U. of Illinois

University of Illinois Leverages Flexible Wired & Wireless Connectivity at Live Events

SUMMARY

The University of Illinois Laboratory for Audience Interactive Technologies (LAIT) created an app that revolutionizes the audience experience at live performance events. It’s a new way for people to interact and shape arts and entertainment, but the system depends on reliable Internet connectivity across a diverse range of venues and network architectures throughout the country.

This department found that Cradlepoint’s purpose-built branch routers provide flexible connectivity anytime, anywhere—through wired or wireless WAN.

CUSTOMER PROFILE

The University of Illinois, located at Urbana-Champaign, was founded in 1867 and is home to nearly 45,000 students. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked U of I the 11th-best public university in the country.

With a grant from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, U of I’s Laboratory for Audience Interactive Technologies (LAIT), programmers, professors, and students researchand develop applications for personal mobile devices. The applications are used at live events such as theater, music, dance, and performance art.

ORGANIZATIONAL NEEDS

LAIT developed an innovative information delivery application for use in live performance events, featuring a system consisting of a mobile app, an event server, and a content creator. It allows a producer to show content on an audience member’s phone instantaneously, on cue, and in real time. The system, which has AR capabilities, also is connected to lighting and music controls.

“People have a special relationship with their phones. It’s almost become a part of them. It’s another communication tool; it’s almost as if they become a part of the show, through that device, in a much deeper way," said John Toenjes, director of U of I’s LAIT program. 

The app fosters new levels of audience interactivity, opening doors to expanded opportunities for live performances. For instance, at various times audience members receive alerts telling them to come on stage.

This real-time system is dependent on constant WAN connectivity. That can be problematic given the widely varying network architectures from one venue to the next.

LAIT needed a flexible pop-up network solution that would be easy to configure and would allow its mobile, LAN-like environment to be connected almost instantly through either wired or LTE-based WAN.

“A lot of venues don’t have the network infrastructure we need to accommodate the app,” said Toenjes.

SOLUTIONS

LAIT deployed a Cradlepoint branch router to quickly, flexibly, and reliably connect wherever the students perform.

BENEFITS

RELIABILE CONNECTIVITY ENABLING REAL-TIME INTERACTIONS

The LAIT system enjoys reliable connectivity everywhere it goes, which allows the team to give the audience an SSID for WiFi access and then be confident everyone in attendance can connect and interact.

AMPLE FLEXIBILITY

The LAIT team can perform at any venue without worrying about connectivity, because Cradlepoint solutions allow both wired and wireless WAN through one platform. The most common setup is for the system’s server to be wired into the Cradlepoint device, allowing the team to cue various activities on people’s phones. In other words, it functions as a LAN to which audience members can connect.

“When we perform in places that don’t have WiFi or the necessary infrastructure, we have the flexibility to just ‘plug and play’ with Cradlepoint," said Toenjes.

EXPANDED AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE OPPORTUNITIES

Reliable, pop-up connectivity opens up a broad, quickly expanding world of interactive activities. The benefits can run the gamut from improved audience experience to data collection and insights for the performers.

“The ways that you can extend an audience member’s appreciation for a show are vast. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface regarding the possibilities of interactivity and real-time choices as part of the entertainment experience,” said Tony Reimer, lead programmer for the LAIT project.