Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it looks as though Nokia is helping the Fighting Irish bring some Multiaccess Edge Computing (MEC) closer to their iconic football stadium at the University of Notre Dame.
So far, the effort is contained in a trial that was carried out at the university’s Compton Ice Arena, where Nokia collaborated with the school’s Wireless Institute in the College of Engineering. The live tests were done with a vision toward scaling the solution for the football stadium, which, incidentally, hosts more than 80,000 fans for Fighting Irish football games six or seven weekends each fall.
Nokia said they wanted to show how the technology can dramatically enhance the user experience of students and sports fans attending games and other events. The experiment involved both cellular frequencies at 1900 MHz and Wi-Fi.
The company was able to collaborate with a major service provider that provided the spectrum to do the test, but the trial participants don’t have permission to disclose the name of the provider, according to Joe Hammer, global alliances director at Nokia.
With consistently high attendance at Notre Dame football games and people frequently experiencing poor coverage issues, Nokia and Notre Dame's Wireless Institute set out to test Wi-Fi with two MEC-based applications:
- Edge Video Orchestration (EVO): provides options to view four video streams from different angles in real time, with a less than 500-millisecond delay
- Augmented Reality (AR): an AR-based gaming experience where information can be overlaid on devices over streamed video
Both applications use Nokia's low latency MEC platform and its AirFrame server.
The trial also tested the MEC applications with a feature enabling connectivity to multiple radios, optimizing data flow through Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Using Nokia's Flexi Zone small cell base stations and AirScale Wi-Fi access points, the test found that the technology can significantly improve data throughput in venues such as stadiums where there's a dense concentration of mobile users all trying to access the network and content simultaneously.
MEC used to refer to Mobile Edge Computing but ETSI’s MEC Industry Specification Group (ISG) decided to change the name to Multi-access Edge Computing to better reflect the multitude of players (non-cellular) interested in using MEC.
It’s not known when the solution might actually be deployed in the football stadium. Hammer reiterated to FierceWirelessTech that this was just a trial; however, he said Wi-Fi MEC can be deployed now. Edge Video Orchestration and Augmented Reality can be done today as well over Wi-Fi, he noted.
According to Hammer, MEC enables new marketing opportunities for venues, smart cities and retailers alike to provide digital advertising, customized services or enhanced user experiences.
Of course, there’s an analytic angle to it as well: With strategic partners such as IBM, Nokia said it can leverage MEC to analyze customers' preferences and behaviors with cognitive analytics. By deploying applications at the network edge, they can deliver rich, engaging content closer to consumers; application response times are reduced and reliability is increased.
"With the advent of disruptive mobile technologies, we are delighted to see both Notre Dame and South Bend as a destination for these types of demonstrations,” J. Nicholas Laneman, co-director of the Wireless Institute at the University of Notre Dame, said in a press release. “Officials from the City of South Bend were also onsite to check out the benefits first-hand. We were pleased to work with Nokia and excited to see their technology in a proof of concept that provides flexibility and power to enhanced and innovative applications."