Stadium Innovation: Supply Chain Issues Make No-Hardware Solutions A No-Brainer

A new Front Office Sports Special Report highlights this year’s huge hardware supply chain issues as a driving force behind stadium operations teams looking to IoT solutions to meet technology innovation goals.

The report, titled IoTs Impact on the Sports Economy, cites a McKinsey report on the growing influence of the IoT market, and points to a Bloomberg article on the growing number of out-of-stock hardware and technology items. 

Front Office Sports also highlighted the Armored Things intelligent software solution, and deployments at premier venues such as Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, as a way for stadium operators to drive value with IoT technology.

Front Office Sports predicts the category of Stadium Intelligence has emerged as one of the top ways IoT will influence the sports and stadium markets.

Here are some additional key excerpts from the report:

  • The IoT industry could provide outsized returns in the sports and sports adjacent industries over the next decade.
  • Manufacturers and advertisers alike are struggling to deal with the various supply chain issues across the board including truck driver shortages, port delays, and outright factory closures. 
  • Armored Things provides a direct use case for potential sports and entertainment specific functions. The company’s software allows for smarter decisions related to crowd size, space utilization, security, maintenance, and fan experience while providing easy access to valuable data trends for space management.  

You can read the complete report here, and you can find out more about how Armored Things is helping premier customers like the Milwaukee Bucks, LAFC, and the Cleveland Cavaliers harness visitor data and transform their stadiums with deep insights into fan and crowd behavior by scheduling a quick demo.

To learn more about how we are helping partners and clients around the globe, check out this blog from my colleague David Smentek Real World Crowd Intelligence at Your Campus or Venue. 

Find John McNamara on Linked In to join his professional network and see regular Armored Things updates.

Curious about how Armored Things helps stadiums, corporate real estate, and higher education campuses do more with the data they have? Reach out today to connect with a sales specialist and learn more.

Occupancy Analytics In Higher Education

When students returned to campuses and classes this fall, many colleges and universities found themselves at opposite ends of a housing crisis: a shortage of space for first-year students who deferred or didn’t enroll in a full course load during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, others struggled to fill empty dormitory buildings, with students. Schools like Middlebury College in Vermont offered students ski passes and equipment plus housing discounts if students moved off-campus. Meanwhile, other schools offered incentives like laundry facilities and room discounts to move into empty dorm rooms.

Armored Things Sales Director Sue Bork talked to us about how AI is helping decision-makers at colleges and universities stay ahead of demands related to occupancy and utilization.


WHAT BUSINESS PROBLEMS IS ARMORED THINGS SOLVING FOR CUSTOMERS?


We allow our customers to use their existing hardware—such as Wi-Fi, access points, cameras, or sensors—whatever they might have pulled in data so that they can better understand how to use that space and how and when people are moving throughout different facilities. That means they can avoid the manual work of things like clicker studies and make faster decisions.

This information becomes incredibly helpful for many different organizations, or departments—whether it’s higher education institutions, commercial real estate, a corporate campus, or a professional sports area. People have been measuring occupancy for a long time, but now space analytics are helping them understand how occupancy translates to smarter leasing and scheduling decisions, and ROI.


CAN YOU OUTLINE A USE CASE FOR SPACE ANALYTICS IN HIGHER ED?


From a higher education perspective, I talk to space planning teams who find this information so valuable. For example, from a facilities department standpoint, understanding when people are coming in and out of a building means you can staff that building properly, and make smarter leaser decisions.

Maybe you need to staff a library between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.—that’s when students are populating it the most. So that means we need to adjust maintenance, or cleaning, schedules. And staffing. What hours should you staff a help desk? The library is one of the first places the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) was able to see what we call actionable insights. Once they could see occupancy over time, they knew how to make scheduling changes. And lecture halls are a great use case. If you use historical overlay, you can actually see occupancy over time and say ‘Aha! Here’s solid evidence that we are falling short on space for a popular lecture hall, while another consistently leaves empty seats. Should we switch those two rooms?’



The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – or CARES Act – allows organizations to allocate the act’s funding to IT projects such as workplace analytics deployments to enhance workplace health and safety. Many institutions are using that second round of funding from the CARES Act with software like ours – to help with social distancing.


HOW DOES ARMORED THINGS RELATE TO DENSITY?


When [an organization is looking to] keep that social distance, especially with the resurgence of COVID that’s happening, you really want to make sure that you are keeping a minimum number of people in a building or a floor. So they set occupancy limits.

Then you can set alerts. When they see a real-time alert on a mobile device, they can say ‘ I know I can close those floors off, or be mindful of when people are leaving [the space] before I let more people in.’

In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – or CARES Act –allows organizations to allocate the act’s funding to IT projects such as workplace analytics deployments to enhance workplace health and safety. Many institutions are using that second round of funding from the CARES Act with software like ours – to help with social distancing.


