Smart seats: The future of in-stadium entertainment

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First came smartphones—cellular devices that initially gave users the opportunity do more than just text and call, but now let people do pretty much everything on the go. And then, when smartphones were deemed no longer adequate, tech companies inaugurated smart television sets, which allow for the streaming of applications like Netflix, MLB.TV, and more on top of regular cable. Technology hasn’t stopped there, though—we live in a society that has laid claim to smart watches, smart cars, smart surfboards, and ... smart seats?

Smart seats indeed.

In collaboration with Telstra and Samsung, Etihad is bringing “smart seats” to its Docklands Stadium in Melbourne, Australia (not to be confused with the Etihad Stadium that houses Manchester City FC). The smart seats are given their name because they are equipped with “tablets [that] offer fans access to all Fox Sports and free-to-air channels along with Sky Racing, a scoreboard feed and the broadcast of the game they are watching live ... Even kids channels such as Nickelodeon are available.” As Danny Mandrides, Samsung mobility head, put it: “The Smart Seat solution ... involves the creation of an ecosystem of hardware, applications, and software security to support a rich visual experience directly from the stadium seat.”

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As sports themselves embrace technology, it only makes sense for the facilities that showcase the world’s favorite source of entertainment to perpetually follow suit and modernize. The Detroit Pistons, for example, have teamed up with WaitTime to prevent long restroom lines at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL are utilizing VenueNext to make US Bank Stadium—their new home—as high-tech as possible. And to say the NFL went all-in with its accommodations for Levi’s Stadium and Super Bowl 50 would be a gross understatement. But Etihad’s new, shiny smart seats—which will start in just the Docklands Stadium’s Medallion Club “could provide a window to the potential norm at all sports stadiums in the decades to come”—just may take the cake as the most enticing stadium feature in a long while.

To be sure, smart seats are not a necessity. Fans are inherently able to watch a game’s proceedings by simply being in attendance at said contest, and affording fans the opportunity to watch other shows and sporting events while at a stadium is arguably nothing more than a distraction. But Etihad understands that people like technology, and like having as much of it as possible, which all but ensures that smart seats will be a hit and should expand outside of Docklands Stadium sooner than later.