Major League Baseball Hits A Home Run with Digital

Guest Post: Charlotte Males is the Founder of Sports Intern UK. She is a firm believer that Digital and Sport have a lot to learn from each other and is excited to see where this partnership can lead. A big fan of US sport, you can contact her at @charliemales.

With a brand new Major League Baseball season underway, comes brand new digital tech for baseball fans. Although traditionally the American pastime has been left behind when it comes to digital enhancements, the 2014 season has changed all that.

Team and league officials have been working hard all pre-season to implement plans to capitalise on all the new technologies coming in this season. The new improvements are set throughout the MLB and range from improving the fan experience at the ball park to potential changing the game forever.

Instant Replay

First up is the introduction of instant replay at the stadium. MLB is joining the like of Tennis, Cricket and Rugby by giving teams the right to challenge an umpire’s call they disagree with.  Like all new has already come with teething problems. But the technology used has undeniably changed the game forever.

All 30 teams in the MLB unanimously voted for the implementation of the instant-replay system and all 30 ballparks have used standardised technology. The MLB have ensured that the same 12 camera angels will be available for the replay officials.  All instant replied reviews will come from a command centre in New York, where there are 12 screens lining the back wall with live feeds from every MLB ballpark.

iBeacon

The most exciting addition to the 2014 Major League Baseball season is the implementation of Apple’s iBeacon technology. The iBeacon technology uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to communicate with iPhones’ by expanding location services in iOS. Basically, it’s an extremely useful marketing tool that lets apps know when a fan has approached or leave the presence of an iBeacon.

The iBeacon is available on all iPhones’ with iOS 7 installed. In order to use this technology fans need to be using MLB.com’s At The Ballpark iOS app. The app already allows fans to access electronically, and with the use of iBeacon, ballpark goers will be able to receive directions to their phones about which gate to use and how to get to their seats. Although the app is available on both Android and iOS devices, only those will Apple devices will benefit from the bespoke iBeacon experience.

Through the use of iBeacon, the potential uses of the technology will be up to the MLB teams. However, one example of what fans can expect are being sent discounts on concession, sales and shopping items when you walk into the team shop.

ibeacon

Currently, the MLB league officials are directing clubs on where teams can implement the technology and what can and cannot be sent to fans. As for now, fans receive a welcome message when they check in (think of Foursquare), and maybe an offer to upgrade their seat or some discounts on concessions.  However, there is an expectation that the MLB will let team become more creative with the technology once the iBeacon has proved useful to fans.

For the San Francisco Giants, the technology is just another way to better engage with fans. “Mobile and digital experiences are paramount to our fan experience,” according to Chief Information Officer, Bill Schlough. The Giants have long been the most technologically progressive teams in baseball and even other sports clubs.

During the early 2000s, Giant’s fans first enjoyed in-stadium mobile phone coverage. And in 2004 the MLB club became the first in professional sports history to turn its stadium into a complete WiFi hotspot. Currently, there are 1,289 WiFi antennas covering the San Francisco Giants AT&T Park with connectivity that’s good enough to stream video to thousands of fans.

 

About author

Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 820 posts

Dan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Sport. Can be found at sports industry events and heard every week on the Digital Sport Insider podcast. @DanielMcLaren

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