Cisco plans to score a hole-in-one with connected golf course at U.S. Open

Golf fans at the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, CA will be able to have better connectivity with their mobile devices, including access to a new app.

The U.S. Open 2019 will feature a connected course with Wi-Fi 6

While the world's best golfers battle it out at the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, CA, fans will be able to take advantage of the first-ever connected course and test a new Wi-Fi 6 initiative led by Cisco.

The USGA is partnering with Cisco to provide Wi-Fi connectivity to fans at the U.S. Open from June 10-16. The oceanfront course is peppered with hundreds of access points and fans will be able to communicate with each other, and stream videos from the new U.S. Open app, all while watching their favorite pro golfers such as Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka compete.

As part of this, Cisco will conduct the first-ever test of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) at a major sporting event during the U.S. Open. Wi-Fi 6 is the next-generation wireless standard, and a dedicated portion of the event's network will be using Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi 6 access points.

SEE: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax): A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

Ken Martin, general manager and director of global sales in the Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group (SESG) at Cisco said he has been working on rolling out this initiative with the USGA for two years. It's particularly exciting to have this in golf, because until 2017, fans weren't allowed to use their phones during a tournament. If a golfing official saw a fan with a phone out, they could confiscate it on site. Obviously that led to a lot of frustration among fans who were used to freely using their phones at sporting events.

"It's a good fit because they want to try something new. If you think about where the USGA was even just a couple years ago, it was no cell phones, no connectivity, you're here to watch the golf. Now it's more about the connected fan experience and feeding them data and keeping them engaged with the event across the board," Martin said. "We believe that with this launch of the new Wi-Fi 6 initiative, it's going to allow us to demonstrate the speed and the quality of the ability to connect fans non disruptively. Simply because of the way this technology works."

At Pebble Beach, there will be areas where fans congregate where there will be access points specifically for Wi-Fi 6.

"We want to be able to launch this to say, 'Hey look, early adopters, let's show you how it works, and let's show you the speed in which the connectivity, with the right mobile device, can play out,'" Martin said.

Wi-Fi 6 has significant implications for the sports industry because the network will deliver faster speeds for immersive-experience applications, more device and IoT capacity for high-density environments, more bandwidth (400 percent greater capacity), higher reliability, and reduced latency, all while being less taxing on a device's battery (four times more power efficient).

"With our partner Cisco, we have built a first-of-its-kind, course-wide Wi-Fi network that gives us the speed and confidence to dynamically deliver content and new experiences to our fans at the 2019 U.S. Open. We've been able to stretch our imagination, deliver innovative features in our app, and look forward to helping fans consume, share, and engage with the championship like never before," said Navin Singh, chief commercial officer of the USGA.

Improving the fan experience

Giving fans access to better connectivity at sporting events such as the Super Bowl and NBA playoffs is a trend that has been taking root for more than a decade. Cisco has been a key player in this field, partnering with organizations to provide connectivity at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London and Rio de Janeiro, to a decade long partnership with the NBA, to amphitheaters and music festivals with Live Nation, and now as the Official Technology Partner of the United States Golf Association (USGA). The partnership began last fall, and includes working across networking, cloud, collaboration, cybersecurity, and data and analytics.

At the U.S. Open, Cisco has worked with the USGA to put a robust, course-wide network in place that will create a blanket of connectivity to improve the experience for everyone watching or attending the event.  Features include:

  • A newly-launched Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming service, available for Apple TV and Roku, which will give consumers the ability to watch free, live-streaming coverage of the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur championship.
  • Powering the U.S. Open app, with content ranging from 360-degree virtual reality, to a virtual photo booth that utilizes 3D modelling technology, to wayfinding to allow fans to navigate around the course, and advanced data and analytics.
  • Cisco Vision, utilized at strategic locations throughout the venue, including at the driving range where TopTracer technology will allow fans to visualize player shot data on the range. The solution will also be leveraged in hospitality areas, the media center and the fan zone.

Cisco is also powering the U.S. Women's Open app as well, which is the first stand-alone mobile platform for a women's golf major. Cisco will provide the Wi-Fi network on-site and deliver secure, enhanced connectivity in fan areas and grandstands, so spectators can engage and share throughout the event, which takes place from May 30 - June 2 in Charleston, SC. 

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The U.S. Open trophy at Pebble Beach, CA.

Image: USGA