Imagining the Future of Fandom

AR Sports

Let’s imagine the fan experience of the future. If there were no technological or financial restrictions, how would you want to attend a sporting event or a concert? What will “attending” evolve to mean? Would you want to point to a player on the field and see or hear their latest stats? Would you want your seat in the stadium to recognize you and understand your VIP status? Would you want access to the data the various coaches were using during the game? How about the ability to play more realistic fantasy sports or have a digital twin of your game-worn collectible merchandise in a virtual world? Would the main attraction(s) appear to you as a full-motion hologram? An avatar? A synthetic human?

If you don’t like any of these, come up with your own. Really, anything you can think of. Make a list. Got it? Great. No matter what’s on your list, here are just a few of the things you will need to make it real.

Empowered Consumers

In order for future fans to experience the amazing things on your list, they will need to be technologically empowered to participate in the experience. This may mean having a smartphone, or possibly eyewear that will enable augmented reality projections. It may also include audio (headphones, earbuds, or bone induction audio transducers). It will almost certainly include some kind of haptic feedback using clothing or by directly stimulating your nervous system. It may also include projectors, flat screens, lighting arrays, or other types of audio/visual technology you might use to create your imagined enhanced environment. No matter what kind of experience you are thinking about, consumers will need the proper kit to take advantage of your creativity.

Network Infrastructure

Today, most people walk around with several radios in their pockets. An average smartphone can connect to 5G UWB, 5G, LTE (4G), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS, to name a few. In order to connect to the owner of such a device, you must have wireless network infrastructure to support your use case.

One extraordinary example of “future fan ready” infrastructure can be found at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Its network has 2,400 antennas and 3,200 remotes, and is capable of covering all licensed spectrum bands from 600 MHz to 6 GHz. It can handle Wi-Fi consumption measured in terabytes of data per hour. In non-technical terms, fans at SoFi can enjoy virtually unlimited use of their devices.

Privacy Policies

If you’ve ever signed into a website or app using Google or Facebook (instead of a unique username and password), you’ve used a version of single sign-on (SSO). In some cases and on some devices, your mobile browser will keep these data in memory and you will remain signed into sites and apps until you sign out. While Apple loves apps, it hates websites. So, on iOS devices, Safari and Chrome cannot store the data needed to keep you signed in to a website once you close your browser. Android users do not have this problem. In any event, your fan experience of the future will have to provide a way for fans to sign in and stay signed in.

While we’re thinking about signing in to apps and websites for your new fan experience, we should acknowledge that all privacy policies will have to be adhered to. Data privacy and protection rules will likely be different in different regions of the world, but every fan experience will have to respect local privacy laws.

Which brings us to the next issue. What if your future fan experience allows for more than one app or more than one experience to be offered at the same time in the same location? Or what if you need to keep the fan logged in when the fan leaves the virtual or physical venue?

SSI (Self-Sovereign Identifiers) vs. FIDO (Fast IDentity Online)

The concept of passwordless, cryptographically protected digital identification has been around for a very long time. Today there are two competing technologies offering differing visions for our potential future digital identities: FIDO2, a specification from the FIDO Alliance, and SSI, a catchall phrase for a group of decentralized identity schemas.

FIDO’s mission is to eliminate the password and make multi-factor authentication (MFA) easy, fast, and ubiquitous. The standard is singularly focused on security. Google brags, “On the employee side, there has not been a successful phishing attack against Google’s 85,000+ employees since requiring use of FIDO security keys.”

But FIDO2 is a centralized system, and while it does a wonderful job with security, it does not offer individuals complete control of their own data.

On the other hand, SSI is a set of open digital identity standards that gives individuals control over the information they use to prove who they are. It can be used to exchange data between issuers, holders, and verifiers without the involvement of any central authority.

You can think of your SSI as a non-transferable, non-fungible token (NFT) or smart contract that allows you to choose what data you wish to reveal and have them verified by anyone you authorize to view them on a public blockchain.

Web3 has the potential to “flip the script” for marketers. Instead of collecting email addresses and hoping to tag users with some form of digital ID, a potential customer could enter your funnel by allowing you to know their identity via their SSI. This would allow you (the marketer) to follow the customer’s digital wallet and have access to the data the individual wanted you to have about them. With this subtle shift, it now becomes possible for you to create a system where both you (the marketer) and the user (potential customer) can both share in the value you create.

Speaking of data, your future fan experience will turn two types of data into action.

Batch and Streaming Data

Fans participating in your future fan experience will generate and use both batch data and streaming data. Batch data refers to data that have been aggregated and stored. If you are working on a spreadsheet and you import a file of sales data, you are processing batch data.

This is different from streaming data, which is a continuous flow of data generated by various devices and sensors. Most of us don’t process streaming data, but we certainly benefit from apps that do. Social media, dynamic ecommerce sites, video games, and self-driving cars all process streaming data to craft our “real time” experiences.

No matter what you put on your list of future fan experiences, it will be created by combining batch data and streaming data in near real time.

Edge Computing and Cloud Computing

Just as the words imply, cloud computing takes place in a data center that is remote to your users, and edge computing takes place as close to the end user as possible. Both of these computing (and storage solutions) are combined with local storage and computing (smartphone, laptop, chip in some device) to create a complete user experience. Gartner® predicts, “By 2025, more than 50% of enterprise-managed data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud.”

To fully realize the experiences you’ve imagined, you are going to need software that aggregates and processes batch and streaming data from multiple sources and multiple locations in near-real time.

Intelligence Layer

When I imagine the fan experience of the future, I think about recognizing anonymous self-sovereign identities that are passing through various data-rich environments and serving them relevant content. I think of a kind of universal cookie (for lack of a better term) that anonymously speaks to the various sensors or event listeners triggering a customized data feed that provides everything from augmented to virtual reality experiences.

This might be accomplished by building an intelligence layer into the system used to converge the available wireless networks. Such an intelligence layer (at the network level) would enable various vendors to bid for experiences the way programmatic advertising systems bid for ad space. Or it might just handle permission levels for various fan experiences. Of course, no such trusted intelligence layer exists.

Fan First

The most important thing about your list of future fan experiences is that they put the fan first. While every fan is unique, when fans are asked what they want most, there’s a common answer: to be more deeply engaged with what they love. This list of required technologies is remarkably incomplete, but I hope it helps you begin to architect the future you want to live in.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it. I am not a financial advisor. Nothing contained herein should be considered financial advice. If you are considering any type of investment you should conduct your own research and, if necessary, seek the advice of a licensed financial advisor.

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