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Albion united: university technology links fans by phone for promotion battle at the Amex

A screen shot of the digitalStadium app, showing the match day menu

The Amex Community Stadium, home to Brighton and Hove Albion. Photo: Alison Field

It will be a testing time in more ways than one for football fans at Brighton’s Amex Community Stadium when 100 Albion followers try out new technology from the University of Sussex during Monday’s (13 May 2013) nail-biting bid for a place in football’s Premiership.

In between the thrills and spills of the home leg of the play-off battle against Crystal Palace, 100 Brighton and Hove Albion FC volunteers using a phone app called digitalStadium will be helping scientists at Sussex test new software that connects fans and clubs via digital technology without the need for infra-structure wifi.

Many football clubs want to develop better contact with fans during matches using digital technology, but the cost of equipping a stadium with the necessary wifi infra-structure1 can be prohibitive (around £400,000).

The steel and concrete structures so typical of football club design also make it difficult for smartphone users to get a signal. Anyone who’s tried to email or make a call on a smart phone when at a festival or match will also know how difficult it is to get connected when there are thousands of other phones in use all around.

What makes the digitalStadium app unique, however, is the software solution that supports the app. Designed by Dr Ian Wakeman and Dr Dan Chalmers and their team at the University of Sussex in collaboration with Brighton and Hove Albion FC and Corridor Design, the software enables smart phones to act as mobile computers and build networks with other phones in the crowd. 

Dr Wakeman says: “With the new generation of smartphones, we can start to democratise the means of communication, helping people to pool their resources and cooperate, rather than compete for the limited resources available from the phone network.  I'm passionate about getting computers to communicate, and passionate about football. It’s wonderful to bring the two together.”

The digitalStadium app will enable fans and the club to communicate with each other during a match, providing real-time information on other key games, league table stats and travel information. Fans will also be able to take part in Twitter debates and even competitions such as Rate the Ref while watching the game from the stands, while a live ticker feed will deliver the latest news, views and special offers from the Club during the game.

Phone-owning fans using the app at the Amex on Monday will be able to draw down digital information and share it with other app users in the stadium. This approach means that even small bandwith capacity can be exploited across a large group of people.

The Albion’s white-knuckle tie on Monday is the last match of a five-match development period in which avid Albion fans have been using the app, and suggesting changes. There has already been an enthusiastic response from fans keen to use technology to build stronger links between themselves and with the club.2 The Albion trial has helped the researchers to refine their software further.

The next stage will be to seek commercial roll-out for the product (currently compatible only with Android smartphones) and make the technology available to football clubs, festivals and other big events. The University is supporting the researchers in securing a patent for the innovation and by exploring how the technology can be developed for commercial use through the University’s hi-tech business incubation hub, the Sussex Innovation Centre.

Albion's head of media Paul Camillin says: “It's a common problem for many clubs and stadia across the globe, and not one easily solved - and also requires some serious investment too via the obvious methods.

“However, that doesn't stop fans and spectators wishing to access various data to enhance their stadium experience, but due to the sheer volume of people this isn't easy. The digitalStadium team is seeking to change that via ground-breaking new technology, and we are really enthused by the progress they are making.

“The initial trials have been really encouraging, providing fans with team news, score updates, travel news and other essential match-day information.”

The research was undertaken as a collaborative project between the University of Sussex, BHAFC and Brighton-based company Corridor Design, and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).


Notes for Editors

The digitalStadium app trial at the Amex Stadium took place over five home games and involved 100 Brighton and Hove Albion fans employing the technology on android smartphones to connect with other app users across the stadium. The final trial takes place during the second leg of Brighton and Hove Albion’s play-off semi-final for a place in the Premiership against Crystal Palace at the Amex Stadium, Falmer, near Brighton, on Monday 13 May. Kick-off is 7.45pm and a capacity crowd of around 30,000 is expected. For further information about usability, see the digitalStadium FAQs.

1 Wifi infra-structure is the installed access points that allow the location to provide hotspots. These are devices which cost money to install, and then need to be wired back to a hub. A stadium needs a lot of hubs.

2  “This app is great, finally a solution for a problem found in stadiums around the country!”
Sam, Brighton

"I never used to have a strong enough signal to check scores when at the football. But with this app I can. Knowing the scores from around the country made the last game of the season even more exciting."
Harry, Brighton

"The app was very useful on last game of season to check the live league table to see who we would end up playing in playoffs and who was going down. Also good to keep up to date with what the  football community on Twitter thought of the goings on in championship as the games were taking place. Neither of these would have been possible without the app."
Steve, Ferring

"The App is great for travel to and from the match with a wealth of Albion info available while at the Stadium"
Ian, Lewes

"The constant score updates were a must-have, in your hand, in the run-in of the season"
Leigh, Mayfield

"The app, although still in development is already a winner. The real-time scores, travel information and Twitter feed are all brilliant tools for a match day. On a crucial day, I was checking the latest scores minute by minute."
Kieron, Brighton

"The app is a well-laid out and useful match day companion which I've enjoyed using, but for me the biggest draw is its clever use of technology that allows my phone to actually get a data connection when in the stadium - something I'd never previously managed in two seasons at Falmer."
Kristian, Brighton

"The app was a godsend on the final day of the season. It's hit-and-miss as to whether you can get a signal at the Amex, but the app meant I knew the ever-changing scores and league positions throughout the afternoon."
Simon, Patcham

"Good football, good stadium, good communication. Before, during and After the match always well informed."
John, Hove

"Before the app there was literally no way to get any other scores on my phone during the match. Just zero signal. It was great to be able to keep track of scores around the country on the last day of the season - just glad that we weren't relying on those results ourselves!"
Matt, Brighton

"It enhances my match-day experience with live score and league table updates – particularly important for promotion hopefuls and relegation strugglers alike!"
Paul, West Sussex

 

"I have found the App easy to navigate, I especially like the live score bit and the club feed even though I don’t have a Twitter account! It is a must-have App for all footie fans."
Paul, Chichester

“Having struggled all season to get the scores from other games it was great to have this App for the all-important final games of the season, what a result!”
Andy, Hassocks

'Really good app. User friendly, and great to have all related Albion information in one place.  Thanks!”
Dave M from Worthing

For interviews and pictures please contact the University of Sussex Press office.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email: press@sussex.ac.uk

View press releases online at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/newsandevents/


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Last updated: Monday, 13 May 2013

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