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Enjoy Watching Live Sports? Thank a Field Service Tech
Last month, a record number of sports fans tuned in to watch the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team win its fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup. As a former collegiate soccer athlete myself, it was great to see so many people catch the fever of women’s soccer and cheer the team to another title.
But while the world’s best players are giving it their all on the field, many fans don’t consider the crucial behind-the-scenes work performed by service technicians who ensure stadium systems are up and running and global broadcasts are beamed out with no latency or interruption. If you enjoy watching live sporting or music events in person or at home, you have a force of field service technicians to thank.
As servicing underlying infrastructure becomes more complex given the evolved nature of today’s stadium and broadcasting activities, outfitting field service technicians with modern communication and collaboration tools to optimize their work has never been more important. With planned game and broadcast times that can’t be moved or delayed, there’s no room for multiple truck rolls or secondary attempts to make sure systems are working properly. Ensuring consistent communication between field service technician teams around the nature of technologies and infrastructures allows teams to quickly understand and address problems before they delay events.
Today’s arenas and stadiums, fans’ at-home viewing experiences, and teams’ on-field strategies are all more interconnected than ever before. Ongoing technology advancements that support these fronts require constant upkeep and maintenance of underlying infrastructure. This is now paramount to the sports industry.
Throughout the last two decades, there have been several notable sporting tech “fails,” including the 2013 NFL Super Bowl and 1990 NHL Stanley Cup Finals blackouts as well as the 2010 Minnesota Vikings Metrodome roof collapse due to extreme snow (no one was hurt.) In today’s always-on society, sporting fans are hyperaware of any interruptions, whether digital or in person, that hinder their experiences of watching their favorite teams.
The two most-critical components to sporting and other live events are electricity and Internet connectivity. Without electricity, there’s no viewing experience for fans at home and a lackluster experience for fans in the stands. Ensuring maintenance of circuit-breaker systems and having an open line of communication with city officials around the nature of an area’s power grids are essential for broadcasts to occur. Thankfully, service technicians are skilled at maintaining these underlying systems and “keeping the lights on.”
While electricity is the backbone and heart of any broadcasting experience, Internet connectivity is a close runner-up. Internet access allows broadcasts to be streamed outside of the stadium and connects fans globally to an event. Further, the Internet of Things is changing fans’ in-stadium experiences through in-seat concession ordering, offering access to live camera feeds from TV or Web streams and many more technology-based offerings.
Beyond Internet-connected systems, other crucial technologies in sports arenas must be serviced. Bathrooms and plumbing systems must function without issue. Food and kitchen equipment at concession stands must maintain regulatory levels of food safety operation and cleanliness. Medical devices in trainer and first aid rooms must function properly in case of athlete or fan injuries. Automated parking systems must function seamlessly to allow for easy entry and exit from event venues. The list goes on.
All of these assets (e.g., machines, computers, lights, scoreboards, cameras, pipes, wires, etc.) require a skilled team of service, repair, and maintenance technicians who perform regular upkeep and consistently troubleshoot problems. Tools that allow technicians to understand the nature and history of previous repairs to assets provide immense value. Further, all-mode communications functions support instant communication and collaboration, offering support to technicians to get information or answers no matter where they’re working. These are just a few examples of the types of tools that support accurate and timely maintenance to help avoid slowdowns or downtime to a stadium’s asset network and allows for a seamless game experience for all.
On the Field
My husband is a high school basketball coach. At a recent game, the digital scoreboard malfunctioned. No one in the gym could figure out how to fix it, and the game was canceled. You would think the score could be kept on the court, but with shot clocks and the timing of set plays, we’ve become so reliant on “things running” that we can’t continue games without the equipment working.
And as Internet connectivity remains critical for reaching fans across the world, it’s also essential for new and emerging ways of officiating and strategizing gameplay. Traditional sports are now relying more and more on technology and data to ensure accurate calls on and off the field. For example, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup leveraged video assistant referee (VAR) systems. First introduced in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, VAR technology allows for review of calls made by in-play referees using video footage and offsite VAR teams who analyze said footage and report a final recommendation to onsite officials.
In addition, with sports teams utilizing tracking technology to better inform on-field strategies and the health of their players, Internet connectivity allows these technologies to deliver insights to teams. For example, FC Barcelona has recently helped co-develop a wearable technology system called Wimu. The technology relies on wearable sensors to track players’ positions, speed, recovery distance, heartbeat, force of collisions, and other statistics.
Like digital scoreboards, soon teams will be so reliant on this technology, that when it breaks, an immediate fix will be imperative. And that service technician who no one thinks about will become an even more important factor in the success of the sports industry. When the equipment breaks and the game stops, we need service technicians leveraging modern communications and collaboration tools and software to help get jobs done.
The field of play has certainly changed dramatically since I was on the soccer pitch. As my children are beginning to become more interested and involved in sports, I’m happy to know there are a vast amount of new and emerging technologies that will help them train and play more effectively. I’m also happy to know that there is a force of field technicians who dedicate their careers to keep the game playing, and keep the world running.