The Digital Stadium

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Informatics


Major sports events are ideal opportunities to exploit pervasive computing technologies to increase the quality of experience. As the penetration of smartphones continue, the customer can become the hub of their experience, linked to their ticket, their seat, their favourite food offerings, their modes of transport, and most importantly, to the sporting event on show. But there are many challenges to connecting everything inside the stadium. The numbers and density of people make it difficult to provide adequate bandwidth, which when combined with the concrete and steel construction of the stadium make network provision a serious technical challenge.

We propose to investigate the feasibility of connecting customers through a pocket switched network (PSN) to supplement existing network infra-structure, using the crowd's smartphones to build a mesh network to provide the dense coverage needed to make an Internet of Things a reality in the stadium. Delay tolerant protocols based on social interactions have been widely examined in research, but we believe that this would be one of the first deployments, allowing the validation of the underpinning ideas. This would also provide the first opportunity to investigate which services can be provided that customers want and how we can ensure that users' privacy concerns are met, given data travels over third party phones. Having answered these questions in our feasibility study, we will deploy and test the infra-structure and selected applications over a number of matches within Brighton and Hove Albion's Amex Community Stadium.

This project is the epitomy of a New Economic Model project, working with stakeholders to develop viable ways to build services over novel networking technologies.

Planned Impact

This project is designed around the idea of impact on business. The deployment will occur in a very public "in the wild" setting, at the Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club stadium, with supporters attending matches as the user base. The services developed will be driven by both commercial considerations and user experience as well in order to provide both academic outputs situated in real world data and business benefit through improved marketing opportunities and supporter experience.

If successful this type of application has the potential for widespread applicability: in many stadium events and large public gatherings, including sports, music, spectacles and disaster situations. The proposed research outcomes include data and improvements to simulators in order to allow the feasibility of the system to a range of venues, crowds and application usage patterns to be studied. This analysis will inform future commercial exploitation beyond the grant -- however, the challenges presented are by no means unique to the particular setting we consider here.

Talks are underway between the stakeholders about how to proceed with exploitation of the technology if the project is successful. It is likely that a spin-off company will be formed to market and license the technology, initially to other football clubs within this country, but eventually to other stadia and events around the world. If successful, the technology will create a niche market for digital companies in creating context specific services.

Given the popularity of football, such a project should be of great interest to the press and other media. We will be working with the University's and BHAFC's press office to maximise publicity, emphasising the academic lineage of such opportunistic networks and the funding from the EPSRC.


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Description Delay tolerant networking is a form of network technology, where the phones of ordinary people are used to carry other people's messages from pocket to pocket till they reach their destination. Whilst the idea had been widely investigated in simulation and in limited case studies, we were the first project to implement studies with real people using such technology to solve a real problem - the lack of 3G connectivity in crowds.
Our results showed that real people are willing to give up their bandwidth and memory to help people within the same crowd, particularly if the crowd shares a common interest, such as fans of the same team.
Exploitation Route The software is being used in sporting events around the UK, and we hope to take the software into other areas such as music festivals and tourist attractions. Further, we believe there is great potential for the software in emergency management scenarios.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description As part of ensuring that we had the rights to deliver the research, we had discussions with the Football League at an early stage of the project. If successful, they were keen that the outputs be taken into a commercial offering that they could deliver to their constituent clubs. The trials were successful, which led to the PI applying for and receiving a year long Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship, starting February 2013. In association with the EPSRC project team and the university, a company, TribeHive was setup to deliver apps incorporating the connectivity solution delivered within the project. This company has spawned another spin-off, InCrowd Sports, which delivers apps and other services across both English and European football clubs, Premiership Rugby, Rugby Super League, English cricket and Formula 1. The company now employs 45 people.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship
Amount £83,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2013 
End 02/2014
Company Name InCrowdSports 
Description InCrowd Sports are a sports marketing company, using the connectivity technology developed within the EPSRC Digital Stadium project to connect fans, clubs and brands. 
Year Established 2014 
Impact The company is deploying the official apps for ten english football clubs, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Super League
Company Name TribeHive Ltd 
Description TribeHive was set up to commercialise the delay tolerant network developed within the EPSRC Digital Stadium project. We delivered commercial contracts with eight English professional footabll clubs - QPR, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Huddersfield Town, Brighton and Hove Albion, Middlesbrough, Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest - and built and distributed apps on behalf of the football league. In 2015, the company sold its sporting assets to InCrowdSports and renamed itself HiveCore Ltd. 
Year Established 2013 
Impact The company delivered connectivity software into the hands of over 60,000 football fans. On the back of this success, the sporting contracts of TribeHive were bought into another startup, InCrowdSports, which now employs 16 people, and is delivering software beyond football to rugby and cricket, and is opening up the overseas market. InCrowdSports sucessfully attracted £1.6M in investment, including Albion Ventures and Sky