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Bavarian Grass Works: Allianz Arena tech agreement is keeping the grass greener

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The Allianz Arena is using technology to power its groundskeeping efforts.

UEFA via Getty Images

Bayern Munich is always seeking new and innovative ways to train its players, make the fan experience better, and become more environmentally friendly. When it comes to the turf at the Allianz Arena, Bayern is taking its game to the next level.

Through a partnership with Siemens, which we covered back in July of 2017, Bayern is using some cutting edge technology to keep its grounds in optimal condition. In an article published by Siemens, Bayern is using MindSphere, an IoT technology, to power an application that helps provide data to help care for the turf, which is not quite as cut-and-dry as it may appear.

As in many soccer stadiums, the precious turf in FC Bayern’s Allianz Arena is tended by a greenkeeper. Every day at 6:30 a.m., the greenkeeper is on site. Early morning provides the best light for evaluating the turf. He divides the lawn surface into six imaginary zones, each of which is subject to certain conditions. The stands create irregular shadows on the surface. Some places are exposed to rain and wind, others are not. It’s almost as though there were a separate microclimate at ground level.

Specifically, Bayern is using an app to help monitor conditions.

The FC Bayern Greenkeeper App will now assist the greenkeeper and give the grass a voice. Sensors gather data and send it to MindSphere, the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens. The MindSphere application then evaluates the data and converts it into action recommendations. Water more. Expose the grass to stronger or longer light. Start the lawn heating, or turn it down.

The app allows Bayern to make data driven decisions based on a number of environmental factors, which provides Bayern with business intelligence on the surface that is used by the club’s most prized assets; its players.

These kinds of recommendations require a huge amount of data: light, temperature, humidity, the lawn’s salt content, wind, the chlorophyll content of the blades of grass. All of this data is supplied by sensors installed on the field by the Dutch stadium lighting expert SGL, allowing its customers to monitor the lighting of their lawn. Current weather data and forecasts are also fed into the system. The data from the playing field is delivered to the collector box once per minute. MindSphere evaluates the data, formulates action recommendations, and converts both into clear diagrams. The greenkeeper keeps an eye on the turf via a smartphone – and he’s immediately provided with specific action recommendations.

Jürgen Muth, CEO of the Allianz Arena, knows the emphasis on maintaining a safe playing surface is key to ensuring Bayern’s players are protected.

The lawn is tremendously important to us. It’s important for a good game, it’s a major cost factor for us, and it presents a number of risks if it isn’t in excellent shape.

Lars Oyntzen, a project manager at the Siemens subsidiary evosoft GmbH working on the Bayern program, said he and his team are developing the application based on the agile software development principle, which allows them to use their expertise with data analytics and predicting future developments:

We use the Scrum method, meaning that after each development step, we solicit feedback from the greenkeeper. Because despite all the digitalization, he’s the one with the important domain knowledge, a profound knowledge of that particular lawn! MindSphere makes it easy for us to access the data, visualize it, and hand over the results of the analysis to the user.

Sometimes, it appears, the grass really is always greener when Bayern’s opponents arrive at the Allianz Arena for a match.