Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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    EDITORIAL The next generation of fan – and voter – engagement with 5G, private networks and AI

    The combination of Private 5G and AI is a powerful one that, at the 152nd Open Golf Tournament this month, shows just where sports, entertainment and – with elections upon us – voting may all be headed

    The roar of the crowd, the suspense of a nail-biting finish, the shared euphoria of victory – all things, bar the last one, that England football fans experience whenever their team take to the theatre of dreams. These are all also the hallmarks of the experiences that bind sports and entertainment fans together. However, the way we consume and interact with these experiences is on the cusp of a revolution, driven by the powerful convergence of 5G technology, private networks and artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

    As we have written many times, 5G isn’t just about faster downloads; it’s about a paradigm shift in network capabilities. Imagine a stadium packed with tens of thousands of fans, all simultaneously uploading high-definition videos, sharing live updates and accessing augmented reality (AR) experiences. The sheer volume of data traffic would cripple traditional networks.  5G, however, with its ultra-low latency (near-instantaneous response times) and significantly increased bandwidth, allows this to happen.

    While public 5G networks offer a broad reach, private 5G networks – networks built into a sports or entertainment venue and run by the owners purely for the punters – unlock hyper-connectivity within thisdefined area and can deliver an even better experience. We have already talked about what 6G can deliver, but a private 5G network already comes close.

    Imagine a dedicated network within a stadium, providing fans with exclusive content, real-time player statistics, and personalised AR overlays. This creates a unique, immersive environment, fostering deeper fan engagement and loyalty. Similarly, private networks can be deployed at events like Wimbledon or The Open, creating seamless connectivity for broadcasters, media personnel and even VIP guests.

    AI: the intelligence behind the experience

    Meanwhile, AI acts as the invisible conductor, orchestrating the magic of 5G and private networks. Imagine AI-powered chatbots answering fan queries about directions, concessions, or player information. Or, imagine personalized video recommendations based on your favourite sports or artists.

    AI can also enhance live broadcasts with real-time player analysis, customised news feeds, and interactive polls. These AI-driven experiences elevate fan engagement, keeping them glued to their devices and the event itself.

    This isn’t just day dreaming, it is reality – or will be later this month – when The 152nd Open Golf Tournament at Troon in the UK opens its doors. Official IT provider, NTT Data, is using the event to showcase some of the really cool and engaging AI-powered services that are possible across Private 5G.

    While it is offering its ShotView service – which stores all 32,000 shots made across the tournament and allows viewers to get unrivalled access to data on ball fly, player performance and course conditions – NTT Data is also rolling out an AI ‘human’ called Lottie, ‘who’ will be on hand to offer a combination of sports punditry and customer service.

    According to NTT Data, “Lottie is the future of spectator sport and customer service, delivering interaction and engagement through a blend of on-the-spot, real-time insights and updates from the golf course, statistical data and deep knowledge of the rules and history of the sport. It delivers a dynamic experience that both educates and entertains through a unified conversational interface powered by advanced GenAI”.

    While it is all a bit of fun, we are probably witnessing the future of sports and entertainment unfolding in front of us – and it offers a massive business opportunity, as well as an ever-improving (not to mention digitised) experience for fans.

    Monetisation: a win-win for fans and businesses

    Such convergence of technologies opens up a plethora of monetisation opportunities. Imagine offering premium AR experiences with sponsored content or interactive in-stadium advertising integrated with 5G and private networks. Telecoms and telemedia companies can partner with event organisers, sports teams, brands and artists to deliver targeted advertising and exclusive content through these platforms. Fans get a richer experience, while businesses gain access to highly engaged audiences.

    Let’s consider what some real-world examples might look like. Imagine football fans at Wembley Stadium experiencing a multi-layered spectacle. Through 5G and a private network, they can access real-time heat maps, player tracking with AI-powered insights and AR overlays visualising tactical formations. Partnering with broadcasters, telecoms companies could offer premium content like in-game player interviews accessible only through their network.

    Or heading over to Wimbledon or Roland Garos: picture a private network across the tennis grounds, allowing fans to instantly access highlights from every court, personalised player biographies and even AI-powered “virtual queues” to avoid physical lines. Telecom companies could partner with food vendors, enabling fans to order refreshments directly from their seats using their phones.

    Beyond sports and entertainment: a broader impact

    And the impact of Private 5G and AI extends beyond traditional entertainment. Imagine a scenario such as the 2024 UK or French elections. Using 5G and private networks, secure, real-time voting systems could be implemented, while AI-powered chatbots could disseminate accurate information and answer voter queries. This would not only increase voter engagement but also foster trust in the democratic process.

    The convergence of 5G, private networks, and AI presents a momentous opportunity for the telecoms and telemedia industries. By embracing these technologies and collaborating with sports teams, event organisers and broadcasters, telecoms can create a future where fan engagement is not just deeper, but also a robust source of revenue.

    The future of sports and entertainment is upon us, and it will be powered by the combined forces of technology and human ingenuity – not to mention some nail-biting feats of sporting endeavour, even from the England team…

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