Smart Communities and The Battery Atlanta: Five Questions for Scott Waid, SVP, Head of Technology of the Atlanta Braves

With the Opening Day of the 2021 baseball season upon us, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Scott Waid, SVP, Head of Technology Services of the Atlanta Braves. In the interview, I asked Scott about Truist Park — the centerpiece of a 90-acre, 1.5 million sq ft mixed use development in Atlanta called The Battery Atlanta. During our discussion, Scott identified common technological elements that — at once — support an enhanced fan experience, ensure The Battery Atlanta and Truist Park can operate as “smart” facilities and enable the Atlanta Braves to advance their organization’s goals.

When the term “smart city” was originated, a widely accepted vision imagined that municipalities would play a central role in all Smart Community projects. We now know that non-governmental entities are also transforming our communities through the use of advanced technologies. The Battery Atlanta and the Xtream arena in Coralville, IA are illustrative examples of recently completed “smart” developments that incorporate a stadium.

This would seem to be a national trend with several similar developments in the works, including in Anahiem, CA (anchored by a NHL hockey stadium) and in Pawtucket, RI (encompassing a USL soccer stadium). The Battery Atlanta, the Xtream arena and the projects that will soon follow are redefining how best to leverage advanced technology to advance broader objectives — e.g., sustainability goals. Indeed, for leaders looking to advance smart community initiatives, these projects provide a valuable playbook.

In the five questions below, Connected Communities LLC asked Scott Waid to share his vision of The Battery Atlanta as a Smart Community.

Q: Do you think it is accurate to describe The Battery Atlanta development, including Truist Park, as a Smart Community? If so, why?

Scott Waid (hereafter “SW”): The Battery Atlanta certainly has a lot of the technologies in place that I would associate with a so-called smart community, including wired and wireless networks, security, data analysis capabilities and (mobile) applications. These technologies help us provide a world class experience for fans, residents, tenants and other visitors. Additionally, as a development, The Battery Atlanta faces challenges akin to the challenges facing many municipalities. In cooperation with our partners, we seek to leverage technologies to enhance mobility and parking, ensure safety and emergency preparedness and effectively provide services like garbage collection.

Q: What technologies are required to support a world class experience for fans, residents, tenants and other visitors to The Battery Atlanta?

SW: It starts with the network. The Braves have a strategic partnership with Comcast. Comcast installed 250 miles of fiber, at the site, including two 100G circuits, and more than 1000 Wi-Fi access points. Ultrafast connections to the Internet and smooth and responsive smart phone applications are critical but a world-class fan experience doesn’t stop there. By and large, our fans are comfortable with technology and we see this (our fans’ tech-savvy) as an opportunity to bring new experiences, services and conveniences to the ballpark. Having a state-of-the-art network allows the users to engage on social platforms and stay connected with a terrific experience.

Q: Can you share examples of what you mean by new experiences, services and conveniences?

SW: This season we are working with Major League Baseball to enable our fans to watch replays with a 360-degree view on their mobile device. Mobile concessions ordering is also new in 2021. Our fans will be able to order and pay for concessions from their mobile devices. When their concessions are ready for pick-up, they will receive a text. Less time waiting in line, more time enjoying the game. I should note that in 2017 when we made many key decisions about the technology that would support The Battery Atlanta project, we didn’t know that we would need to support mobile ordering and payment. We did know, however, that we needed the flexibility to support a wide array of apps and new services. The infrastructure and platforms we have in place makes it easier for us to upgrade as new technologies are developed.

Q: This is an interesting point about planning with an uncertain future in mind. Are there lessons learned that you would share with developers, local government leaders and others looking to advance an effective smart community project?

SW: The Battery Atlanta project has benefited from a design that recognized that common technological elements support both the resident experience and the smart and sustainable management of the facilities. Working with our partners, we planned carefully a technological architecture that meets our needs during the Braves’ eighty-one home games and during the other 270+ days of the year. Indeed, the networks that enable new applications on game days also support the development’s LED lighting, sprinklers and HVAC systems and security system.

Q: What is next for The Battery Atlanta and Truist park?

SW: Well, in the very short term, we are upgrading to Wi-Fi 6. Looking beyond the deployment of next generation Wi-Fi in the stadium, I am hesitant to predict where we will go. I am confident, however, that our fans will help drive what we next bring to the ballpark. This last year a lot of us have become very comfortable with mobile ordering and food delivery apps. Our fans want this convenience at the stadium and, as we discussed, we are excited to offer this new service this season. You will continue to see more personalization of applications and services to satisfy the ever-changing needs and desires of our community.

“To me, for a community to be smart, it must be responsive to its key stakeholders. The most successful stadiums, real estate developments and local government initiatives will be responsive to its fans, tenants and residents. Investments in technology do not make a community smart. Instead, investments in technology should help enable an organization to be responsive to its customers, residents or other stakeholders. At its core, this is how we try to use technology at The Battery Atlanta.”

SW: We started our conversation talking about the topic of Smart Communities. To me, for a community to be smart, it must be responsive to its key stakeholders. The most successful stadiums, real estate developments and local government initiatives — for that matter — will be responsive to its fans, tenants and residents. Investments in technology do not make a community smart. Instead, investments in technology should help enable an organization to be responsive — or even proactive via a concierge service that anticipates stakeholders’ interests or concerns — to its customers, residents or other stakeholders. At its core, this is how we try to use technology at The Battery Atlanta.

About this Medium Site

On this Medium site, I explore an array of topics related to the transformative power of smart and connected communities. A central question for this observer of the so-called smart community movement: how will municipalities, real estate developers, universities and other leading organizations develop, deploy and support smart and connected community projects at scale?

I welcome feedback and comments from readers.

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Bill Maguire

A recovering policy wonk, Bill is passionate about the transformative power of advanced networks, open data, machine learning & the Internet of Things (IoT).