ASU’s Technology Office brings the IoT to Sun Devil Stadium


    If you haven’t heard (or seen it posted on billboards, buses, and sometimes the Metro Light Rail), you’ll know it now: Arizona State University has been ranked #1 for innovation two years in a row. But where does that innovation actually happen? A lot of it occurs at the University Technology Office located inside Sun Devil Stadium.

    Chris Richardson is the Assistant Vice President of the University Technology Office (UTO). Over the past two years, ASU and Intel have teamed up to incorporate Sun Devil Stadium into the Internet of things (IoT). Involved in this effort are developers Matt Bunch and Zohair Zaidi and Director of IT Ryan Clemens, who comes from San Francisco cloud computing company Salesforce. Through this partnership, the UTO is setting up bits of technology that will help ASU engage, educate, and measure the satisfaction of football game attendees. The specifics, if we may be frank, are mind-blowing.

    Have you ever struggled to find parking on campus before an ASU football game? (Face it—it’s part of the Sun Devil experience.) The UTO plans on relieving parking hassle by displaying the capacity of individual parking structures and lots on ASU’s mobile app. As they near campus, game attendees will be able to see which lots have spaces open, as well as how many are available. The app will also use the attendee’s ticket to tell them which open lots are most convenient to use based on the location of their seats.

    The UTO is working to make the actual game experience more engaging and satisfying as well. Sensor packs installed under stadium seats allow the Office to measure localized sound and movement. Already installed at both end zones, these packs give the UTO real-time data as to which sections are cheering the loudest and stomping the hardest. Instead of putting a pretend spirit meter up on the jumbotron, the UTO will actually have stadium sections compete to see who can show the most pep. Once a winner is determined, the Office will push congratulatory messages to attendees in that section who have the ASU app. Those messages can contain anything from a simple “Congrats!” to a coupon for a free meal from a sponsor or a complimentary photo or song from the TouchTunes smart jukebox.

    What is the TouchTunes smart jukebox? It’s a wall-mounted touchscreen device that doubles as a photo booth and a music player. Users pay to take photos with friends (then have them printed and/or emailed as keepsakes) or play a song from the jukebox’s extensive music library. Soon the UTO will be placing TouchTunes jukeboxes around the stadium in enclosed walkways. Not only will attendees be able to purchase photos and individual song plays, but they’ll be able to redeem their spirit coupons for free pictures with friends during or after the game.

    Another way to pump up the pep at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium is by adding color. For special games, ASU often gives free light sticks or light-up Sun Devil horns to attending students and season passholders. Using custom software and Bluetooth technology, the UTO can control which colors the sticks and Sun Devil horns display from a distance. If ASU scores a touchdown, the UTO can make all of the lights in a certain section glow maroon and gold. If the university is playing a “white out” game, the UTO can make the lights glow a bright white. Red, white, and blue can flash in patterns when the stadium honors Pat Tillman. The Bluetooth-controlled lights are a small but exciting way to add spirit to any stadium event.

    Cheering in the Arizona heat will make you thirsty. Rather than making you wave and yell at the moving vendors until they see you, the UTO is planning on installing simple buttons on the back of stadium seats. These buttons work a bit like the ones you’d push to request a flight attendant on an airplane—give it a tap, and the moving vendors will receive a notification with your location in the stadium. They’ll then find you and take your food or drink order, expediting the process for everyone involved.

    One of the UTO’s coolest projects allows them to measure and graph attendees’ moods. By tracking certain usernames and hashtags on Twitter, the UTO can filter through tweets and determine whether guests are feeling pumped up, angry, disappointed, or surprised. This doesn’t just help the UTO measure satisfaction with the game itself—tweets like “Food is taking forever!” or “A Wildcat and a Sun Devil are fighting right in front of me!” allows the stadium to direct staff where they are needed most. Tracking usernames and hashtags gives the stadium quicker and more honest feedback than pesky customer surveys.

    And if game attendees have questions about ASU, they’ll soon be able to get their answers from the stadium itself. The Amazon Echo, a “smart home” device that responds to voice requests, can be programmed with different “skills” that enable it to handle special questions and demands. To improve guest engagement, the UTO has outfitted the Amazon Echo with a private ASU “skill” that allows it to answer questions about the university. Guests can make requests like, “Alexa, ask ASU who #42 was,” or “Alexa, ask ASU how many touchdowns we’ve had this year;” the Echo will provide a thorough audio response and corresponding visuals if a connected screen is nearby. The UTO plans on placing these devices around the stadium walkways and even across campus if guests respond well to the technology.
    Of course, not every project at the UTO is for game attendees. Some exist to help ASU’s Tempe campus along its journey to become 100 percent sustainable.  Take the UTO’s new water sensors, for example: these tiny devices hook up to individual faucets to measure how much hot and cold water is going out, and when. Not only is ASU able to more accurately determine how much water the stadium is using at any given time, but they’re able to tell where specific faucets are being used, too. If a game attendee or custodian leaves the water on, the stadium doesn’t have to send a staff member running into every bathroom to shut it off—they already know where to go.

    It’s important to note that while the IoT projects listed above are impressive, they’re also just the beginning. The UTO may be working on perfecting campus parking, attendee engagement, Bluetooth-controlled lights, and other feats right now, but there’s plenty more to come. Which IoT technologies are you most excited to see at the stadium?


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