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Big Game. Big Data. Bigger Cloud Power.

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January 31, 2014
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The winter weather may have a negative impact on attendance at Super Bowl XLVIII, but don’t expect it to put a dent in the amount of data the big game will generate. And we don’t have to wait until Sunday for the data flow to start.

The Commercial Bowl Begins

Companies have been hard at work crunching numbers to predict everything from the economic impact of the big game on the New York/New Jersey region (potentially $550 million to $600 million) to viewership of the must-see commercials (costing a bit more than $4 million for each 30-second spot.)

The businesses investing in Super Bowl advertising aren’t just counting on the TV exposure.  Many have been hyping their ads for weeks with teaser spots and companion web sites that provide behind-the-scenes footage of the making of their commercials. Data told them to do this ─ and they’ll rely on data to tell them if their efforts paid off.

Even Google’s YouTube Web video arm now offers a website with all of the Super Bowl teaser spots. The site will also host Fox Sports playoff analysis, custom content and post-game voting on favorite commercials. Expect it to put servers to the test. The site has already experienced major traffic since it launched January 17. Case in point: a Bud Light video featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger has been watched almost 1.6 million times since January 18, and a YouTube blog post reports that in 2013 Super Bowl commercials were viewed more than 25 million times over 3.2 million hours. That’s a lot of traffic.

Advertisers are also counting on their ads to drive web traffic and are preparing for the onslaught of visitors. Many have upgraded their servers and put their cloud services providers on alert to be ready to scale up as needed in hopes of avoiding the fate of the 13 Super Bowl advertisers whose sites went down last year.

Ready for the Data Storm

With so many people armed with smart phones and other mobile devices, we can expect networks to experience a Super Bowl-induced deluge of data on game day.  Everyone is going to share their selfies from MetLife stadium, where Super Bowl XLVIII will be played, on Facebook; check in at various online sports betting sites; visit the web sites of Super Bowl advertisers to check out new products or enter contests; check stats and otherwise kill time between plays.

The Twitter feed will be lively too, with fans tweeting their opinions about each play and the half time show.  Last year, Beyoncé generated 5.5 million tweets during Super Bowl halftime. Let’s see if Bruno Mars hash tags exceed that number this year.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T, which both have networks inside MetLife, believe they are ready for the data storm after upgrading their networks inside the stadium.
In an article posted on NJ.com, Verizon reported that it got good a glimpse of what to expect back in September when the New York Giants took on the Denver Broncos.  Twice as many people connected to Verizon’s 4G LTE broadband internet connection than had done so at last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans.  No glitches were reported, but then that wasn’t the Super Bowl. The company has spent the last 18 months adding data capacity at MetLife, including quadrupling its 4G capacity.

AT&T has made similar upgrades, installing more than 200 antennas hidden throughout MetLife and running more than six miles of cable through the facility.

The Super Bowl IT staff is doing its part too, and will be use monitoring tools to identify hacker attacks on the network or technical problems that prevent fans from getting on the Internet.

Data Streaming

With all those upgrades, expect the data to be flowing – or rather streaming. Fox Sports plans to make the game available free through its website and for pay-TV subscribers via its iOS app. (Users can stream both English and Spanish feeds of the game to computers and iPads although the app is an iOS-only).

Verizon is offering an exclusive NFL mobile app (IOS and Android) that will stream the Super Bowl to smartphones. Online and mobile viewers will get a slightly different version of the broadcast, as the advertising space has been sold separately from the television broadcast feed. Still, concerns about bandwidth issues have the NFL is planning to block live streams of the game inside the stadium.

The streams of data aren’t restricted to game day.  Beginning January 29, SAP takes the Super Bowl to Times Square where its technology will provide dynamic data visualizations that allow fans to monitor online discussions around key Super Bowl topics and provide a better understanding of how plays on the field effect conversations online.

More Data Crunching? You Bet.

Let’s not forget about the statistics, simulations, linear regression models and advanced data science techniques entailed in predicting the outcome of the clash between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks ─ of particular interest to those of the “betting persuasion.” There’s a lot of money on the line, and not surprisingly, the Super Bowl is the most bet on sporting event annually in Nevada. Last year, a record $99 million was bet legally.

Over the past three years, Super Bowl wagering-related traffic to one of major betting sites, Gambling911.com, has remained steady with surges throughout the game. That indicates people are making use of their smartphones to reach the site ─ and that server power, likely cloud-enabled ─ is at work.  But it’s not just the matchup between teams that will be wagered on. So called gimmick bets now account for a third of gambling on the Super Bowl. You can bet on everything from what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach to whether Renee Fleming forgets any words to the National Anthem.

For the Fun of It and Business Too

Let’s face it. Much of the data analyses that go on prior to Super Bowl are designed to grab media attention.  Example:  one company is looking at how the legalization of marijuana in both teams’ home states might affect the game. And who doesn’t want to know the average price of tickets?  StubHub processed scores of data to determine to determine that the current average ticket selling price for Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey is $3,715, up from $2,525 for last year’s Super Bowl.

That’s not to say some of the data crunching doesn’t offer business benefits. For example, companies track daily hotel metrics in Super Bowl host cities, such as occupancy rates average daily room rates and total revenue, providing essential data to hotel chains to help with budgeting and staffing.

Cloud-powered Security

Security will be a big issue at the Super Bowl too, and both Big Data and cloud power will play a role in keeping things safe.  There will be approximately 40 different public agencies, plus all the NFL and other commercial entities, working to make sure everything goes well during Super Bowl week. A specially designed public information cloud will be in use that pulls in the huge flow of raw data ─ camera feeds, radiological monitors, RFID and GPS systems, social media and more ─- to help deliver meaningful information that enable the various entities to collaborate, detect threats and thwart potential issues.

Game On

I haven’t even touched upon how data plays into the actual game itself. But rest assured that both the Seahawks and Broncos will show up on game day armed with terabytes of data on each other.  So grab your popcorn, some warm clothes if you’ll be at the game in person and your smart phone. It’s a safe bet that data, powered by the cloud in many cases, will be part of your Super Bowl experience.

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