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Sports Technology: The Greatest Wi-Fi Network in Football

sports technologyThe San Francisco 49ers are in the process of building Santa Clara Stadium and it is expected to include many up-to-date and even advanced features, one of which will include the greatest stadium Wi-Fi network of all-time, revolutionizing sports technology.

The stadium is set to open its doors for the start of the 2014 season and will house up to 68,500 fans, who, if technology continues on its current plane, will have access to a Wi-Fi network on some kind of device.

Until this point, it was not physically possible to open a Wi-Fi connection of this size to stadium attendees, but former Facebook employees Dan Williams and Kunal Malik look to change this.

Williams is now the senior IT director of the Niners and Mailk is the team’s CTO. The twosome envision the new stadium as a data center for its guests and are certain that they can give all 68,500 people an available Wi-Fi connection at one time.

Both Williams and Malik say it can and will be done when the new stadium opens, although some people may disagree.

“Can 70,000 people get on the network at once? The answer to that is no,” said John Brams, director of hospitality and venues at the Patriots’ network vendor, Enterasys.

“If everyone tried to do it all at once, that’s probably not going to happen.”

Just to give you an example of how limited Wi-Fi access has been in the past, the Patriots have never had more then 10,000 people simultaneously connect at one time and never more then 16,000 people over the course of one game. At last season’s Super Bowl in New Orleans Wi-Fi only reached the devices of 30,00 in-house fans at one time.

The task is a daunting one for Williams and Malik and it may not even be necessary, but the pair is confident that it is possible and they plan on making it a reality.

How do they plan on accomplishing this?

It has to do with the design of the stadium.

The Santa Clara Stadium design will be unique to football stadiums, according to Williams and the access points will be spread and distributed.

The 49ers are testing designs in Candlestick Park and experimenting with different access points in a lab. The movement of fans and the impact of weather on Wi-Fi performance are among the factors under analysis.

Wi-Fi will be available in the stands, suites, walkways and the rest of the stadium, but the team has not yet decided whether to make Wi-Fi available in outdoor areas such as concourses and parking lots.

If Williams and Malik can pull this off, they could be innovators in future designs of sports stadiums around the globe.

Photo Credit: nfl-franchises.findthedata.org

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