Tennis anyone? The U.S. Open will take place over the next two weeks and a device being offered called "FanVision Bolt" serves as both a battery charger and internet hotspot, enabling fans to stream live matches via ESPN to their smartphone without interruption.
The dual-purpose technology device means fans can watch tennis or stream matches anywhere at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the U.S. Open for the next two weeks.
Along with providing a charge, the device also acts as a receiver that uses a private network to ingest live ESPN streams of select matches going on at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, according to a report today in Geekwire.com. The article notes that fans can access the stream via the U.S. Open mobile app but they can only watch the live feed on their smartphone or tablet if they are physically at the tennis center and have the FanVision Bolt device attached.
The hope is that tennis fans can have their cake and eat it too by watching streams of other matches without using up cellular data with a connection that tends to be more reliable than the in-stadium WiFi. This is the first time U.S. Open attendees have been able to use the Chase Bank-sponsored devices, which are available to the first 5,000 fans who visit the Chase booth.
According to the report, FanVision Entertainment created the device and is already a partner of the PGA Tour, and has been making a name for itself at NASCAR races.
“It solves the problems of wireless connectivity and mobile device charging in stadiums,” according to the company’s website. The company provides an SDK to app developers so they can take advantage of FanVision’s technology without forcing fans to download another app.
When it comes to NASCAR events, FanVision offers the FanVision Bolt and its more heavy-duty FanVision Controller (which is its own device and does not require a smartphone) to fans who can use the products to track drivers, listen to team communications, watch in-car camera feeds, and check leaderboards during a race.
NASCAR race teams also use FanVision’s software to track drivers in real-time.
On the PGA Tour, there tends to be a lot going on at one time over a large area and fans usually cover the terrain on foot. If you’re on one hole at a golf tournament, for example, and want to see what’s going on with another player who is competing at a different spot far away, this device can connect the dots.
In an interview with FanVision by Beyond The Flag earlier this year, as smartphone battery drain faster at sporting events because the devices are constantly searching for a signal, reducing that battery anxiety is a game saver, particularly as streaming during games on smartphones grows in popularity.
FanVision is co-owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross who began working on the technology with some NFL teams six years ago in an attempt to sell similar devices to fans at games. But powerful smartphones with access to free team apps meant the Fanvision model did not take off with the NFL, the article states.
Yet, Ross claims that an app is still years away from taking shape — stadiums are too saturated for mobile systems to stream effectively. For now, he’s excited about getting FanVision noticed by fans, and eventually he plans to add social media features — text messaging, and virtual games that will run parallel to the live game — and the ability for fans to order food to be delivered from concession stands to their seats.
“It’ll become an addiction, like the blackberry — or, crackberry,” Ross says, hopeful. “Fans won’t want to go to games without it.”
Even before that, the Seattle Mariners in 2007 offered fans who brought their handheld Nintendo DS devices to the game — the team was previously owned by Nintendo — access to the “Nintendo Fan Network,” which provided a live stream of the game, real-time scores and stats, networked games that you could play against other fans in the stadium, and the ability to order food from your seat (yes, this was possible nearly a decade ago, even though it still seems novel today).
The software let fans “even watch a terribly pixelated version of the game they’re currently at without handing over one red cent,” Engadget reported. How times have changed.