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Hockey hackathon challenges students to reimagine the fan experience on 5G networks

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Hockey hackathon challenges students to reimagine the fan experience on 5G networks

Sportsnet Hockey Hack

There may be ongoing uncertainty about when the 2020/21 NHL season gets underway, but a partnership among tech companies and the University of Waterloo could change the way fans experience hockey in the near future.

Canadian cable and Internet provider Rogers Communications, which broadcasts NHL games on its Sportsnet channel, announced a hackathon on Monday that would be run out of the Waterloo, Ont.-based computer science school with technology from Intel Corp.

The week-long event will see teams 10 teams of approximately five students each working on digital experiences that could enhance the fan experience for Sportsnet viewers. This could include experiences involving augmented reality (AR) and second screen experiences (such as an app or game on a smartphone), as well as fantasy and other gaming or e-commerce applications, Rogers said in a release.

Dubbed Sportsnet Hockey Hack: Powered by Rogers 5G, the hackathon is encouraging students to think of how to make use of fifth generation network benefits such as increased speed and low latency. Those competing will also have access to data from the NHL’s Puck and Player Tracking system, which was launched amid the recent 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Beyond the fan experience, the Sportsnet Hockey Hack is also an example of how schools like University of Waterloo are trying to evolve the experience of becoming an entrepreneur. The contest is being run by Concept by Velocity, a resource centre at Waterloo that provides skills building and coaching to would-be startup founders.

According to Carly Cameron, manager of Entrepreneurship Experience at Concept, hackathon competitors received a brief that didn’t spell out specific ideas but focused on keywords such as “creating an immersive, social, safe and fun environment.” This could include things that happen inside or outside a physical arena.

“This keeps the problem brief broad, so that students can be as creative as they want to get,” Cameron told 360 Magazine. “It was more about giving them a framework to create opportunities and to develop ideas.”

Given the challenges of COVID-19, of course, the Sportsnet Hockey Hack is happening remotely among distributed teams rather than a traditional lab or conference environment. That said, Cameron said the partners behind the initiative will be offering fast feedback if anyone needs to bounce an idea off of them using Microsoft Teams.

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“Right now teams are all set up within private groups and they all have direct access to mentors as well, whether that’s the the NHL, Sportsnet, Intel, Rogers or Microsoft,” she said. “The response they’re getting is almost immediate.”

The same partners will also be part of a panel of judges, including the NHL’s chief technology and information officer. Winners will receive potential job placement opportunities as well as the ability to bring their idea to fruition. The Intel equipment at their disposal includes a developer kit called OpenVINO, as well as Smart Edge products to develop multi-access edge (MEC) applications to run on advanced 5G networks.

“A final product is not necessary. There will be opportunities to develop it,” Cameron said. “That said, they have some great resources behind them, so (the judges) are looking for more than just a pitch.”

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