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From digital SLR to AR

September 12, 2019

Bridgewalk_inside_archTwelve years ago, the Sydney Harbour Bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary by closing the bridge to traffic for the festivities. Walking across the bridge that Sunday I was taking lots of photos on my digital camera – as were thousands of other people. I remember wondering at the time how many terabytes of data were being generated just by this one big event, but there was no way of ever knowing.

That was March 2007. The first iPhone was still to arrive later that year. YouTube was only a couple of years old, Facebook had not long been open to general users and Myspace was still the dominant web player.

Fast forward to now, and the iPhone 11 has just been launched. Multiple cameras, Dolby Atmos and a raft of other features. Most people are now permanently connected via their smartphones and crazy amounts of data are being generated and consumed daily by users on the Internet – largely via mobile and through social media channels.

We’ve just witnessed a new record for Wi-Fi usage at any in-venue event in sports history – with a peak data transfer rate of 23.24 gigabits per second when the New England Patriots NFL team unveiled their Super Bowl LIII banner before the game, surpassing the previous record at a sports event of 13.38 Gbps. According to figures from Extreme Networks, 44,906 of fans at the stadium connected to the Wi-Fi network at some point, 34,982 concurrent number of users at the peak. While the total amount of data transferred over Wi-Fi during the game was only 11.58 TB (only!), well short of the 24.05 TB at last year’s Super Bowl, this sort of activity is now becoming the norm.

The amount of insight we are getting now is on user engagement and behaviour is incredible – but what’s really cool is the way connectivity is opening up opportunities for a range of applications like an enhanced fan experience. Fans who can’t be there on the day can experience the event vicariously by following the event hashtag and inside the stadium, we are just starting to see some of the ways Wi-Fi and 5G can be used for AR and VR experiences – like this very cool ‘Pose with the Pros’ AR activation at the Dallas Cowboys’ first home game.

I think we’ve got a long way to go here in Australia before we have the same level of connectivity infrastructure in place in our local venues, but it will happen! Then it’s just a question of how imaginative we can be in putting it to use.

The next big Sydney Harbour Bridge event is coming up very soon: #BridgeClimb21 on 1 October, BridgeClimb’s 21st birthday. It’ll be interesting to follow the hashtag on social media and see how far we’ve come in just 12 years.

Pictured top: Bridgewalk inside arch by Saberwyn from Wikimedia Commons.

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