Vancouver Canucks charge into unified messaging

The Vancouver Canucks are outfitting its hockey arena, GM Place, with a unified communications (UC) system aimed at improving the fan experience and boosting staff productivity.

The Canucks have just gotten underway with the three-year project and will use Nortel Networks Corp.’s UC product suite to bring voice, data and wireless LAN technologies together to upgrade the facility. Harvey Jones, vice-president and general manager of arena operations at the Canucks, said the system promises to bring major changes to the hockey club’s operations as it relates to internal communications and business process management.

“The staff that moves around the building a lot will now be able to carry a wireless companion phone around with them, which will really act an extension of their desktop,” he said. The arena will also see enhancements in its ticket scanning system, RFID capabilities, and an improved wireless network, he added.

Wes Durow, vice-president of global enterprise marketing at Nortel, said the possibilities for improved business process management is endless with UC – and could even have an impact on the Canucks’ concession stands.

“If you realize a concession stand is low on hot dogs, instead of waiting until you run out, wouldn’t it be great if when you ring up the one hundredth remaining hot dog, your system automatically makes a call or sends a text message back to the kitchen,” he said.

In regards to arena operations, the ability to use RFID technology combined with the UC system could also improve the arena’s security management and tracking capabilities, Durow said.

“This is very similar to what we do at many of the large airports,” he said. “You’ve got a large number of people coming in and out of the arena at different points in time during the course of a game. You need to know exactly where to send your security staff and how to redirect them to those areas quickly.”

While many of the business process changes will take place during phase one of the UC implementation, the Canucks also hope to add a variety of fan-oriented services using the service. Jones said getting the fans involved – even while they are in their seats watching the game – is essential to creating a more enjoyable hockey experience.

“Providing instant replays and statistics to all of our fans is a big one we’re looking at,” he said. “Another idea would be letting the fans vote on the three stars of the game. It’s really about involving the fans.”

Durow said taking fan involvement one step further with UC could actually broaden the Canucks revenue stream as well.

“Let’s say somebody scores the game winning goal,” he said. “Now, they’ll be able to put that player’s hockey jersey on sale in the pro shop right after the game and let the fans know through their cell phones.”

He added, “Arena fans watching a replay on their phone might be able to do a close-up on the type of skates a player is wearing and immediately order those online off of the Canucks Web site.”

The team said Nortel’s role as the network equipment supplier for GM Place at Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympic Games played a factor in the selection process. The Toronto-based telecom company struck a deal with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) and will be outfitting the Vancouver arena with its own UC system for the Games.

“That probably affected the timing of the deal more than anything,” Jones said. “We decided to get started on the project now to be able to take advantage of the efficiencies and synergies during the Olympics. Our in-house system will be totally compatible with what VANOC overlays over top during the Games.”

Nortel’s UC system for General Motors Place will include a range of products from the company’s Global Services portfolio as well as Nortel’s Communications Server 1000 for VoIP, Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 for data and desktop unified messaging, and a variety of wireless LAN products.



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