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Super Bowl 50: Big tech bringing top talent to keep fans entertained, connected

Estimates peg more than one million people will visit Super Bowl City alone in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday. No word yet on how many Instagrams of burritos and palm trees that could produce.
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By Rachel King, Staff Writer on
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1 of 18 Rachel King

Super Bowl 50

Many estimates already peg Super Bowl 50 as the biggest and most expensive iteration of American football's championship game yet.

But as one of the biggest sporting extravaganzas takes place in and around Silicon Valley this year, you can also bet it will be the most connected and technologically-advanced yet too.

So long as the power doesn't go out, here are just a few of the many innovations being installed in San Francisco and Santa Clara, where Levi's Stadium will play host to Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, February 7.

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2 of 18 AT&T

The COWs have come home...

...So to speak.

As it did at the Outside Lands music festival across town last summer, AT&T is bringing back its networking workhorses back to keep sports fans connected and sharing from their mobile devices.

At the pop-up Super Bowl City now open on San Francisco's waterfront, the nation's second largest mobile provider has been installing Cell on Wheels (COW) and other mechanisms to keep service (or at least hope for service) alive.

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3 of 18 AT&T

Super Bowl City

Estimates from multiple wireless vendors suggest that more than one million people will visit Super Bowl City alone in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday.

By comparison, San Francisco county's total population stood at 852,469, according to 2014 Census estimates, in the 49 square miles.

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SAP scouting fans

Well before Levi's Stadium opened its doors in 2014, SAP was in at the ground level.

Along with tapping the San Francisco 49ers as one of the first customers of its number-crunching SAP Scouting app, the German software company also crafted brand new software to improve the fan experience while in the stands.

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5 of 18 SAP

Quarterback Challenge

SAP is kicking things up a notch especially for the Super Bowl as its flagship HANA Cloud Platform will power the Fan Energy Zone at Super Bowl City in downtown San Francisco.

The Fan Energy Zone was designed to immerse fans through a trio of interactive, motion-captured games: Amp It Up, Breakaway and Quarterback Challenge.

Quarterback Challenge, seen here, is played through a virtual reality headset, putting fans directly in the spot of a pro quarterback, simulating drills and passes while also keeping track of timing and accuracy.

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6 of 18 SAP

Amp It Up

With shades of the perennial '00s favorite Dance Dance Revolution, Amp It Up measures crowd reactions through an interactive music and dance game, racking up rewards for cheers, chants and other "stadium sounds."

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7 of 18 SAP

​Breakaway

Possibly the most active of the bunch, Breakaway is described as an interactive gridiron game. Players are plotted on an enhanced digital field where they can throw passes, dodge oncoming defenders and (hopefully) score touchdowns.

Game pace picks up as players score points, and when the home team (or at least the contestant) does well, the surrounding area is supposed to light up and blast "Fan Energy Moments" throughout the Fan Dome.


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SAP Performance Center at Levi's Stadium

Behind the scenes, SAP's HANA Cloud Platform will display these gaming results on a digitized Fan Wall, updated in real-time and personalized through aggregated game performance data.

Visitors can then share scores and activity to social media channels via SAP's brand new Road to 50 app, the official mobile app released by the Super Bowl 50 committee.

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Broken records

Whatever happens on the field this year, one thing everyone (at least in tech) seems to agree on is that records are about to be shattered.

At Super Bowl 49 in Phoenix last year, AT&T reported total data usage at the stadium (inside and outside the venue, including tailgating) toppled 1.7 terabytes -- theequivalent of 4.8 million social media posts with photos.

At the time, that was the data usage record for any football game ever...only to be surpassed this year during the College Football Playoff National Championship in Arizona, where total data usage exploded to 1.9 terabytes, or 5.5 million social media posts with photos.

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10 of 18 Rachel King

Regular season rates

During the NFL season, data traffic at Levi's stadium in Santa Clara where the Super Bowl is being staged this year, averaged 1.05 terabytesper San Francisco 49ers home game -- the equivalent of more than three million social media post with photos.

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Not fantasy football stats

If the previous few rounds of slides didn't include enough stats for you, prepare for a few more.

Compared to the 2014 pro football regular season, AT&T found data climbed about 55 percent on average per game in 2015.

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One NFL game: The equivalent of 4.5 million selfies.

During the general 2015 NFL season, AT&T reported the game with the highest total data usage this season was the Monday night showdown on December 14 between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants.

During that game, data usage racked up to 1.5 terabytes at the stadium during the game, which AT&T quipped as the equivalent of 4.5 million selfies.

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Verizon's $70 million bet

But AT&T isn't alone in outfitting Levi's Stadium and Super Bowl 50 events with the best (or at least the most) networking players possible.

Verizon boasted earlier this month that it made a $70 million long-term investment to more than triple 4G LTE wireless data network capacity in more than 10 areas from San Francisco down the Bay to Santa Clara for Super Bowl week with added bonus (or promise) that these improvements will also benefit customers living in and traveling to northern California.

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Verizon's game plan

At Levi's Stadium alone, Verizon's game plan consists of six new cell sites in the area with 29 small cells and seven of its own COW mobile sites. The nation's largest wireless provider also installed a small cell network touted to have increased cell capacity by 75 percent inside and outside Levi's Stadium.

Not forgetting anyone, Verizon also said it developed, deployed and patented proprietary technology to bring additional capacity to the lower stadium seats.

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Data capacity, on tap

In downtown San Francisco, including Super Bowl City (which is presented by Verizon), the telco installed 10 more macro cell sites, 46 small cells and seven COWs to boost data capacity and coverage.

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Connected at wheels down

To accommodate that expected influx of tourists (who will likely make up the bulk of the aforementioned more than one million visitors expected at Super Bowl City), Verizon is also targeting entry points.

That entails tripling capacity at Oakland International Airport, enhanced capacity at San Francisco International Airport and San Jose International Airport (the closest airport to the actual game in Santa Clara), and added capacity for several major commuter rails running near these ports of call: Caltrain, VTA and BART.

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Verizon's special team

Verizon has also handpicked its own special team, comprised of 100 technicians and engineers, who will be tasked with monitoring and managing real-time networks in both San Francisco and at Levi's Stadium.

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Game time

All in all, Verizon promised Levi's Stadium is designed to handle 1.5 times the wireless data traffic on its mobile network than last year's Super Bowl host, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Again, fingers crossed...until the lights go down in the city.

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