Super Bowl fans uploaded 5 pics a second to Instgram over Wi-Fi during game

NFL turned to Purview analytics tool to study Wi-Fi use; fans used 3.2 TB of data

The National Football League deployed a new Wi-Fi analytics tool to study the way fans used Instagram and other mobile apps while inside MetLife Stadium during Sunday's Super Bowl game.

Among the findings: More than five pictures per second were uploaded to Instagram over Wi-Fi, while the biggest network demand came during the halftime entertainment. About 16% of fans at the game were Wi-Fi connected, with about 13,500 of the stadium's 82,500 fans connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi at the busiest peak. They used 3.2 TB of data, or about 50MB per fan per hour.

That data analysis and much more was made available to the NFL through a new tool called Purview from Extreme Networks. Purview, which was officially announced on Tuesday was deployed at MetLife on Sunday and is currently in place at three other NFL stadiums.

Regarding the Purview data analytics, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle said NFL teams will gain insight on apps and usage to better use new Wi-Fi networks for their game day experience.

According to Extreme, Purview software is built into a patented Application Specific Integrated Circuit and can be used to help organizations find ways to better involve users, optimize application performance and against malicious or unapproved use of a system.

The price for Purview starts at $20,000 for existing Extreme customers and $35,000 for new customers, said Mike Leibovitz, director of mobility and applications at Extreme, in an interview. The NFL and other major league sports have increasingly relied on Wi-Fi and services over wireless to help fans order food or get information and instant replays from the game -- partly to make the in-stadium experience as rich as possible and lure them out of living rooms equipped with big screen TVs and home comforts.

"Businesses everywhere are trying to change the user experience and improve engagement over Wi-Fi, and that includes hospitals and students on Wi-Fi in higher ed," Leibovitz added. Purview could be used by a college to correlate education Web sites or apps used by top students to help make recommendations to all students, he said.

For fans concerned about their privacy, Leibovitz said the Purview tool can associate a smartphone's MAC (Media Access Control) address with that smartphone's use of a specific app like Facebook, but can't see the information sent or received over Facebook. "We don't interact with the device and nothing at all can track back to a user account," he said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research, said if users are very concerned about their privacy when using a Wi-Fi network equipped with Purview or another analytics tool "they can choose not to use Wi-Fi." But he said that the actual information inside a social network interaction isn't captured by Purview.

"They wouldn't know if you are on Facebook and have a job interview coming up," he said.

Purview is a tool that offers "a lot more benefits to users than problems," Kerravala said. "Ultimately, the more information the stadium has, the better the service, the better the special deals. That might include knowing if a nearby concession stand is congested, or pushing you a replay."

While the NFL used Purview to look at Wi-Fi usage, wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless also measured cellular network use at the championship game. Both AT&T and Verizon said cellular traffic hit new records for a single Super Bowl, but with far less usage than over Wi-Fi -- 3.2TB in all.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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