KT Wiz have a whiz-bang stadium

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KT Wiz have a whiz-bang stadium


Fans watch a KBO preseason game between KT Wiz and Doosan Bears at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi, on Saturday. The stadium went through remodeling with the latest IT technology. [NEWSIS]

When Internet of Things (IoT) technology meets baseball, what will happen? KT Wiz, the Korea Baseball Organization’s latest member and 10th club in the league, might give a glimpse of the future.

On Saturday, KT Wiz Park, formerly known as the Suwon Baseball Stadium, was packed with baseball fans as KT Wiz hosted its first KBO game against the Doosan Bears. Although it was a preseason game, there were no empty seats.

In fact, it was the first time since Oct. 5, 2007, that a KBO game was held in the stadium.

“I firmly believe that KT will be a special thing for Suwon,” said Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young at the opening ceremony on Saturday. “We will keep the promise of being a premium stadium and the city will put its best effort to making it a friendly stadium.”

Originally built in 1989, the remodeling of the stadium began in July 2013 and cost 30 billion won ($2.6 million). The ballpark now has four floors and 20,225 seats. It is 120 meters (394 feet) from home plate to the central fence.

KT, the nation’s second largest mobile carrier and owner of the KBO club, said its marketing theme is “BICTainment,” which combines “baseball,” “ICT” and “entertainment.”

Facility-wise, the KT Wiz Park excels. From a barbecue zone to grass zones beyond the outfield where people can lie down and picnic, there are various seating choices. There is also an outdoor sports pub in which people can drink and eat while watching the game.

In addition, the high-definition electronic scoreboard, which is 28 meters long and 9 meters high, is the only of its kind in Korea’s baseball stadiums. Costing 2 billion won, the board can display two or three screens at the same time and can show messages from fans in real time.

But what makes this ballpark “smart” is its use of the latest IoT technology.

At KT Wiz Park, you won’t find a ticket booth with long lines because fans can use the mobile application “Wizzap” to book, pay for and receive their tickets. There are special gates for mobile ticket holders, which use both barcode readers and near field communication (NFC).

First-time visitors will have no trouble finding their seats in the remodeled stadium. KT Wiz said the exact location of the seat will appear on a visitor’s smart device and, like a car navigation system, the visitor will be guided to the destination.

When fans want to order chicken and beer, known as “chimac” in Korean, they won’t have to trot to the stands inside the stadium. After a few clicks on their smart devices, the chicken and beer will be delivered to them.

How does the delivery man know the exact location? In KT Wiz Park, there are 145 beacons installed. Beacons are transmitters that use Bluetooth low energy 4.0 technology to interact with people’s mobile devices. Apple started a service called iBeacon in late 2013.

One of the beacons’ advantages is they can detect and communicate with a device better than NFC. NFC recognizes a smartphone when it is within 5 centimeters of a tag, but a beacon can accurately locate the device even 50 meters away.

Connecting to Wi-Fi can be difficult when masses of people are gathered, but this will not be the case for KT Wiz Park. KT said 210 Internet access point devices are installed, which will allow 20,000 people to watch high-quality videos at the same time. They can also receive various information about players and the game in real time through their smart devices.

“Any visitors who register with ‘Wizzap’ can use this service,” said KT Wiz’s New Business Team leader Kang Shin-hyuk. “Through these systems, we can conduct personalized marketing for each fan.”

SK Wyverns, a baseball club run by SK Group, which has its own telecommunications affiliate, SK Telecom, will also start using beacons from this season at its Munhak Stadium in Incheon. They will interact with the application “SK Wyverns PLAY WITH.”

Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon and NC Dinos in Masan, South Gyeongsang, are also trying to establish beacons at their home stadiums.

Use of IoT in sports marketing is a global trend. Major League Baseball has been using beacon technology since 2013. According to 2013 MLB data, 28 of 30 stadiums have installed beacons and started service.

In the National Football League, the Denver Broncos last year collected $75,000 alone through seat upgrade promotions using beacons. The system checks for vacant premium seats and then offers upgrades to other ticket holders for a cheap price. The Broncos reportedly paid $5,000 to install its beacons.

For KT, the use of these technologies will also help improve its team’s competitiveness. A Player Innovation Platform is a system that analyzes a baseball’s direction during the game and stores the data in KT’s cloud computing system, which is used to coach players later.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON, KIM WON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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