From frictionless entry to mixed reality: The emerging trends in the stadium tech sector

Featured image credit: Emerson Vieira on Unsplash

Events and infrastructure technology provider PMY Group takes a look at the emerging trends in the stadium technology sector…

1. Frictionless Tech Becomes the Norm

In the evolving landscape of venue technology, the concept of “frictionless” is rapidly growing from niche applications to widespread adoption. This has been accelerated by shifts in consumer behaviour following COVID-19, including the desire for social distancing, reduced wait times, and minimised human interaction.

Stadiums are embracing frictionless technology across the entire fan journey including expediting and enhancing patron purchasing and entry/security experiences.

Examples of frictionless technology abound, each offering innovative solutions to streamline various aspects of event operations:

  • Contactless F&B/concession and merchandise purchases at the likes of Millwall FC
  • Biometric Scanning for Proof of Age for Alcohol Purchase (Cleveland Browns)
  • AI Security Screening, led by Evolv Technology
  • Crowd Intelligence (OPTIC – see below)

2. Sports-Anchored Mixed-Use Development Districts

The end of 2023 and beginning of 2024 saw a flurry of announcements from sports teams, at the professional as well as collegiate level, on their plans to develop land adjacent to their stadium or arena into mixed-used developments. These developments usually contain a combination of retail, office, hotel, residential and entertainment offerings.

These developments give teams the opportunity to drive revenue 365 days a year through diversified offerings that aren’t dependent on an event or game day schedule and don’t have to be shared with the league or other teams (unlike broadcast revenue).

Technology is playing a key role in maximising the value of these new developments by creating a seamless and integrated digital experience across the district. For example, crowd intelligence tools enable teams to understand how all patrons, not just their fans, move and interact throughout each element of the broader district.

Here are only a few of the proposed sports-anchored mixed-use developments coming down the line in the next few years:

3. Mixed Reality & Immersive Experiences

Mixed reality (augmented reality/virtual reality) and immersive experiences are redefining how fans consume their favourite sporting events whether that’s at home, in the stadium, or at a purpose-built immersive venue.

  • MR at Home: Apple Vision Pro highlights sports as one of the most engaging use cases for the high-end mixed reality headset. Teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers are creating unique immersive viewing experiences for fans at home by leveraging virtual and mixed reality capabilities in dedicated volumetric video capture to put the viewer on the playing surface and in the middle of the action.
  • AR in the Stadium: Fans at the game are also able to leverage augmented reality to access overlays of live information and advanced stats just like they would at home via broadcast, but without taking away from the action. An example is the FIFA+ App Stadium Experience introduced at the Qatar World Cup.
  • Dedicated Immersive Venues: Venues dedicated to “immersive experiences” will continue to explore what content can best leverage their ability to converge physical and digital experiences, with sports being a key area of growth.

Cosm, one of the pioneers in purpose-built immersive venues in what it calls “shared reality” experiences, is opening its first two venues this year. The first location is slated to open by the end of Q2 2024, a stone’s throw from Sofi Stadium and the new Intuit Dome in the mixed-use development of Hollywood Park, Los Angeles. The second location is at The Colony, Dallas and is scheduled to open in Q3 2024.

At the heart of each venue is an 87-foot-diameter LED dome, seamlessly integrating spatial audio and 8K video for an immersive experience. Additionally, the facilities will feature hall/concourse spaces where attendees can gather and interact.

Cosm recently announced a partnership with NBC Sports to present live Premier League matches, select Notre Dame Football and Big Ten College Football games, as well as horse racing events at Cosm venues. NBC Sports adds to Cosm’s existing content partnerships with broadcaster TNT as well as UFC and NBA at the league level.

One of the world’s most impressive immersive venues, MSG’s Sphere, recently announced that in 2024 it will host the NHL Draft as well UFC as its inaugural live sporting event.

Additionally, groundbreaking immersive experiences like Abba Voyage, where the band appears as digital avatars in a purpose-built arena, highlight the demand for live experiences supported by cutting-edge technology.

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Data Insight & Crowd Intelligence

In the realm of stadium and event management, the emergence of AI Data Insight and Crowd Intelligence technologies stands as a pivotal trend in 2024, revolutionising how sports teams and event organisers engage with their audiences. As these technologies continue to mature, their integration into the sports and entertainment industries is transforming the landscape of fan interaction and operational efficiency.

At the forefront of this revolution, Google Cloud, LIV Golf, and PMY Group have collaborated to harness the power of AI and machine learning, marking a significant leap forward in personalised fan engagement and real-time analytics. This partnership epitomises the trend towards deeper, data-driven connections between events and their participants, redefining the spectator experience with a level of engagement tailored to the nuances of the fan and sport.

Crowd Intelligence Enhanced by OPTIC

As highlighted earlier, Crowd Intelligence is a growing area of focus for venues and event organisers seeking to better understand their fans and patrons to drive revenue whilst eliminating costs by identifying operational efficiencies.

An example of Crowd Intelligence in action is OPTIC, an advanced platform that harnesses the potential of AI and machine learning to provide real-time insights and historical data on venues, events, and customer behaviours. Beyond just passive data collection, OPTIC empowers venue operators to make informed, data-driven decisions that enhance security and optimise the fan experience. The tool’s ability to integrate seamlessly with existing technological ecosystems — while remaining vendor-agnostic, cost-effective, and quick to deploy — illustrates the practical application of AI and Crowd Intelligence in today’s event management landscape.

OPTIC enables strategic adjustments that significantly improve operational efficiency and visitor satisfaction including identifying areas of high engagement with low expenditure and pinpointing high-revenue yet under-visited locations. These capabilities are not just theoretical but have been proven in real-world applications, including at the recent LIV Golf Hong Kong, offering a blueprint for future events and venues.

The integration of AI data insight and crowd intelligence into stadium and event management is not just a passing trend but a fundamental shift shaping the industry’s future. These technologies are setting new standards for event experience and the beginning of a new era of engagement and efficiency for fans, venues, and event organisers.