublin City University (DCU), in collaboration with Intel and the Gaelic Athletic Association, has established a Smart Stadiums initiative to provide a test bed for new technologies in the quest for smarter cities.

“Have you ever been to a game and wished you could view a touchdown or goal from a better angle? Have you ever wondered what your friends in other parts of the stadium are saying about it? Have you ever wished you could have access to all the player stats that you normally get when watching television coverage? How about ordering a hamburger or a team shirt from your seat?” asks the ASU research team.

The idea is that all these fan experiences could be made possible in the near future through live testing at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium renovation project and Ireland’s Croke Park Stadium.

Building management systems (BMS) have the capability to learn and even anticipate their occupants’ needs and preferences for light, temperature and other services – saving energy through targeted supply. The ongoing expansion and upgrading of wireless networks and leaps in computing power mean that today’s smart building designers possess the tools to use data to make the built environment more comfortable while reducing our carbon footprint.

Innovative technology for stadiums is more than just building management it is spectator management – from wayfinding and evacuation (fire/security engineering) to spectator monitoring, where things like how much water is used in the toilets to who purchased what, when and where can all be measured and optimised.

Systems are being designed and incorporated into buildings not simply so that the building works but that they become experiential.

Holistically, these smart technologies allow an even bigger picture of service, security and future-proofing of buildings, which take in well-being, maintenance and productivity.

“Smart is about the building beginning to anticipate your needs – it is about living in a machine that cares about you,” said professor Jeremy Watson FREng, director of Arup Global Research.

As venues managing tens of thousands of people they provide an ideal environment to deploy ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) technologies to beta test their capabilities and pilot new ideas and solutions. Successful application of the technologies in both stadia, as a microcosm of a smart city, will create a platform for future innovations in smart living, sustainability and smart cities.

“The Internet of Things will provide a whole range of exciting possibilities around the general concept of smarter living environments. DCU and ASU aim to significantly advance research in this direction by using two world-class stadia as living labs for trialling novel IoT technologies. The smart stadium concept will help academic researchers and both large and small companies to bridge the “research to practice” gap that currently hampers the translation of IoT innovations out of labs into real deployments,” explained professor Noel O’Connor, director of DCU’s Information Technology and Digital Society Research & Enterprise Hub.

Armed with data, the building team can quickly make decisions about moving a concession stand, adding more toilets to ease congestion or changing wait times to get people to move to other areas of the stadium. The team also can make moves based on the habits of specific fans.

Now consider this on a city scale; using information to guide traffic on city streets and monitor water systems and control lighting, as well as engage residents and allow businesses to spot and attract new customers.

Testing how smartphones can be used to manage crowd circulation and understand exactly how the venue is being used is just one example that can be utilized more widely to help our cities operate more smartly.

The use of GPS information could help determine which sites in a city are visited primarily either by locals or tourists, “The creative analysis of which can bring new information to tourism planners, which could help spread tourism to new parts of the city,” said Jan Kadijk from SmartSensors.me.

Smart cities are defined as those that have integrated information, communications and technology (ICT) solutions across three or more different functional areas.

It is predicted that the number of smart cities will quadruple to reach 88 by 2025, up from 21 in 2013. Of these, 31 will be in Europe, 32 in the Asia-Pacific region and 25 in the Americas, according to a report entitled Smart Cities: Business Models, Technologies and Existing Projects, published last year.

The medium term plans for smart stadium applications include scene replay, athlete performance monitoring via wearable sensing, fan experience and in-stadium engagement, safety and emergency response, crowd movement and control and traffic management.

At Sun Devil Stadium, a key component of the renovation project involves improving the venue’s environmental credentials. As part of this smart initiative, ASU will be exploring ways to ensure the development not only embeds sustainability practices but also engages the stadium as a live-in laboratory to research, design, test, validate and deploy new sustainability technologies and practice.

“This is an excellent example of how industry and academia across multiple continents working together can bring new applications and methods through transdisciplinary research that is focused on improving and enriching peoples’ lives,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.

Croke Park Stadium in Dublin holds 82,300 spectators and is the fourth largest in Europe. DCU already has an established relationship with both the Gaelic Athletic Association and the stadium itself through a number of high profile ICT research projects already in progress. This new initiative offers a unique opportunity for Croke Park Stadium to provide a rich spectator experience through fan engagement and connections, retail options, the promotion of sport and healthy behaviours for younger spectators, all delivered in a secure environment.

DCU and ASU have been collaborating since 2006, developing international cooperation in education, research and economic development.