The Blues Go Bluetooth
By Justin Ried, Mon Mar 26 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Located just outside Helsinki, the LansiAuto Arena is building an ultra hi-tech suite of services that?ll have hockey fans cheering (and computer nerds drooling).

If you thought Bluetooth was just about cutting the wires, then think again. At the LänsiAuto Arena, home to the Espoo Blues hockey team, they’ve put Bluetooth technology to work, helping them to streamline their business and introduce new services that put them light-years ahead of the competition.

In the near future, Finnish hockey fans will be able to browse available seating with their mobile phones and purchase their tickets in advance. Electronic tickets can then be stored in the Bluetooth-enabled devices until match time.

The traditional paper stub ticket isn’t going anywhere for now, but Jerker Sederlöf, managing director of LM Ticket Solutions and Blues Hockey Limited, expects the electronic variant to gain ground quickly over the next few years.

Benefiting the fans… and the host

“There are a number of cost benefits that come with implementing Bluetooth,” Sederlöf says. “Giving people the option to purchase an electronic ticket does away with a lot of overhead.”

“In addition, with an electronic ticket, they can receive up-to-the-minute news about the match, and can be alerted immediately if there happens to be a change of venue.” That means no more showing up on the night of the match to find out it’s been re-scheduled for tomorrow.

Fans will be able to browse the layout of the arena and, with a map showing all available seats, choose one that matches their team preference and budget. Once the ticket is bought, fans can head straight for the match.

As the customer approaches the arena, their device automatically logs onto the local network, “After the ticket has been authenticated, the customer can open the arena door remotely, with just the push of a button,” said Jaakko Luoma, Ericsson’s Bluetooth ambassador and solution manager.

Demonstrating the system in action, Luoma showed how a simple welcome message followed by the customer’s name pops up on the screen when entering the arena. “Personalization brings the experience closer to home,” said Luoma.

After settling in, fans can also browse the menu and order food & drinks. Alerts such as “Your order is ready to be picked up” can automatically be sent back to the device from the kitchen.

“It also benefits us as a real-time inventory management system,” said Sederlöf.

In addition to the convenience afforded the consumer, the arena staff gains valuable information about who their customers are and what they like. Such information is valuable when formulating ad campaigns and targeting individual fans with special offers.

“Again, special offers can be pushed to the devices immediately during the match,” he added. For example, every time your team scores, a message offering 10% off their jersey might be broadcast.

Or, if your favorite player scores a goal, an electronic version of his sports card with his latest stats can be beamed to your device, instantly. The announcer can also can ask the fans a question, who in return can reply instantly, having the results of the vote displayed on the scoreboard in real time. “The only limit is your imagination,” Sederlöf said.

Indeed, the wireless network takes the game to a whole new level of interactivity. Instead of just watching the game purely as a spectator, fans become a part of it.

In addition to the game, fans have the opportunity to interact with each other. For example, they can pass messages back and forth to each other over the system. Imagine being able to send a picture message showing your team’s logo at your adversary when your team scores, or being able to place a bet with her like “I’ll bet you 10 marks that Jämsänen scores in this period!”

It all adds up to bringing the game closer to the customer, the very thing the fans crave. But it’s not been easy. The arena is employing cutting edge of technology, and there are bound to be a few kinks here and there.

“We’ve been learning by doing,” says Sederlöf.

And the competition will too. The LänsiAuto Arena is a testament to what can be done in the very near term with existing technology and a bit of creativity. We expect others to follow their lead.

Justin Ried is one of the few people in Finland that wasn't raised on hockey and salmiakki. He's learning, though...