NBA All-Star Report: Cisco demos IPTV sports infrastructure

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Cisco Systems demonstrated a new IPTV system designed specifically for sports venues at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, offering a new level of video monitor, scoreboard, and even virtual signage via Cisco’s core IP infrastructure products and Scientific-Atlanta encoder and decoder products. “The system allows configurable signage to be pushed throughout a venue along with HD signals and other content streams,” says Jeffrey M. Plat n, Cisco Systems vice president, Industry Solutions Marketing.

The concept demonstrated takes the same type of infrastructure products used by IPTV and cable providers and brings them to a venue environment. A headend at the facility (or even a remote facility connected via IP) contains the video encoding equipment, a media server, and a control system to select which content is displayed on which monitors in a facility. At the push of a button new advertising, digital menus, messaging, and video can be distributed to video monitors in concourse areas, bathrooms, and luxury suites connected via a small linux-based set-top box.

“The number of channels we can support is limitless,” says Plat n.

The demonstration at the arena involved distributing multiple standard definition TV channels and an HD channel to luxury suites. Touch screen controllers in the suite allowed guests to select between a variety of IP services: voice, video, statistics, and data. There is also the potential to allow for handheld devices with WiFi connectivity to tap into the system and give users access to video, statistics, biographical information, and other data. “The user will be able to find the nearest bathroom,” adds Robert Cicero, Cisco systems engineer who was tapping into the system via an Apple iTouch.

The sports-specific system came about following discussions between Cisco and the Oakland Athletics, which will build a new stadium in Fremont, CA in 2011. The stadium will be known as Cisco Field and will be cutting edge in terms of wireless and IPTV connectivity.

“We will provide a secure video network that is wired and wireless and viewable anywhere,” adds Plat n. “It will also be future proof because the IP equipment will be upgradeable via software.” Future-proof technology is important given the long delay between the design phase of a sports venue and the actual opening date.

Plat n says the system can also be used by security, police and fire crews, allowing them to all ride on the same network, if needed. Plat n also believes it can play an important role in cutting energy usage as venues look to “go green.”

And even broadcasters and leagues could benefit as the IP connection could run between venues and remote broadcast network master control operations. “We could eliminate the need for a transmission truck to be on site,” explains Plat n.

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