PTI Digital’s Dan Smith takes a look at the role technology will play in the reopening of venues following the COVID-19 pandemic…

There can be no doubt that when stadiums, arenas and entertainment venues reopen, digital – and the underlying technology that enables it – will play a significant role. From digital ticketing for ingress to digital wayfinding, from digital food and beverage ordering to digital crowd intelligence tools, there is a greater role for at-venue digital engagement mechanisms than ever before.

But this presents a challenge for most venues. Simply, the underlying technology – traditional ‘IT’ if you will – has been viewed as a cost centre, a dark art, and subsequently an area lacking in priority for many years. There are legacy estates aplenty that hold back these digital ambitions. Who knew how important a firewall, a core switch or cabling would prove to be in 2021?

Be in no doubt: they are. These items, previously hidden away and largely forgotten in a comms room, are now leading the fightback from COVID and paving the road to venue reopening. They’ve moved up the priority list from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’ overnight, leaving both a skills and technology void that needs filling, and quickly.

We, not just as an industry but as a community and a people, are acutely aware of ‘digital’ platforms and we are adopting them at an exponential rate. There is not a house on the road where I live without a Ring doorbell. Amazon Alexa device sales continue to surge. Contactless payments are at an all-time high, with the government reacting to this in upping the contactless limit to £100 in the recent Budget.

We are becoming a digital nation – and fast. Our expectations from our day-to-day lives are carried forwards to our venue industry. We need to meet, or beat, these expectations to kickstart the recovery process. Accordingly, most venue owners and operators are thinking of those items such as wayfinding, F&B ordering, crowd intelligence and ticketing as mandatory digital items. However, the success of these elements is driven by the technology items that underpin digital delivery.

As outlined below, at PTI we see that technology at your venue needs to work from the top down:

Starting with your business goals and objectives, work down through four key layers: data, applications, infrastructure and backhaul.

These four key layers work as a pyramid, with each layer wider than the one above it to ensure that it can fully support it. There is no point in deploying a new EPOS system if the network will see it fail, no point in a new Wi-Fi solution if the fibre powering it will see it fail.

Often, the pyramid looks more like a diamond, causing digital to fail. We’ve understood digital, but not the technology dependency.

At PTI we’ve been working as specialists in the sports and entertainment industry on just this since our formation. PTI stands for Pragmatic Technological Insight. We understand that technology is the base layer upon which your success sits but may not be understood, budget may not be there. We are here to help you take the next step as a fractional service, with engagements starting from as little as a days commitment.

Your next step is key as we approach fans/consumer return. It doesn’t have to be a big one, it just needs to be in the right direction.