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Miami Dolphins dive into cloud analytics

When Mexico takes on Columbia in a soccer match tomorrow at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, operations staff at the stadium will be able to tap into metrics such as visitor traffic patterns and concession stand spending to keep the event running smoothly. The soccer match will be the first live test of a new analytics platform deployed by the Miami Dolphins, whose home field is this stadium

The Dolphins teamed with IBM to deploy the cloud-based software, which taps into existing information sources and crunches the data to make it easier for stadium staff to be proactive about potentially disruptive events, such as parking bottlenecks, concession stand inventory shortages, and inclement weather.

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For the fans, the stadium is unveiling mobile applications that deliver the latest game scores and stats, provide up-to-date travel and parking instructions for people on their way to the stadium, and can even direct fans to the concession stands with the shortest lines. (See also: 25 useful iPad business apps

The entertainment industry is increasingly interactive, and Sun Life Stadium needs to stay competitive and continue to attract tech-savvy fans to its sporting and entertainment events, says Tery Howard, CTO for the Miami Dolphins. From parking and crowd control to weather watching and safety services, "all of this has to be perfect and on target in order for us to position ourselves as leaders in this space," Howard says.

The software deployed by the Dolphins is IBM's Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Smarter Cities. IOC is designed to help manage and view interconnected operations across a city. Using software developed for urban management purposes is no accident. A stadium is essentially a scaled-down city, complete with cars, parking, pedestrian traffic, merchants, utilities, and personnel responsible for keeping all the services running smoothly, suggests Mike Gerentine, IBM's vice president of global business partners and midmarket.

"The Dolphins stadium, just like a lot of other stadiums, is really a microcosm of a city. It has a lot of the same or similar challenges, so we're able to take a lot of the best practices and repeatable services that we're deploying in cities and apply it to stadiums as well," Gerentine says.

The cloud model is ideal for the Dolphins, Howard says. "We're a sports franchise, not a technology company. It's all about who we partner with, and they in effect become an extension of our technology team," she says. "The cloud model is perfect. There was no disruption on our end, no need to expand or add infrastructure. It's a great fit."

The systems from which IOC culls data were already in place, but they operated in isolation from one another. "The IOC consolidates and aggregates all of this into one portal," Howard says. "Different constituents, whether they're walking around with a mobile device or in the control center or in our base, are monitoring all these different metrics that could impact our fan experience."

For crowd control, for instance, the software can determine if a particular entrance gate is overcrowded and alert security staff to shift the flow of fans to other gates.

"One of the comments we hear back from our fans and season ticket members is that the ingress and egress process, getting in and out of the stadium, becomes an issue for them," Howard says. "The IOC has allowed us to take information from our different systems and manual processes and consolidate the data so that we can give feedback to the people managing the parking areas, reroute traffic and make the process a lot smoother."

The analytic data also helps staff to plan concession and merchandise needs for future events.

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Flagship Solutions Group, an IBM business partner, collaborated with the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium to deploy the IOC software. IBM is hosting its PartnerWorld conference this week in New Orleans.

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz http://twitter.com/annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her e-mail address is [email protected]


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