State Fair Park in Oklahoma City

Aruba Gigabit Wi-Fi + Meridian delights 2.2 million visitors, boosts vendor services and improves operations at SFP

Assisting over 2.2 million annual visitors with navigating 435 acres of indoor and outdoor facilities, while serving the business needs of thousands of event vendors, are top priorities for Jason Eddy.
“We host events year-round and generate over $336 million in direct spending for the local economy,” explains Eddy, VP of Information Technology for State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. “We need to meet the mobility needs of guests, vendors and staff alike.”

Seeking a Comprehensive Enterprise Solution

As a large public venue (LPV), State Fair Park’s existing patchwork of disparate wireless systems was increasingly insufficient.

“We wanted to give the general public a better experience,” Eddy says. “We also needed to improve support for our event vendors, who rely on us for services and the infrastructure required to do business.”

With the help of its local partner, RFIP, State Fair Park selected Aruba Networks, an HP company. “Aruba met all of our requirements, which included solutions for streamlining Wi-Fi security and management.”

802.11ac WLAN and Mobile Engagement Answer the Needs

To meet current needs and prepare for even greater future mobile dependency, SFP deployed a pervasive enterprise Wi-Fi system that includes Aruba 802.11ac indoor and outdoor access points (APs) and 7200 Series Mobility Controllers.

Also, the organization further increased efficiencies by unifying its wireless and wired network with Aruba’s Mobility Access Switches. Plus, SFP adopted Aruba’s vendor-agnostic management tools AirWave, for optimizing Wi-Fi experiences, and ClearPass, for strong security.

“In addition to modernizing our Wi-Fi, we also updated our wired network,” says Eddy. “Aruba’s Mobility Access Switches and enterprise management tools were critical to consolidating and simplifying our infrastructure to centralize network administration for our lean IT staff.”

Meridian-powered OK State Fair App shows nearby attractions

For mobile engagement, SFP adopted Aruba’s Meridian Mobile App Platform to augment guest services, offer turn-by-turn directions to amenities and provide advertising opportunities for event vendors.
“Our new OK State Fair App offers real-time assistance to approximately 900,000 attendees of the annual Oklahoma State Fair, which is currently our largest single event,” says Scott Munz, Vice President of Marketing & Public Relations for SFP.

"Guests, vendors and staff love the app, which includes a detailed visualization of the Fair layout," he adds. "Everyone can quickly locate their favorite Fair activities as well as spot the closest place to get a corndog, cinnamon roll, or whatever food fits their mood."

ClearPass Boosts Security, Streamlines Access Management

Adopting ClearPass Policy Management provides State Fair Park with the robust security features of a wired network in a wireless environment, says Eddy. The application combines context-based policy management with next-generation AAA (Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting) services for comprehensively managing network access policies, onboarding and managing devices securely, and admitting guest users.

Also, combining ClearPass with the Mobility Access Switches enables SFP to offer hassle-free user access by issuing each individual a single set of credentials, regardless of device. With a single set of credentials per individual, organizations can provide – or restrict – access based on pre-set policy requirements.

Separating and managing traffic a breeze
According to Eddy, deploying ClearPass has significantly improved security as well as making it a breeze to separate guest and vendor traffic from internal operations. “We rely on ClearPass to automatically separate our network traffic and securely onboard devices based on role-based polices we set,” he remarks.

“We have five segregated networks, all managed by ClearPass,” he adds. “One is for the public and the remainder support vendor and corporate operations, such as accessing our ticketing system with handheld scanners and allowing our food service operations to conduct Point-of-Sales (PoS) transactions.”

AirWave Optimizes Wi-Fi & Steers Devices Clear of Obstacles

For maintaining overall Wi-Fi health and unifying management of its multivendor network, State Fair Park implemented AirWave to optimize Wi-Fi performance. AirWave’s map-like interface provides critical and granular visibility into each AP, including real-time and historical connection information.

Our experience with Aruba from Day One has been excellent. Jason Eddy, VP of Information Technology for State Fair Park in Oklahoma City

In addition, AirWave exposes sources of RF signal interference and automatically moves mobile devices to a cleaner channel.

“Among its many capabilities, AirWave enables monitoring the number and types of devices connected to each AP,” says Eddy. “This helps us determine whether we need to make adjustments to our Wi-Fi layout. We also rely on AirWave to detect the presence and location of rogue access points.”

VisualRF helps minimize troubleshooting, reduces downtime

SFP also utilizes AirWave’s VisualRF, which adds application reporting to device information. As a result, problems that previously took hours to resolve can be done in minutes. This produces substantial savings through operational efficiency, reduced downtime and consolidated management tool sets.

“We really appreciate VisualRF,” Eddy says. “It helps us manage traffic loads and pinpoint possible issues even before they affect mobile users, so we can fix them fast.”

Big Wins For Guests, Vendors and Operations

Today, State Fair Park’s #GenMobile guests have reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi and the popular mobile app to help get them where they want to go. #GenMobile are the new breed of tech-savvy mobile device users.

In addition Aruba’s tools give SFP critical insights on connected devices. “From Aruba’s robust statistics we know that roughly 60% of our app installations have been on the iOS platform,” Munz says. “This type of information is key to developing new types of marketing and advertising campaigns.”

For example, SFP is considering options for working with event promoters to present visitors with opt-in notifications and promotional offers as they enter the specific building where a vendor is located. “We can leverage our Aruba ClearPass and Meridian infrastructure to do that,” Munz says.

Aruba powers mobile engagement at new expo center and beyond
Another benefit of the Aruba infrastructure will be fully realized when SFP opens its new Expo Center. The 279,000 sq. ft. building will include 201,000 sq. ft. of contiguous floor space. This will enable bringing new national and international events to Oklahoma City.

“As the Expo Center is a state-of-the-art facility, we look forward to providing our guests with exceptional mobile access when they attend events,” Munz says. “And, we’re expecting to engage them in new and innovative ways via their mobile devices.”

Moving forward, SFP will explore various options for deploying Aruba Beacons, with Bluetooth Low Energy, to deliver guests more location and contextual information as well as provide vendors with further customer engagement opportunities, says Munz.

Providing more services, more efficiently, from Day One
Operationally, Gigabit Wi-Fi is providing SFP with more opportunities to serve vendors without added overhead. Just one way is extending its facilities management application to mobile devices.

“We’re giving our facilities staff the ability to update work orders in the field, such as when an exhibitor requests more chairs or tables for their booth,” Eddy says. “Updating a work order on site enables us to speed delivery of requested equipment. Those capabilities were impossible before Aruba.”

As SFP continues to roll out new mobile capabilities to its staff, vendors and guests, there’s palpable excitement for what the future holds. “Our experience with Aruba from Day One has been excellent,” says Eddy. “I can’t speak any more highly about it.”