When the rap star Jay-Z takes the stage tomorrow night to open the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., thousands of fans will simultaneously start launching photos and video feeds on any number of social networking sites. If they have a bad experience doing that, chances are more than a few of those fans are going to being making up a few choice lyrics for Chip Foley, director of building technology for Forest City Ratner Companies, builder of the Barclays Center.
Nine years in the making, the Barclays Center is not only the new home of the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team, it’s the newest state-of-the-art concert venue in New York City, with Brooklyn natives Jay-Z and Barbara Streisand scheduled to give some of the first concert performances.
Foley says that Forest City Ratner Companies not only wants these events to be major happenings in New York City, the company wants them to be social media sensations. To that end, Foley has not only made sure that every major carrier has optimal 3G and 4G wireless network bandwidth inside the arena, but Foley has worked with HighPoint Solutions, a business partner of Cisco, to install hundreds of high-density wireless access points. In turn, those access points are connected to a converged wired network that is at the heart of Cisco’s Connected Stadium Wi-Fi and StadiumVision platform that Foley is using to connect over 700 high-definition televisions (HDTV), along with about 100 point-of-sale locations to the same network.
In addition, each of the luxury box suites includes an Apple iPad that is attached to the wall. People that purchase tickets for these luxury suites can not only use the Apple iPad to control the HDTV unit in the suite, they along with everybody else in the stadium will even be able to use a Barclays Center app to one day watch videos and order food. They still have to go and pick up that order themselves, but they won’t have to stand in line to place an order. Barclays Center is launching its own in-arena television network, called BCTV, to provide those videos using the same Cisco converged network.
Obviously, the entertainment experience at venues large and small is being transformed thanks to IT. In effect, fans want to be part of the show on whatever social network they happen to favor at any particular moment. Making that happen from an IT perspective, however, is a bit more challenging than most of them will ever realize.