IT and telecoms prepare for the 'multi screening World Cup'
Brazil 2014 is already proving to be a goldmine for app developers, social networks and mobile device makers, a potential nightmare for telecommunications firms and a paradise for fraudsters. This all because fans are connecting with the World Cup via technology like never before.
The multi screen World Cup
During the 2010 World Cup, the internet really altered the way fans watched the tournament, as they were able to stream live games on their computers and laptops as well as catching them on TVs and big screens. Four years on, and it is having an even bigger impact - thanks to the recent explosion of smartphones and tablets.
A study by digital video advertising company YuMe has predicted that the 2014 World Cup will be a multiscreen event, with fans keeping up with the latest sporting action on numerous devices. Almost half of those questioned said watching matches, highlights and previous World Cup action on multiple gadgets was important to them.
Some 33 per cent of consumers will be streaming games live on their computers, while 22 per cent will be watching via tablets, and 11 per cent will be tuning in on their smartphones. Another 13 per cent will be using the streaming services available through smart TVs.
So, why is multi screen viewing so important to fans? Well, six out of ten respondents to the YuMe survey said it would allow them to watch more matches, presumably because they are able to catch all the action anywhere, at any time.
"There is no doubt in the massive shift toward multi screen viewership among consumers, and it is only amplified during a globally-watched sporting event such as the World Cup," said YuMe's director of research Paul Neto.
Of course, all of this opens up some very interesting opportunities for IT and telecoms businesses...
Apps and social networks
It has long been predicted that the development of mobile apps and services is going to be explosive during Brazil 2014, and evidence is already emerging that these predictions are on the money, with developers of all shapes and sizes jumping on the World Cup bandwagon.
Sony, for example, has launched its own social network for the occasion. It is called the One Stadium Live network and is run by 32 trained editors who curate all 'popular, relevant and recent' football talk from Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
The dissemination of this social media content takes place across English, Portuguese, French, German, Spanish and Japanese platforms, and the Sony newsroom has been given the brief to deliver visitors the ultimate second screen experience in real time.
Then there's Microsoft's app, which will enable fans to watch the World Cup on their Xbox One consoles - adding yet another screen to the already varied multiscreen mix.
Brazil will provide a live social experience for viewers, with real-time match statistics, social media streams, interactive polls and a notification alert that will sound when games kick off and when goals are scored, enabling users to run it in the background and bring it up at those crucial moments.
Evidently the big players are getting involved, but the World Cup also presents opportunities for smaller developers. A wealth of apps have been cropping up in recent weeks, from FotMob - World Cup 2014 Brazil by NorApps to the very simple Brazil 2014 Countdown, which provides a running countdown to the first game of the event, right down to the second.
The challenge for these smaller players is to set themselves apart from the fake apps that appear to have been flooding various app stores of late, and to prove to cautious consumers that they are legitimate and worthy of downloading.
Global sporting events have always attracted fraudsters, from the man in the street selling fake replica shirts to the touts offering bogus tickets outside stadiums. Now, the internet has allowed them to reach millions more potential victims.
Brand protection company NetNames has identified thousands of fraudulent listings for Brazil World Cup tickets online, some costing four times more than the official ticket price in the most expensive category. They have also seen evidence of counterfeit memorabilia being sold over the internet.
Then there are the fake websites. Cyber security experts have warned of a proliferation of sites designed to resemble those of the official Fifa World Cup sponsors, and which trick visitors into handing over sensitive personal information in return for attractive prizes.
And of course, as mentioned, there is a dearth of unofficial apps, many of which are hard to distinguish from the genuine ones. A good example is the Fifa World Cup 2014 Live Match app, which features official colours and logos and looks authentic, yet illegally streams live matches.
Prague-based anti-virus company Avast said it has detected a number of dubious mobile apps in recent weeks, from Corner Kick World Cup 2014, which displays nothing but a white screen and a few pop-up ads, to Football World Cup 14, which installs under the name widereceiverfree and requests access to information that is not required for the app to function.
"The internet can be a dangerous place for football fans and big brands," said Stuart Fuller, director of commercial operations and communications at NetNames. "As the football community gears up for the sport's biggest occasion, so too are cyber criminals, intent on exploiting fans' enthusiasm."
Potential telecommunication problems
It is clear that, while there are some very real challenges in the form of cyber scams to navigate, there are also some very profitable opportunities for IT and telecoms firms to exploit during the 2014 World Cup.
However, to work successfully, social networks, mobile apps and live match streaming services all rely on one thing; a reliable telecommunications network. Brazil is a well-connected nation, but there are concerns that it may not be able to cope with the demand that this year's tournament will generate.
According to Reuters, the dress rehearsal match - the final of the 2013 Confederations Cup that took place in Rio de Janeiro's famous Maracana stadium - was a big debacle as the mobile phone networks simply fell flat when the 3-0 victory for Brazil's national team was accomplished.
"Despite costly investments and another year to prepare, phone companies are still struggling to provide adequate coverage of key sites for the tournament starting in June," the news agency reported.
The main reason is that work on several stadiums is months behind schedule and that work at major airports is also leaving much to be desired, which has caused the telecoms industry to rethink some of its planned investments.
It has also been reported that only half of the World Cup stadiums in Brazil will have Wi-Fi, which is likely to put pressure on 2G, 3G and 4G services during the games.
Of course, only a tiny percentage of the world's football fans are going to be in Brazil for the World Cup, so telecommunications blips over there are unlikely to have a major impact worldwide.
It would, however, be pretty embarrassing if, during the most hi-tech World Cup ever to be held, fans attending the games are not even able to text their friends or post the odd photo or two on Facebook because telecoms networks have failed them.
And it goes further than selfies and celebratory texts. As Fifa's secretary general Jerome Valcke explains: "We don't want Brazil to be remembered as the worst World Cup of all time because the journalists could not get their stories out to the rest of the world."