Not being able to get a smartphone data connection in crowded football stadiums could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to UK start-up TribeHive.
With thousands of fans crammed into a stadium local mobile network capacity is quickly exceeded during football matches leading to poor connectivity, but TribeHive has developed technology that can build a network directly between phones and use it as the basis for distributing data.
The technology is being used in six new smartphone apps being introduced by clubs in the Football League, including one Barclays Premier League team QPR and five Sky Bet Championship teams – Birmingham, Bolton, Brighton and Hove, Middlesbrough and Watford – for the first two months of the 2014/2015 season.
The iOS and Android apps are available for fans to download ahead of the first matches of the season and will deliver match-related content, player statistics, live results from other fixtures, travel information, and social media feeds to football fans in stadiums, much more reliably than those seeking information through a traditional data connection.
“Putting Wi-Fi into a stadium is very expensive; it can cost upwards of half a million pounds for a modern 30,000-seater stadium. Wi-Fi is also technically very difficult to get right – a number of clubs have tried and failed to get Wi-Fi working despite spending a lot of money,” said Dr Ian Wakeman, managing director of Tribehive.
“Our technology provides a very cost effective alternative whilst encouraging fans to use the dedicated apps of their club, making it an excellent communication channel for each club to keep fans informed during a match.
“The Football League trials will be a fantastic opportunity for the clubs and fans alike to see the benefits of making real-time data accessible to enhance the match day experience.”
If the initial trials are successful, the technology could be rolled out to all member clubs of the Football League.
The company’s patented HiveCore technology allows any phone running the app to share any information download, such as Twitter feeds or live scores, to be shared with all other phones running the app, essentially creating a local network between the phones in the stadium to share the match day data. The more phones using the app, the smoother the process becomes.
TribeHive is a spin-out from the University of Sussex and Wakeman was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship earlier this year by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub. Through the Enterprise Fellowship, he received £85,000 in seed funding to develop the business.
“TribeHive is a fantastic example of technology transfer from a UK university lab to a successful enterprise, and the forthcoming Football League trials are a real milestone for the company,” said Arnoud Jullens, head of enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering.
“TribeHive’s technology presents a novel solution to a persistent problem, and it’s a privilege for the Enterprise Hub to support entrepreneurs with such promise.”
The club specific apps will also work on Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G networks for fans not in the stadium.