Exterity, a provider of integrated IPTV, digital signage and user engagement technologies, entered into a new era earlier this year when it was acquired by VITEC, a worldwide leader in IP video streaming solutions.
Announced in April, the takeover aimed to signal VITEC’s intention to accelerate growth and strengthen its leadership position, with natural technology and customer synergies between the two companies that will enable VITEC to extend its reach into new geographies, market verticals and partners.
The combined engineering teams have been developing a strategy to migrate the existing IPTV and digital signage portfolio into a converged platform to offer a wider range of solutions to customers. Headquartered in Fife, Scotland, the takeover of Exterity came as the business world seeks to recover from COVID-19.
Colin Farquhar, senior vice-president of sales at VITEC, tells TheStadiumBusiness.com how Exterity and VITEC can help the stadium and arena sector in their reopening efforts, and what opportunities are open to the companies further down the road to recovery.
TheStadiumBusiness.com: What do you think are the current main challenges facing stadia and arenas in order to ensure the safe return of fans?
Colin Farquhar: “Since the cancellation or postponement of many scheduled sports or entertainment last year, in 2021 we have finally seen the return of live events. The 2020 (UEFA) Euros saw the return of fans in the stands, although at a reduced capacity and undoubtedly all leagues and teams are hoping for the full return of fans to stadiums and arenas soon.
“In doing so, it is of critical importance that strict hygiene, social distancing and other safety measures are in place, even in those regions where restrictions are being lifted more quickly. The constantly evolving nature of the pandemic means venues and stadiums must clearly and accurately communicate with visitors to ensure that all fans feel safe.
“This means effective messaging and instructions on when and where masks must be worn, signposting handwashing and sanitising stations, directions for one-way systems and several other COVID-compliant protocols. If there are requirements for visitors to prove they are COVID-free, then this requires additional logistical processes to be put in place before and upon arrival to ensure compliance and checks are carried out quickly and efficiently.”
TSB: How can technology help to overcome these challenges?
CF: “To effectively meet fan demands for a safe matchday environment, stadium operators need both health-related technology, such as hand-held or screen-based temperature checking, and a range of digital communications to keep fans up to date wherever they are in the stadium.
“The role of IP-based technologies, which have been traditionally used for streaming live action and communicating with fans as events unfold, are key in ensuring fans are kept continually informed and as safe as possible during their visit.
“Digital signage can play a pivotal role in assuring fans that all necessary precautions have been taken to ensure a facility is safe. Displays can be used to remind everyone of best-practice hygiene advice while still enabling the venue to drive revenue from sponsor advertising, promotion of merchandise, bar and restaurant deals and other activities.
“Signage screens can be frequently updated with eye-catching safety messages and changing information about catering areas, toilets and other shared facilities, as well as signposting one-way systems and exits to promote safety precautions further. Automated or triggered alerts also enables screens to be quickly switched to display changes in procedures as they arise on the day.”
TSB: Could you give us any specific examples of how Exterity has helped clients enhance their venue operations in this regard?
CF: “Stadiums that have employed digital signage technologies, like Matmut Atlantique, which is home to FC Girondins de Bordeaux, are leading the way in demonstrating its added value and ability to adapt to meet the evolving situation.
“As fans begin to return to stadiums, they can expect to see signage screens frequently updated with clear safety messages, information about food and drink areas, and messages about how to move safely around the venue. At Matmut Gerland, home of LOU Rugby, signage is used for social distancing messages and the club also broadcasts a safety prevention film made in-house.
“In stadiums where journalists have been unable to sit closely together in the press box, there has also been an increased requirement to provide live match streaming and close-ups of the action to mobile devices to individuals spaced out around the stands.”
TSB: Looking to the future, what do you see as the next big evolution in stadium/arena tech?
CF: “During the pandemic, the significance of IP video and signage across the stadiums and venues sector and beyond as a digital communication tool has never been greater. Customers with existing IP and signage technologies are able to adapt their existing solutions to meet the necessary safety protocols and ensure they are COVID-complaint to create safer experiences for fans.
“Beyond the COVID-19 era, the fan experience will continue to be front of mind for venues as developments in mobile interactivity during live gameplay evolve. Gaming and polling as well as live betting, are some of the most innovative opportunities on the horizon and a smart way to reward loyal supporters, boost concession sales and fuel fan engagement.
“A new trend is the rise of AI in sports technologies, such as real-time sports prediction games, or match viewing from a player’s point of view, with cameras integrated into the athletes’ kit making it possible to show the spectators from the player’s viewpoint.
“Our recent acquisition news with VITEC opens up even more opportunities to provide a cutting-edge converged IPTV and digital signage portfolio to a greater number of stadiums and venues customers.”
Exterity, a VITEC company is a sponsor of this year’s TheStadiumBusiness Summit, which will take place at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester on November 30 and December 1. Click here to meet them.