This week, Fanlink Networks, Incorporated (www.fanlink.net) showcased a new wireless service to patrons at the New Orleans Saints game which enabled fans to use their own cellular phone or wireless PDA to order food and drinks and have it delivered right to their seats.
This was the first commercial use of Fanlink Networks' suite of m-commerce applications, which facilitate wireless purchase, delivery, and billing. Their robust, highly scalable software architecture will enable customers to access the system via any wireless device, such as WAP-enabled cellular phones, wireless Palm, PocketPC, Motorola TalkAbout and Blackberry devices. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system will even support analog cellular phones.
"We are platform and network agnostic," says CTO Sven Liden, "Although in-seat food and entertainment systems are installed in a few stadiums, they can only address 2-4% of a stadium because of the high per-unit cost. The Fanlink Networks solution allows every fan to enjoy the service using their own hardware, so our solution is accessible and cost-effective for both fans and stadiums. As 3rd-Generation wireless networks are deployed in the next few years we can easily support new hardware and add new services."
Sunday's showcase was conducted with cooperation from the Louisiana Superdome, Spectacore Management Group (SMG), Volume Services America, and Verizon Wireless.
Initial response from customers and concessions management was extremely positive. "You scored a touchdown," said Mitch Silverman, Director of Event Services for the Superdome. "Customers were equally delighted, as they didn't have to miss the action on the field, wait in line, or carry food back to their seats." Orders were conveniently billed to customers' credit cards. The kitchen staff was excited by the simplicity of the process and the potential for real time inventory management.
"This is only the first service in what we term `line-avoidance' applications," says CEO Robert Thorne. "When Bluetooth-enabled devices hit the market we envision patrons using Fanlink Networks to buy a ticket outside the stadium on their cell phone and then just walking through the Bluetooth-enabled turnstile. On the way to their seat they could schedule a meal delivery for the 3rd quarter. Besides food and merchandise delivery, future services will include sports statistics, games, and betting (where permitted). At their seat they might view an instant replay, look up more detailed information about a player or keep track of other games. And as they leave the stadium they could check after-game specials to get a beverage discount at a post-game party."
Fanlink Networks has engaged multiple concessionaires nationwide to conduct trials of its service. "This trial went very well," said Mike Frost, VSA general manager for the Superdome. "We look forward to continuing the rollout of Fanlink services."
"Trends in wireless show an explosive growth in wireless data and cellular phone usage in the next few years," says Shawn Barney, EVP of Marketing and Business Development, "but compelling wireless Internet applications in this country are still lacking. So where are you really going to use the wireless Internet? We see our service as an ideal wireless application -- in a stadium we have a captive audience armed with cell phones looking for instant gratification."
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