Turning soccer stadiums into multimedia high-tech arenas with network technology
Date: Mon, 07/26/2010 - 16:01
Nerve-wracking moments in a game, redeeming goals, moving images. The eyes of the world were on the soccer stadiums of South Africa. Like any good contest in a large arena, the World Cup was a memorable experience and provided a wealth of information and data on matches, teams and competition. But how do all these images and pieces of information get onto the gigantic video boards in the stadiums and public viewing sites and at the same time onto television and the Internet? How does a soccer stadium communicate?
“Modern data networks ensure that all systems in a stadium are always on the ball. They handle extraordinary peak loads while integrating numerous functions, so they have to be absolutely reliable.” This explanation comes from Swiss cabling specialist Reichle & De-Massari (R&M). One of the places R&M recently installed network infrastructure is the new Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine, the venue for the EURO 2012. To be specific, it laid 60 kilometers of fiber optic cable and more than 400 kilometers of shielded Cat. 6 copper cable in the arena. This network is one of the largest ever installed in Ukraine, boasting 6000 copper and over 1700 fiber-optic connections.
Multimedia high-tech temple – convergent networks
Stadionwelt, a German journal on sports stadiums, has noted that soccer stadiums are becoming temples of high-tech multimedia. Gigantic data quantities flow as digital TV images from the stadiums to the broadcasters and TV companies during international contests. Telekom Austria estimates that its fiber optic network transmitted a total data quantity of two Petabytes during the EURO 2008. That is about five times the data quantity in all the books ever written. Yet a stadium does far more than just television transmissions, be they in high definition (HDTV) or 3-D. Today, large stadiums are information hubs producing large amounts of real time data that place tough requirements on infrastructure.
There is now a chip in the ball that allows its position to be determined to the nearest millimeter. This feature is just the latest hit in a fascinating technological evolution concerning King Soccer. Numerous antennas follow the interactive ball. That is what the plans for a smart stadium say. The antennas are placed around the playing field or in the roof. They communicate over the building network with a computer system that gives the referees live support while they are working.
The same network allows photographers on the sidelines to feed their digital photos from a camera or laptop directly onto the Internet or to their editorial offices within seconds. Access controls, monitoring of viewer stands, alarms, electronic ticket and cashier’s systems, control of light, heating and ventilation systems ... all these various systems can now be integrated at the same time in building networks.
“Those are just a few of the applications that can be integrated using the standard Ethernet Protocol and Internet Protocol (IP). Convergence is opening up even further interesting dimensions to managing stadiums, facilities, sports and special events,” says Markus Schlageter, Head of Marketing at R&M. Now, only a single platform is needed for wireless LAN, phone and broadband Internet, video and audio transmission in the stadium and to points outside it. The same is true of the data traffic generated by the stadium management or the communication conducted by the media. IT consultants specializing in arenas, stadiums and other large event venues confirm that convergence is a reality for them too, similar to the situation in office buildings and in private homes. Convergence requires appropriate IT infrastructures and multiservice networks all based on far-sighted, competent planning.
In its guidelines for data and communication networks in stadiums where competitions are held, FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, sets down straightforward rules: “It is usual for the stadium owner or operator to offer, allocate and maintain a standard cabling system for the entire stadium.”
Data center in the stadium – efficiency through IP
Huge soccer stadiums such as the Allianz Arena in Munich or the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid already have their own data center integrated in their operations. Coaches, players and fans of Real Madrid, for instance, can access a data archive over radio and Internet that already contains several terabytes of videos, images, reports and statistics for analysis and planning.
No matter where people are in the extensive sports complex, they can work on a laptop, hold conferences or retrieve game scenes from the archive to optimize training sessions. The standard IP network can be used for the remote control of building service installations as well as the peripheral equipment in the stadium and even the traffic control system.
The Madrid stadium was able to boost the efficiency of its operations by 50 percent using communication and control equipment interconnected in standard networks. Service, maintenance and adaptations of the structured cabling cost only half as much as earlier solutions. Only eight people are needed to handle all the functions centrally at a top game played by Real Madrid with 80,000 spectators.
Another example of the application potential of local area networks (LANs) is Letzigrund Stadium, newly built in Zurich for the EURO 2008. Live TV images from the playing field can be transmitted to all lounges, even though there are no coaxial cables installed for this purpose. The TV broadcasts run over the data network instead. The TV signal is converted and top quality TV footage is fed into the LAN using the CATV solution from R&M. All 20 LAN sub-distributors in the stadium building are fitted with CATV panels. According to Beat Schmutz, Technical Building Manager at Letzigrund: “That is added value for us and for stadium guests. We can route a TV broadcast quickly and cheaply to wherever it is needed at any given time.”
Video monitoring plays a big role. It helps to detect risks and unrest quickly or to guide flows of spectators and traffic from a single control stand. With structured cabling, cameras can be integrated in the stadium data network using IP (Internet protocol) and linked, for example, to alarm and signaling systems, remote control, server and backup or to the information system of the security staff.
