When the New England Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX this weekend, the technology packed into the University of Phoenix Stadium will be almost as cool as the game itself.

The $455 million stadium was one of the first built to feature full-bowl Wi-Fi in 2006; last year, anticipating the Big Game, stadium authorities executed a full rip and replace Wi-Fi upgrade, installing nearly 800 new Wi-Fi points. Cisco installed the original network, and CDW is updating, expanding, and testing that network.

The Super Bowl is among the biggest social media events in the world. Last year’s game, played in the New Jersey Meadowlands, saw peak Wi-Fi usage reach 13,500 fans – 16 percent of the 82,529 in attendance – as fans moved 3.2 terabytes of data across the network, according to data compiled by Extreme Networks, the NFL’s official Wi-Fi analytics provider. That’s equivalent to 9,600 hours of streaming HD video.

Mobile data originating from the Super Bowl stadium broke records, Computerworld’s Matt Hamblenreported. Facebook – not Twitter or Instagram – was the primary target of all those posts, with almost two in three fans sharing on Facebook, versus 18 percent on Twitter and 17 percent on Instagram.

Lighting it up
Putting a glow into all those digital images and videos flying through the ether will be the most advanced lighting technology ever to brighten a football field. This year’s Super Bowl will be the first played under LED lights. Provided by Ephasus Lighting, the new lamps will provide “a significant increase in illumination,” the company said, and they will be more energy efficient. The 312 new LED light fixtures replace 780 metal halide fixtures. The new system uses just 310,000 watts of energy as compared to the 1.24 million watts needed to power the previous system, for a 75 percent reduction in energy consumption.

The new lights also will provide more uniform lighting across the playing surface and will make for more vivid colors on the field and on the screen.

The payoff for fans is more than a pretty picture, says Joe Casper, Founder and CTO of Ephasus Lighting. Since the brighter lights will provide more detail during slow motion replays, referees can benefit when they review plays – as can fans convinced they saw something the referees missed.

What’s behind all that technology? Money, of course. Big money. Advertisers will pay $4.5 million for 30 seconds of airtime, reaching television’s biggest audience of the year. And as Rob Siltanen writes atForbes, the ads are the reason half of the Super Bowl audience tunes in. That, in turn, ties back to social media, as a measure of engagement: Super Bowl advertisers had 6.2 times more social mentions last Feb. 3 – the day after the Super Bowl – as they had for their 30-day average at the time. We’ll leave it to others to decide if the investment was worth it.

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