Michelle Burbick
Michelle Burbick is the Associate Editor and a blogger for No Jitter, UBM Tech's online community for news and analysis...
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Michelle Burbick | May 01, 2015 |


Bringing Mobile Comms to the Kentucky Derby

Bringing Mobile Comms to the Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs selects a mobile enterprise messaging app from Lua to support internal communications at tomorrow's run for the roses.

Churchill Downs selects a mobile enterprise messaging app from Lua to support internal communications at tomorrow's run for the roses.

Even if you're not big on going to the track and bettin' on the ponies, the Kentucky Derby transcends your average racetrack experience. It is arguably the most renowned horse race in the U.S., and this year's "greatest two minutes in all of sports" takes place on Saturday in Louisville, Ky., at the beautiful Churchill Downs racetrack.

This is the 141st consecutive year of the race, so you might be tempted to think the organizers have running the event down to a science at this point -- but you'd be wrong. There's always room for improvement, my optimistic self would say! Technology evolves so rapidly, changing many facets of the world we live in, so why would it be any different for the Kentucky Derby? With new communication technology in hand, this year could be the best-run event to date.

Contending with a crowd of roughly 165,000 people requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work -- and internal communications must be spot-on to ensure a seamless event. With such scale, operational challenges abound -- and this is where mobile enterprise communications company Lua is offering assistance.

The IT team at Churchill Downs selected Lua's mobile application to support the streamlining of internal communications at this year's Kentucky Derby. I spoke with Lua CEO Michael DeFranco ahead of the event to get the scoop on how this app is making its impact at Churchill Downs and beyond into the enterprise. Among the other organizations using Lua are the U.S. military, the Barclays Center, and even Super Bowl XLVIII.

If you've been to a conference or large event, you might have noticed the staff communicating via walkie-talkies. This is outdated technology, DeFranco said, and email and texting have their flaws, as well. Using these technologies can be a particularly ineffective way to run event communications -- as well as communications at any enterprise. The Lua enterprise mobile messaging solution, by contrast, is centered on efficiency, aimed at creating one spot for everyone within an organization -- up to 5,000 users -- to connect.

Like all the other messaging applications out there, capabilities include secure messaging and group calling. But Lua takes things a step further with a slew of additional interesting features. Yes, it has the real-time messaging component, but a comprehensive directory with people broken down by title and department simplifies messaging for an organization's specific structure, allowing all users to simply and quickly access any individual or team within the organization with the tap of a button.

In the app, you can divide employees up into groups according to role or department. This means that should an issue arise that is specific to, say, the marketing department, the marketing group can be selected and a conference call can be established instantly, supporting up to 40 participants on a single call.


One of the interesting features that should especially come in handy for an event at such a scale as the Kentucky Derby is the ability to send out what Lua calls broadcast messages that take the form of an alert. Say a horse or rider is injured at the event, admins can send out a one-way broadcast message that reaches everyone on the application, alerting all to the situation at hand and issuing orders to appropriate personnel to act accordingly.

This broadcast feature provides an easy way to make sure everyone on the event organization team is kept on the same page. For accountability, admins can see who has and has not read the broadcasted message. For especially critical broadcast messages, the sender can have the app directly confirm when a certain individual has read it.

For ease of content sharing, the app collects files brought into group conversations and stores them in a dedicated gallery. This eliminates the time spent searching for relevant files that may pertain to a particular issue -- a process that any email user will have had some frustration with at one point or another.

Lua users have the ability to glean insights about the effectiveness of internal communications by viewing and analyzing trends related to responsiveness, cross-department interaction, and the volume of communications taking place, to name a few. By looking at internal comms through such a holistic lens, organizations should be able to identify inefficiencies and then, presumably, take steps to improve collaboration accordingly.

"We're thrilled that the Kentucky Derby, one of the most historic sporting fixtures in the UC and a world-renown event, has chosen Lua for its mobile communication needs," DeFranco said in a release. "Year after year, the Derby has demonstrated its commitment towards improving the race-day experience for its guests. This year, we look forward to helping the Derby run its smoothest event yet."

With the race taking place tomorrow, time will tell how much the mobile solution impacts the efficiency of event operations and communications. If it's me reading the signs, I'd place my bets on a more smoothly operated event through the beauty of real-time connectivity and communication.

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