CLEMSON, SC – September 29, 2008 – Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium and its 80,000 fans become a living laboratory at home games every week as research, education, technology and athletics come together for more than just football in a joint project known as iTiger (http://iTiger.clemson.edu).
The project brings together the School of Computing in the College of Engineering and Science (CoES), Clemson Computing and Information Technology (CCIT) and Clemson athletics. The uncommon collaboration of this trio could eventually bring instant replay, game-day statistics, memorabilia and e-concessions to the fingertips of fans sitting in the stands using their own handheld digital devices. iTiger in the stadium is the start of a campus-wide emphasis toward a new generation of wireless technology integration.
“This is a starting point and we’re in the start-up, research and development stage, and already people are excited about the possibilities of enhancing the fan experience while discovering new knowledge about wireless communication and engaging students in the process,” said Jim Bottum, vice provost for computing and information technology. “You are looking at how the stadium of the future may eventually operate and how other even larger forums in our environment have the potential to operate. We’re taking a social-networking application and applying it to a sports venue. Eventually we hope to apply this campuswide and, perhaps someday, citywide and beyond.”
Participants see iTiger as a launching pad to integrating the entire college campus, a place where learning, research, public safety, social networking and other elements such as retailing, product development and technology transfer all converge in cyberspace. This year’s participation is limited to the West End Zone and a small number of suites and outdoor seats near that area of the stadium. This test environment is an experiment in how fans will use mobile devices and the impact on network connectivity and bandwidth. The goal is to expand iTiger to the entire stadium and to get it into the hands of whoever wants it regardless of the wireless device being used, said Bottum.
“We are aggressively seeking resources and partners to meet these goals,” he added.
Other possibilities for iTiger’s use within the stadium include instantly accessing public safety officials; interacting with other fans during the game; submitting questions to the Coach’s Show; and — in the WestZone Club and suite areas — e-concessions: ordering and paying for food in advance for pickup at or delivery from the concession stand.
“This may prove to be a great new way for us to provide more service and information to our fans at football games,” said Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips. “Our fans are important to us so those things that may help their experience are always of interest. We’re hoping this may indeed mean they’ll be using their cell phones or other mobile devices to get more out of the game, stay in touch with other sport activities and find out what’s going on in the stadium — all in real time. We’re happy to provide a setting to help develop these and more possibilities.”
The iTiger project utilizes a Cisco Unified Wireless Network with 802.11n Aironet® 1250 Series access points, as well as Cisco routers and switches, designed to eventually provide ubiquitous wireless coverage in the stadium to stream video content to mobile devices.
“Clemson University’s innovative use of the Cisco Unified Wireless Network demonstrates the mobility experience that forward-thinking universities can now deliver to students, faculty and sports fans,” said Chris Kozup, Cisco’s senior manager of mobility solutions. “The iTiger project is just one example of how Clemson is bringing new, advanced mobile applications and services, like streaming video playback, to its users and thereby changing how they learn, live and play.”
iTiger is a student-driven effort that involves undergraduates and graduates from the School of Computing, Digital Production Arts and the College of Business and Behavioral Science, among others. Students are involved in application design and development, infrastructure, project management and game-day logistics. A course is planned in spring 2009 for students to work on iTiger projects.
“Memorial Stadium is a natural laboratory for our studies,” said Larry Hodges, director of the School of Computing. “On the research side, the challenge is to keep the technology working among so many users in a dense area.”
“Look at social networks, Web services and how much data is produced on Saturdays due to athletics. We are a data-driven culture,” said Ph.D. student Will Pressley, who helped develop the project with fellow graduate student Abhijit Sribhashyam and School of Computing professor Jim Martin. “We are doing grass-roots development with students and the product at the same time. That is what is unique about doing this at the university level.”
“iTiger is an opportunity to help the diverse communities of research, athletics, students and Clemson fans explore and define the role of advanced mobile devices and wireless networks in a campus environment,” said Martin, technical director of iTiger. “The potential of this project is limitless due to the creativity of the students and the interdisciplinary nature of it.”
Only handheld devices with 802.11g specification (which is a standard for wireless local area networks that offer transmission over short distances) are supported by iTiger now, although Martin says that will change to include a broader set of cell phone devices.
Currently there is no charge for the service and Bottum says supporters can make any size gift donation (http://iTiger.clemson.edu/donor.htm) toward the project.
“We are also hoping for individual and corporate sponsors and advertising dollars, gifts-in-kind, retail businesses and royalties to help sustain it,” Bottum said. “For the project to grow, we need the help and support of the entire Clemson community.”