We can work with sensors, and it’s one of our data sources. But we don’t require them, and it’s a critical advantage to our software-only solution, that you can deploy us and leverage your existing Wi-Fi, for example.


WHAT DOES THE ARMORED THINGS DASHBOARD LOOK LIKE? 


An intuitive dashboard is really important to us. The Armored Things dashboard can display on a computer, it can be on a laptop, it can be on a mobile phone. It’s really crystal clear in terms of providing quick information, such as how many people are on campus or in each building. You can click on a building to see how many people are on each floor. 

We are surfacing anonymous visual representations of people, and since we don’t use any facial recognition, we’re able to alleviate privacy concerns.


HOW DO YOU WORK WITH SENSOR-BASED SOLUTIONS?


We can work with sensors, and it’s one of our data sources. But we don’t require them, and that’s important. You always want to consider the cost of some sensors at scale; it’s a critical advantage to having a software-only solution. We find that, as you scale across large higher education campuses, software deployment is typically going to be far less costly than installing additional sensors. It’s also typically a quicker deployment.


HOW DOES ARMORED THINGS INTEGRATE WITH OTHER APPLICATIONS?


It’s an open-architecture solution. We can pull in scheduling software. We don’t care what an organization is using—whether it’s Ad Astra, or, 25Live. We can tie it into a facility management system (FMS) or a homegrown system. 

A lot of times, we find the occupancy piece is missing from those software systems—and that is the piece we provide.

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities teams deliver on priorities like this, schedule time with one of our experts today.

Lauren Horwitz is a technology reporter and writer focused on IoT, most recently at Informa.

AI as Infrastructure: The Future of Stadiums

Due to our success in premier sports venues such as the Fiserv Forum and teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks, we are partnered with the Sports Innovation Lab (SIL) to help venues better understand how fans and technology interact with venues. Chris Lord, Armored Things co-founder and CTO, is featured alongside SIL stadium partners in SIL’s latest research project – dedicated to using AI to plan, build and expand stadiums.

Hear what Lord has to say about the democratization of data, and how we’re empowering venue managers to make ROI-related decisions relating to crowd management. You can also check out the entire report for key takeaways on how AI is empowering smart stadiums.



SYNDICATED, ‘AI AS INFRASTRUCTURE’, PUBLISHED BY SPORTS INNOVATION LAB, SPONSORED BY INTEL.

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?


AI is technology that has been and will continue to work in conjunction with humans to improve overall human performance. Artificial intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind (IBM, 2021). Robert Muehlbauer, Senior Manager of Business Development at Axis Communications described artificial intelligence in its simplest form as using a machine or a computer to do tasks that a human would. The benefits are myriad and significant—with AI and computation, we can make workflows quicker and more efficient. Over the years, popular conceptions of AI and Machine Learning have been shaped, for better or worse, by depictions in popular media such as film, television, games, and beyond.

Sometimes presented as a seemingly endless futuristic possibility space, sometimes presented as a great threat to humanity, AI captivates popular imaginations. Not surprisingly, the realities of AI and ML do not conform to popular media depictions. AI is neither a technological panacea nor an existential threat. AI and ML are computational tools that have the power to make us more efficient and to make us smarter. At the end of the day, AI and Machine Learning exist to make our work and our lives easier and better.


INTRODUCTION


The thrill of standing shoulder to shoulder with other fans, on your feet as the game clock expires, as your team buries the buzzer-beater, is inimitable and irreplaceable. It’s this feeling of shared experience and the “power of togetherness” that keeps live sports, with attendant fans, a primary pillar of the sports industry. The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 that continues to shake the world has not only forced the sports industry to take a closer look at how we construct and design our live sports entertainment, it has also shaken the confidence of fans who continue to want the power of togetherness but who harbor concerns about the safety of attending live sports. The“return to play” has forced the whole of sports, from the professionals producing the contests to the fans adoring the action, to rethink our priorities and the role technology plays in bringing us all back together.

It is incumbent upon stadia operators and sports properties to change their thinking about the design of fan experience, and new pandemic-generated challenges that need to be addressed to ensure fan health, safety, and security. AI provides a suite of technologies, specific to problem-solving. that will play a foundational role in this change. Today, because of the rapid evolution of AI technologies, we can consider the impact of AI on a larger scale. AI is the future of sports stadium infrastructure—replacing traditional building and repair practices and implementing data solutions to create a live sports environment that is healthier, safer, and more secure for fans. To address the essential needs of fans, sports venues need to reimagine AI technologies as a new form of infrastructure, solving problems that used to be addressed through brick, mortar, pipe, and personnel.


To address the essential needs of fans, sports venues need to reimagine AI technologies as a new form of infrastructure, solving problems that used to be addressed through brick, mortar, pipe, and personnel.


