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Super Bowl tech: HD, RF, and 3D at XL

Super Bowl tech: HD, RF, and 3D at XL
Evan Blass
Evan Blass|February 5, 2006 4:30 PM
While the rest of the country is busy tapping kegs, adjusting HD antennas, and licking the first bits of Doritos grease from their fingers, we're sequestered in a TV-free zone determined to bring you every last little bit of tech surrounding the Big Game, from networked surveillance to super-slo-mo cams to t-shirt cannons. We already took you step-by-step through the home theater gear you should have to watch the game in style (and we're sure you went right out and dropped ten grand at our urging), so now it's time to take a look at what kind of gear the folks in Detroit will be using to keep everything safe, smooth, and wired (or wireless). We'll see what it takes to navigate the RF jungle that is Ford Field today, how the Feds are testing a brand-new "smart" sensor network, and what kind of shiny equipment ABC brings to the biggest TV event of the year.
In order to provide the stadium with adequate wireless coverage, the NFL brought in Motorola and Sprint to make sure WiFi, 3G, and voice networks would work unhindered with tens of thousands of people sending and receiving data simultaneously. Before they could install the first surge protector, the ad hoc IT team needed to draw up an "RF map" of the environment to figure out how to maximize resources while minimizing interference. Moto engineers installed a total of 48 Ethernet switch-linked, dual-radio, tri-mode 802.11 WiAP-200 access points, half in the stadium itself and half in surrounding venues, routing traffic through Comcast fiber. For its part, Sprint beefed up EV-DO at Ford and for Detroit in general, and added 500 base radios to its existing in-stadium infrastructure to handle the anticipated spike in radio traffic. Sprint also ran physical lines out to the security and ticket booths at the perimeter of the event, creating an entirely separate WLAN, because of the several-hundred-foot distance from the stadium itself.

Besides the WiFi and cellular networks that the press, staff, and public will be enjoying, another private network will also envelop Ford Field whose usage and data is restricted to the numerous law enforcement agencies monitoring the event both on- and off-site. While the Detroit Police Department is technically in charge of security, the Feds and Michigan National Guard will have all the good toys, including an integrated, autonomous stationary and mobile sensor network. Besides the biological, chemical, and nuclear material sensors located throughout the facilities, National Guard personnel will be carrying concealed detectors that transmit their readings and GPS coordinates to a central location. This sensor coordination is made possible by Distributed Instruments LLC, which uses Transducer Data Exchange Protocol (TDXP) for plug-and-play sensor compatibility on top of the open-source OSGi Service Platform. Sony and OQO handhelds will also be used by several dozen Guards during the game for communications and keeping track of the data flow.

No security regimen would be complete without a plethora of cameras watching everyone's every move, so of course the Super Bowl will sport the usual array of visible mounted cams along with miniature cams hidden on roaming personnel and even pavement cams to monitor the underside of vehicles (no more sneaking into the game Cape Fear-style, it seems). As we reported earlier, all of these security cameras will transmit their feeds to surveillance vans, where software and hardware from Intrepid Defense & Security Systems will render 3D holographic views from the footage. As you might expect, everyone entering the game will be subject to patdowns, metal detectors, and dog-sniffing, and all 16,000 people working at the game were subjected to criminal background checks (so if you don't see some of your favorite players today, you'll know why).

Along with the unprecedented surveillance of everything going on surrounding the game, the coverage of the 'Bowl itself will be the most extensive in history. ABC has decided to go all high-def this year, filming exclusively in 720p and editing on-the-fly with Final Cut Pro and five Avid Symphony systems. Twenty Thompson Grass Valley LDK 6000 mk II Worldcam stationary cameras with Canon lenses will surround the field, some with optical image stabilization and a few with 100x zooms. Two wireless HD cams (pictured) will also debut this year, along with Sony's 180fps 3x Super SloMo camera and two robotic goal line cams; the usual dual-operator SkyCam, goalpost cams, and Steadicams will also get in on the action.

Another interesting tech-first this year is the implementation of DNA-infused game balls, which use a drop of the synthetic stuff that glows green under a specific laser frequency, to prevent counterfeiting. Since about 120 balls will be used during the game, and each ball is worth over $1000 just for having seen some play time in the 'Bowl, there is apparently a strong incentive to pass off fake balls as the real deal. Thus, the DNA slipped into the balls is "heavily encrypted," with a one-in-33-trillion chance of randomly duplicating the exact sequence.

Once the game is over, fans at the stadium can vote for the MVP at Superbowl.com on their cellphones, and Sprint Power Vision subscribers with the NFL Mobile package (which also broadcasts all pre-game press conferences) can catch clips and highlights. Plus, everyone can watch those oh-so-entertaining Super Bowl commercials over-and-over on their PCs or wirelessly on their mobiles.

We hope you enjoy the game as much as we enjoy working on Super Bowl Sunday, and we'd just like to remind you not to forget your receipt tomorrow when you go to return the 60-inch plasma that you bought yesterday.

Read- Daily Wireless: Super Bowl Wireless
Read- Unstrung: Case Study: The Super Bowl
Read- HD Issues: Super Bowl XL Ready to Go in Detroit
Read- Computerworld: Super Bowl security to use sensor fusion to fight WMD threats [Via Slashdot]
Read- L.A. Times: NFL Makes This a Brand New Ball Game [Via Slashdot]
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