Pitch perfect? The football stadium enhancing their grass with IoT

Leentje Chavatte
Microsoft, Data & AI and Digital Transformation
Read Time, 2 min.  

Is Johan Cruijff Arena the most innovative stadium in the world? It’s certainly looking that way. Well ahead of the curve on taking an environmental stance within their business practices, this Dutch arena achieved carbon neutral status before it had even become a global corporate priority. Now this European entertainment goliath turns its sights towards curating a data-enhanced grass pitch that is turning Euro competitors green with envy, all the while roadmapping wider initiatives throughout the city of Amsterdam. By utilising Microsoft BI and IoT, changing the way the grass is grown is just the start.

Granular analysis for a future-proof pitch

The grass is always greener, except when it’s not. Keeping a stadium pitch looking picture perfect probably isn’t the first thing you would think of when it comes to the use of data analytics and the IoT, but that’s exactly the challenge that Johan Cruijff Arena and Microsoft undertook. As part of the stadium’s transformation into a sustainable, data-led ecosystem of commerce and future-proof practices, a Microsoft-centric approach was taken to measuring every grain of grass for optimal conditioning, even in a temperamental Dutch climate. The implications of this smart-city approach to on-the-field intelligence has greater implications for smart-city initiatives throughout Amsterdam and other European cities.

On-the-ground data intelligence

Going beyond a place for the Dutch team Ajax to showdown with Real Madrid on the football field, Johan Cruijff Arena together with Microsoft are paving the way for new methods of implementing data intelligence. This data rich pitch has already led to a 20% increase in grass quality―and it doesn’t stop there. As time goes on and more data is collected the effectiveness of pitch maintenance will improve exponentially. The recorded results showing reduced costs and power consumption can then be transferred across to other Arena and public projects, smashing all their environmental goals out of the park.

Grass is a very emotional thing. My dream is that you open Outlook and the grass is talking to you. It says ‘I’m okay today, but tomorrow, I’ll be even better’. It’s not me telling someone that the pitch is okay, the grass is telling people that it’s ready to host Ajax against Real Madrid.

Henk van Raan, Chief Innovation Officer, Johan Cruijff Arena

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