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Purdue's connected football field

Purdue_estadium Remember how people used to say the Internet changes everything? Then the catch-phrase became broadband changes everything? Each was true (and still is), but I think the more salient point now is that WiFi and, soon, WiMax push change everywhere. Here's an example. Purdue University has a service called eStadium, which offers instant replays and other content to fans inside Ross-Ade Stadium. The university outfitted  Ross-Ade with WiFi access points several years ago, but only the fans who brought wireless-equipped PDAs and laptops could log on (don't laugh; Purdue churns out lots of engineers). This year, it started making the replays available in formats that worked on Internet-enabled cell phones, too. According to the university's news release, the new support for cell phones could increase the audience for eStadium's videos by an order of magnitude, from a few hundred fans to several thousand.

As the university has gained experience with eStadium, it has expanded what people can do with it. Real-time statistics. Player information. Scores from other games. A food locater. New features this year include letting fans see replays from multiple camera angles, vote for the game's MVP and submit questions to Purdue's football coach for him to answer on his postgame show. One can only imagine what sort of interactivity might come next, as Purdue pushes the boundaries of what fans can do in the bleachers -- letting them decide whether to go for it on fourth down? Hmmm.... Anyway, the replay system is getting a good workout this year -- the Boilermakers are undefeated and well-nigh unstoppable on offense, having scored at least 45 points in each of its first four games. This Saturday a fifth victory is all but assured, thanks to a visit by hapless Notre Dame. Reality won't set in until Week 6, when mighty Ohio State comes to West Lafayette. (Full disclosure: I grew up in Columbus during the Woody Hayes era, so I'm not objective in these matters.)

Photo by David Umberger of the Purdue News Service

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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