Vodafone Qatar's smart World Cup stadiums
Vodafone Qatar’s Chief Operating Office Mohamed Al Sadah talks to Business Review Middle East about its work on smart stadiums for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
What is a ‘smart stadium’?
From our perspective, the concept of a smart stadium encompasses two main aspects: fan experiences and improved operations. In terms of fan experiences, a ‘smart stadium’ uses technologically advanced infrastructure and digital technologies to deliver greater connectivity and create unforgettable sports experiences for sports fans.
Smart stadiums are sports venues that have been designed and developed to offer a wide range of benefits – for example, high-speed broadband network connections, rich content displays, interactive technologies and more. Together these provide fans at sporting events with an end-to-end digital experience.
Smart technologies can also enhance and improve the operations of a stadium. For instance, smart technology can be deployed to ensure the safety, security and integrity of a venue on match day. Such technologies can support the multitude of logistical and operational activities that are involved in the running of such venues – from ticketing, to parking, to payments and more.
What are your plans for smart stadiums for the 2022 World Cup?
Our leading Internet of Things (IoT) platform is now available in 40 markets including Qatar, as part of our strategic direction to bring all that’s innovative to the country. This demonstrates how we are always looking to bring expertise and innovation from all around the world to Qatar.
We have abundant experience in delivering smart stadium experiences – from the Vodafone Arena in Turkey, to the London Olympics and our work with Valencia Football Club in Spain.
These strengths underpin our ability to support Qatar’s efforts in delivering an amazing 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, the first in the Middle East. As preparations for the World Cup accelerate, so will fans’ expectation for super-fast connectivity. The ability to share videos, pictures and messages with people online will be an important aspect of the fan experience in six and a half years’ time. So a big part of our involvement is supporting the authorities and the large number of stakeholders involved in delivering a World Cup that fulfils the promise of a fan experience like no other.
We are the ideal partner to work with organisations like the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, helping them realise the promise and the potential of the smart stadium experience. We’re also ideally placed to support the State of Qatar more broadly as the country develops the necessary infrastructure around World Cup projects and smart cities such as Msheireb emerge, offering the promise of enhancing people’s lifestyle as well as empowering businesses through efficient and sustainable services delivered by an integrated ICT infrastructure.
How will you be working with Vodafone Turkey and Besiktas football club to deliver these smart stadiums?
Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) designed to accelerate the transfer of knowledge, expertise and technological know-how from Turkey’s first smart-stadium, the Vodafone Arena in the Besiktas district of Istanbul to one of the world’s fastest growing football markets in Qatar.
Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey have agreed to enter into a collaboration to enable Vodafone Qatar to receive the benefit of Vodafone Turkey’s expertise, knowledge and experience in smart stadium technologies and the implementation of such technologies. This will cover the following key elements:
- Knowledge and information based on Vodafone Turkey’s flagship implementation of smart stadium technologies in the Vodafone Arena;
- Technical solution design, capability and functionality;
- Resources and personnel experienced in the design and implementation of smart stadium technologies.
Through this partnership, we are ideally placed to provide sport fans at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar with the ultimate digital experience as well as for a variety of other venues and stadiums hosting major sports events taking place around the region.
What makes Qatar the right country to focus on when it comes to smart stadiums and smart technology?
Qatar is one of the first countries to have to build so many stadiums from scratch for a World Cup, so the opportunities are massive. The use of smartphones is widespread, as is social media usage – we can expect that Qataris and residents in the country will take full advantage of the digital opportunities around the World Cup. It’s also more than six years away. Considering we’re currently seeing the development of so many new technologies, it’s exciting to think of what will be in place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarT when the first ball is kicked. A viewing experience enhanced by back of seat technologies was an innovative part of Qatar’s winning bid and hosting concept.
How does Qatar compare to other countries in the region?
By the time the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, no other country in the region will boast as many state-of-the-art stadiums. Whether it’s solar or cooling technology, all of the stadiums will have impressive technological features that will integrate it with, and make the most of, the surrounding area. For a country of Qatar’s size relative to others in the region, being home to so many amazing stadiums is truly impressive. Some of these innovative technologies could be deployed as early as 2017, when Qatar hosts the Gulf Cup of nations and is hoping to have the revamped Khalifa International stadium open.
Is the country as a whole very tech-savvy?
Qatar has made great strides in building an advanced ICT sector in recent years. The World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Report 2014 reaffirmed the country’s place as one of the Middle East’s – and the world’s – most “networked ready” nations.
For the mainstream population, the penetration of mobile phones and laptops has grown significantly, and ownership of mature devices such as smartphones and tablets has also increased.
The result is that Qatar is described as “one of the most connected countries in the world.” Smartphone penetration stands at 80%, while 96% of Qatari households are connected to the internet.
- Research by Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) has revealed that Qataris are more aware of newer networks like Snapchat when compared to expat residents in the country (77% of Qatari internet users versus 39% of expats) and Instagram (97% versus 65%); and that they tend to be among the earliest adopters of these emerging social media services.
- Children receive their first smartphone in Qatar on average at the age of eight – amongst the earliest of anywhere in the world.
Could the smart technology used in the stadiums be used for other developments in Qatar?
Absolutely. We recently brought the power of its international network to Qatar with the launch of our Global Machine to Machine (M2M) Platform. This means that Vodafone Qatar’s capabilities now include a scalable Global M2M Platform with interactive portal for end users; access to global SIM cards powered by the world’s largest network; highly secure solutions; more than 1300 M2M experts worldwide; broad portfolio of M2M terminals, application and service enablement development and testing and deployment – all from a single supplier, with a single contract.
The recently announced partnership between Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey is one example of the role that M2M and IoT can play in the country’s development. This partnership is designed to deliver smart stadium technologies, leveraging the power of Vodafone’s international network and global leadership in IoT technology to help deliver the ultimate experience for sports fans and developing the stadiums of the future in markets including Qatar, Turkey and across the Middle East.
But the same technologies, expertise and capabilities also underpin the smart cities that will improve the quality of life for all people in Qatar and which have been identified as an important focus area by Qatar’s various authorities.
The transportation sector especially is a priority area for the country as it manages the rapid development of road infrastructure and increasing volumes of traffic. Smart solutions will be key to managing these challenges and deliver the required benefits to the people of Qatar. Vodafone’s M2M fleet management and asset tracking and video surveillance solutions can play a key role in helping Qatar’s businesses and authorities achieve this.
Vodafone Qatar is driving the vision of the smart city by enabling whole new developments to be built from the ground up using the latest technology to connect devices, systems and infrastructure directly to their inhabitants. This is the commitment Vodafone Qatar is making to support the Qatar National Vision 2030, connecting every machine to improve lives and businesses.
Read the October 2016 issue of Business Review Middle East magazine