If “Power over Ethernet” (power supply via a LAN) is used, no additional power cable is used for camera operation. That cuts installation and maintenance costs, particularly in stadiums where cables have to be laid over long distances. R&M strongly advises customers: “You need high quality twisted pair copper cabling to use ‘Power over Ethernet’ reliably and effectively for a data network.”
Structured cabling – highly available operations
R&M reminds customers: “The prerequisite for highly integrated network operations is cabling that has a modern structure and is neutral in terms of application. It should comply with the 11801 ISO/IEC standard or the EN 50173 series of European standards.” Because arenas are subject to specific peak loads, the ISO/IEC 24702 standard for industrial and outdoor applications can also be consulted for planning. This lets users adapt their infrastructure specifically to tougher environmental influences such as dust, moisture and mechanical loads.
The result is a sturdy and extremely failsafe network. The FIFA demands availability of 99.999 percent. That corresponds to the criteria for high performance data centers. Markus Schlageter says: “Each network interruption can cause a painful loss of license and advertising revenues. From that standpoint, it is understandable that FIFA sets such tough requirements.” R&M defines its own goal as being an installation that is 100 percent failsafe. To that end, R&M has set up a quality management system extending all the way from production to installation and maintenance. It covers planning support for and delivery of factory-tested cabling units pre-terminated and cut to size.
Standard-based planning with an eye to the future
Structured cabling generally has a central distribution site. From there, you can plan the main routes and backbones and rising mains. Long transmission distances have to be covered in a stadium because of its enormous size, so fiber-optic cables are the sensible choice for the backbone. On the various floors and in the functional areas, stadium operations continue with copper cabling laid in a star shape to the individual connection points. Shielded copper cabling is the ideal choice, being non-sensitive to electromagnetic interference.
All workstations - from the ticket booths to the stadium offices and from the press boxes to the coaches’ bench and every connection for terminals - have identical standardized interfaces, usually two to four RJ45 connector sockets. That allows the simple plug-and-play integration of computers, phones, printers, sensors, monitors, cameras or wireless LAN antennas in the network.
The Swiss national stadium in Wankdorf near Bern known as “Stade de Suisse” went a step further in integration. The planners there relied on the Extended Office Cabling (EOC) platforms from R&M for networking their functional areas, lounges, catering and offices. Extended Office Cabling (EOC) combines communication cabling and high-voltage current supply in ceilings, false floors, parapet cabling ducts and columns. The lines can be laid quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently to all connection points.
Based on R&M’s experience, network cabling today should satisfy the requirements of Class EA according to ISO/IEC 11801. The goal is to provide performance for broadband transmissions at 10 Gbit/s Ethernet, so that sufficient reserves are built in to handle the growing need for multimedia and video applications. With a modular cabling system such as the R&Mfreenet platform from R&M, users can efficiently implement this structured installation. At the same time, the modular approach offers flexibility for later expansions or for short-term adjustments and changes in use required for special events.
Users can also subsequently upgrade a distributor or change from copper to fiber-optic cabling at any time on the modular R&M platform. Quick-installation solutions requiring no special tools are another big help to electricians. Markus Schlageter says: “That way the basic infrastructure remains useable for a long time to come. The customer’s investment is protected. That is an important point for stadium complexes that are planned to operate for decades.”
Info box: Excerpt from the technical recommendations and requirements of the FIFA
The sharp increase in the broad and reliable use of open-architecture communication systems requires early planning of the core infrastructure. This should be done at the same time as the architectural construction program is drawn up.
Most electronic building systems are moving towards a joint and open data protocol known as Internet Protocol (IP). IP is normally used as an Ethernet-based connection network to interlink systems and networks. This approach is already the standard technology for many building systems and covers phone, administrative data, wireless data (Wi-Fi), building management systems, electronic access control and intrusion detection, video monitoring, TV and other electrical low-voltage current systems.
The electronic building systems will continue to develop using IP, which makes the planning of these systems all the more important. Given this increased system convergence and integration, it is essential to plan for the present and future. That is the only way to ensure a long service life for the systems. These criteria must be developed based on existing standards in the communications industry. They help in predicting future technologies.
The development of a technology program assists in identifying all systems, terminals and applications needed for the stadium. The technology program indicates their interoperability, convergence and network allocation. It is used in project planning to determine who is responsible for what work and for system implementation. It is usual for the stadium owner or operator to offer, allocate and maintain a standard cabling system for the entire stadium.
The following points are crucial for the technology program:
• Implemented systems and applications
• Extent of system convergence with IP
• Support of systems, terminals and applications
• Allocation of services
• System reliability and redundancy
• Prevention of loss
• Non-interruptible operation of applications and connection network
• Future potential for expansion and growth
The communication cable infrastructure system has to be planned in such a way that it supports voice and data applications and systems operated over a multimedia cable system with optical fibers and twisted-pair copper conductors.