Super Bowl XXXIX Is A High-Tech Playground - InformationWeek

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Super Bowl XXXIX Is A High-Tech Playground

The game of football hasn't changed much in decades, but the influence of technology on Sunday's Super Bowl game will be on display, as companies hawking and using technology jockey for their place in the Jacksonville sun.

The game of football hasn't changed much in decades, but the influence of technology on Sunday's Superbowl game will be on display, as companies hawking and using technology jockey for their place in the Jacksonville sun.

The New England Patriots were the first NFL team to build a Web site of its own, back in 1995, when the team was a sad also-ran in professional football. Today, the Patriots are favored to win the big game Sunday, and the team's owners and coaches pioneered the use of technology to build fan support and contribute to the team's winning ways. Perhaps it's fitting that instant polls taken by online gambling Web sites favor the Patriots heavily.

Motorola was so impressed when 120,000 fans visited its "Motorola Venue At the NFL Experience" exhibit at last year's Super Bowl contest, in Houston, that it is mounting a similar program this year. The company will be demonstrating many of its new cell-phone handsets, including the hot RAZR V3. It will be impossible to miss Motorola's campaign at the event. There will be abundant billboards, music groups, and NFL player appearances--all hawking Motorola, either subtly or aggressively.

Spectators will get Wi-Fi access in the ALLTEL stadium, courtesy of MobileAccess Networks, which is also enabling Sprint and Nextel cell-phone service for spectators with mobile phones, PDAs, and laptops. THQ Wireless has arranged for fans nationwide to cast their votes for the game's MVP.

Comcast reports that it has received a 143 percent increase over the previous Super Bowl in the number of TV users who are connecting to HDTV technology. NEC Solutions America reports intense new interest in its plasma and projection displays, which it attributes to the Super Bowl.

Online-gambling companies are new, too, displacing the touts and bookies present at earlier championship football games. BetWWTS.com, a gambling site, said it has configured its site to interface easily with most popular wireless operating system platforms, including Windows Mobile PocketPC, Palm OS, Symbian OS, and Java-oriented platforms.

Sportsbook.com, an online sports-betting compiler, reports that 89 percent of Massachusetts fans are betting that their Patriots will win, while 87 percent of Pennsylvania rooters are picking the Eagles. Sportsbook.com reports that betting fans in a total of 36 states believe the Patriots will win the contest.

The Patriots' management likes to think that some of the success of its technology and Web site has spilled over to the team's success--Sunday will be the Patriots' third appearance in the Super Bowl in the last four years. The team's management and coaching staff are heavy users of technology. Patriot's vice chairman Jonathan Kraft is something of a computer expert, and it was he who had the vision to see that the team's Web site was built in 1995 by his IT head--"Chief Innovator" Trent Adams.

Season ticket holders are identified when they log onto the site, but Adams initiated tight security measures from the start. "I'm Draconian when it comes to protecting our customers' privacy," Adams told the Boston Globe recently. "Someone could back a truck up and drive [away] with all our servers and still not be able to access that information. It's all double-and-triple encrypted, and the keys aren't even on our site."

Adams brought a unique background to this job--he majored in astrophysics at Vassar, studying "small galactic spiral arms." He said the math involved carries over to the Web site.

Something else distinguishes the Patriots' Web site from other NFL sites: it has no "paid wall."

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