SECURITY


AI and Machine Learning are being implemented in every facet of security. Physical and cyber security will continually be a main focus for venue operators and fans. Knowledge is power, so the more that technology knows, the better it will be able to output improved processes. In return, when the knowledge is made public, fans are able to digest it and change their behaviors to feel more secure. CTO and co-founder of Armored Things, Chris Lord, spoke on the democratic nature of data and the importance of understanding the problem, resources, partner companies, and areas to scale in order to be successful. The idea that data is a democracy, and understanding the problem, resources, and partner companies you want to scale can differentiate success.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are no longer “nice to have” technologies in the smart venue network, they are increasingly essential. AI and ML are infrastructure—critical systems that, together and as part of the broader infrastructure of a venue, provide the platform for fan experience.

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities teams deliver on priorities like this, schedule time with one of our experts today.

Why DIY? Reasons to Buy or Build

CIOs and other organizational decision-makers are looking past the so-called digital sprints of 2020 and planning on transformation technology efforts, according to industry analysts. But when it comes to transformational efforts, does it make sense to go it alone–that is, do it yourself?

Often, companies favor building software projects in-house, fearing that third-party solutions may not meet their specialized needs or be compatible with existing systems. The challenge is two fold: determining whether some of your IT staff has specialty skills, such as data mining or data visualization. And if you are lucky enough to have a large enough team to tackle a transformational technology, does it make sense to tie them up with one project?

When considering the age-old problem of whether to build or buy, you’ll get a different answer depending on the business landscape and project urgency. To determine whether to keep a software project in-house or search for a collaborative technology partner, it makes sense to look at the following four major factors: cost, control, connectivity, and maintenance. 


IS BUILDING OR BUYING MORE COST-EFFECTIVE?


According to Gartner, global enterprise software spending is projected to climb 9% in 2021 to a total of around 4.2 trillion dollars. According to John-David Lovelock, research vice president at Gartner, “This means building technologies that don’t yet exist, and further differentiating their organization in an already crowded market”.  CEOs are much more willing to invest in technology that has a clear tie to business outcomes, and less so for everything else, according to Gartner.

The challenge is that IT projects tend to exceed both time and cost estimates. In short, IT teams often find themselves wishing they had found a reliable software or solutions partner.  While purchasing software from a third party can sometimes have a higher upfront cost, it’s also a known cost for a product that is ready to use immediately or by a set date. As one Forester report put it, technology implementations – even those “really easy” software-as-a-service based implementations – are no different than the DIY home improvement project gone totally awry with surprise time and cost requirements.


CONTROL OF THE FINAL PRODUCT 


One of the biggest appeals of building in-house is that the software can be customized. On the other hand, that approach can leave a company entirely dependent on its coders and developers to deliver a perfect product. And companies are often left with unusable code bases created by developers who no longer work at the company, meaning they might need to hire new developers to rebuild code from scratch or maintain a legacy codebase. When you build, you have 100% control of the software’s function. This comes, however, with weaknesses, as it creates a burden on IT teams, and also leaves them without the benefit of collaboration with dedicated developers who are focused solely on the type of software they are deploying or coding.


CONSIDERING CONNECTIVITY TO GREATER SYSTEMS


Each company has its own unique ecosystem of applications that all need to be compatible with systems beyond the company. Building your own solutions should help ensure total compatibility, something that isn’t guaranteed with all third-party vendors. It’s important to assess if a third party has pre-built APIs or an open-source platform that allows for integrations, or a way to leverage your existing systems.


WILL THIRD-PARTY VENDORS MAINTAIN THE SOFTWARE?


When you buy software, SaaS vendors handle all the maintenance behind the scenes and usually roll the costs onto a subscription fee. It’s important to understand that these external vendors have hundreds of hours of experience setting up and maintaining their software. If you choose to build, you will be responsible for all the maintenance of your new software: managing the launch, resolving any bugs, training people to use the software, setting up passwords, etc. All of this maintenance will require increased bandwidth, and possibly additional staff. 


HOW ARMORED THINGS SURFACES SPATIAL ANALYTICS


The Armored Things AI-powered platform provides facilities and security teams with an accurate, real-time understanding of how many, and how often people are utilizing different spaces. The software enables smarter decisions related to crowd density, space utilization, safety, maintenance, and guest experience while also providing easy access to valuable data trends for ROI related to space management.  If you’re unfamiliar with spatial utilization and the terms surrounding it, check out our blog on some key definitions. If you are considering installing a space utilization software. For more on how spatial representation software can bring density data to life, check out our blog on spatial representations.

Layering our Armored Things software over existing infrastructure turns data into actionable intelligence. Our software monitors occupancy in real time and provided predictive analytics for space planning. We’re helping transform corporate and higher education campuses into smart spaces.

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities teams deliver on priorities like this, schedule time with one of our experts today.