THE BIG IDEA: Silicon Valley’s High-Tech Super Bowl Stadium

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 27: Levis Stadium The New Home Of The San Francisco 49ers December 27, 2014 in Santa Clara, California


When it comes to sports and technology, you would think—especially in high school—that there was never a strong connection between the jocks and the nerds. However, the times they are a-changin’. They are a-changin’ dramatically when you look at Levi Stadium which hosted this year’s Super Bowl. Walking into that arena you cannot help but admit the divide between athlete and geek has shrunk from a canyon to a small creek.

Completed in 2014 at a price tag of $1.2 billion, and living up to the reputation of its high tech home, Silicon Valley, Levi Stadium possesses more technology than some developing countries. Just from the local computer and wireless network perspective, the stadium utilizes over 400 miles of fibre optic cable, built with an oversized capacity of Internet connections to support all connectable devices ranging from tablets to phones to laptops. WiFi hotspots are underneath the stadium seats, giving Levi Stadium over 13,000 WiFi access points, granting local users access to a free wireless network. As you are never more than 10 feet from a node, you’re guaranteed superb access. You might find that hard to believe as the stadium seats 68.5 thousand people, but designers made certain the entire arena can handle a traffic load that is 4 times higher than the NFL’s minimum standard for football stadiums.

Not a tweet, update, or photo lost.

The administration at Levi Stadium expect to have over 100,000 devices online during the game. This is why designers have placed 1700 Bluetooth beacons throughout the venue in order to provide location services with pinpoint accuracy. Why would you want that? Well, how many times have you visited a stadium and then think “Where is the nearest restroom?” GPS won’t get you there, but with Bluetooth beacons and their own app—yes, the stadium has their own app—you can find where you are standing and follow the app’s directions to the nearest restroom.

Or, when you’re done, to the nearest beer.

TitleSo all this technology—the WiFi, the Bluetooth, the app, the beer—you would think this is a fantastic feat, but here is where the problems start. With over 100,000 devices all connected at the same time, there is a potential hacking risk. The Levi Stadium, as far as malicious hackers are concerned, is a high value target. Infiltrate that app or network and you can easily open up 100,000 accounts to their whim. All this becomes even more tantalizing to hackers when you consider the clientele in the various Skyboxes.

There is a lot of effort being put into securing this network, but there are still dangers hard to eliminate. Hackers can connect to the stadium’s WiFi and then create a rogue hotspot. This is where a hacker would connect, then set themselves up as a rogue hotspot. Everyone around them mistakenly connected with the hacker’s hotspot, and then the hacker can carry out a man-in-the-middle attack and gain access to stored passwords. This can be avoided if you connect to the official WiFi account, but in a settling like a football game, sometimes mistakes are made. I tend to use a VPN whenever working on a public network. That way, everything is encrypted and I am safe, safe, safe.

Let this also be a cautionary tale to any athletes thinking of bullying the tech-centric students of their school—think twice. The people you are targeting might wind up building your football stadium so be nice. It could mean the difference between finding your team’s locker room, and changing in the closest Men’s Bathroom.

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