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The ArenA as a large innovation testing ground

The time when Johan Cruijff ArenA was ‘just’ a football stadium or events venue is long gone. The ArenA and the area around it has for many years already been a leading Living Lab. At the ArenA testing ground, innovation projects are conceived and tested from day to day to make cities around the world smarter and more sustainable.

Data & Analytics

Sensors that monitor the condition of the players and the turf, a mega battery that ensures there’s no peak demand on the power grid during events, or innovative crowd control to accommodate the approximately 55,000 visitors at a time. This is just a sample of the many innovation projects conducted with a variety of innovation partners at Johan Cruijff ArenA. As a strategic innovation partner, KPMG supports the innovation center. Hanneke van Setten, an innovation consultant at KPMG, is involved daily in this innovative testing ground. Rogier Schröder, who did his first assignment as data management consultant and later his final assignment for a postmaster at JADS at Johan Cruijff ArenA, is still involved too.

The Johan Cruijff ArenA ecosystem

The innovative testing ground extends well beyond Johan Cruijff ArenA, says Rogier. ‘The ArenA and the area around it is seen as a small ecosystem where a wide variety of technological applications can be devised and tested before being rolled out on a larger scale. Crowd control is for example a topic that is not only important for stadiums, but also for many other events where people gather, like festivals, footraces, or tourist attractions in large cities. Many other organizations and cities worldwide benefit from these innovation projects.” Various stakeholders are usually involved in these projects, Hanneke adds. “Johan Cruijff ArenA is a platform where corporate parties can get in touch and try out their ideas. We choose partners that can complement each other on a specific topic, for example sustainability, inclusiveness, smart buildings, fan experience, mobility, safety and security. We are currently also implementing ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) reporting requirements, so that Johann Cruijff ArenA and partners can report back on the impact of initiatives.”

Innovation challenge

“In the past year, we were looking for innovative solutions on the topics of sustainability, visitor experience, and sport performance. We did this by means of innovation challenges where organizations like start-ups, scale-ups, but also larger corporations can share their solutions and ideas on an open platform. In this way, together with KNVB, Ajax, UEFA, and City Football Group, we collected more than 700 reports in the past few years, giving the winners the chance to test their solutions at Johan Cruijff ArenA among others. Stories like this clearly show how the innovative clout of start-ups can contribute to finding solutions for companies’ challenges. Innovation can sometimes be something of a buzz word, but here we work with concrete projects that are of interest worldwide.”

Innovation can sometimes be something of a buzz word, but here we work with concrete projects that are of interest worldwide.

Hanneke van Setten, Innovation consultant

Safe data platform

Many innovation projects are data-driven. This is true also at Johan Cruijff ArenA, where there is a great emphasis on data-driven work. Some years ago, KPMG helped with the design and installation of a data platform where data from several sources gets centralized. For the safe use and management of data on the platform, the KPMG Data Management team set up a data governance framework that enables users to feed in data in the right way and stakeholders to share data safely and comply with all privacy regulations. The data platform, which complies with privacy regulations, can be set up for anyone at Johan Cruijff ArenA, but also for instance for students, start-ups, and other parties, Rogier explains. “I myself, together with three colleagues, made intensive use of the data platform during our final assignment from the KPMG postmaster data science program at Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS), where we used historical data to predict the number of stadium-tour visitors at Johan Cruijff ArenA.”

As a Data Management Consultant I help companies plan their organization in order to make optimal use of data.

Rogier Schröder, Data Management Consultant