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A district league goalkeeper and FC Bayern fan: Lars Oyntzen is developing the MindSphere application for the greenkeeper of FC Bayern

MindSphere

The turf whisperer

Every professional soccer stadium has an experienced greenkeeper who cares for the sacred turf. And now, for the first time, the greenkeeper at the Allianz Arena – home of FC Bayern – will be assisted by an application. It’s being made possible by MindSphere, the open IoT operating system, and software developers at evosoft.

The “sacred turf” is what soccer fans call the lawn, where everything ends in either victory or defeat. For the sake of the camera, the turf has to be a spectacular green. It also has to offer players a firm grip and give the ball speedy passage. And it has to do this throughout the season, including in the winter when the weather is icy cold and grass is usually dormant.

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.

App for turf care

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 (more information about applications for MindSphere can be found here).

Data on data

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.

Lars Oyntzen in the Allianz Arena

Collaborating for a healthy lawn

Siemens is a technology partner of FC Bayern, which first means helping the soccer club to better understand and optimally care for the grass in its own Allianz Arena. “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,” says Jürgen Muth, CEO of the Allianz Arena.

Agile software development

Lars Oyntzen is project manager at the Siemens subsidiary evosoft GmbH, and he and his small team are developing the application based on the agile software development principle. “We use the Scrum method,” says Oyntzen, “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!” The developers’ expertise lies in data analytics, and that involves analyzing the data, visualizing it, and predicting future developments.

Dreaming of FC Bayern

Oyntzen is himself a soccer player and a fan of FC Bayern for as long as he can remember. He’s a goalkeeper for ASV Weisendorf and competes in the district league with his team. The MindSphere project is, of course, close to his heart. “It’s a dream come true to be developing a solution for a club that I’ve been cheering for since childhood,” he says. “If you’d asked me before about my professional dreams, having FC Bayern as a customer would have been at the top of my wish list.”

The 30-year-old obtained his Master’s degree in International Information Systems – a new name for business informatics – at Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). He’s been a project manager and data analyst at evosoft for over five years.

More light, more heat, more water? The MindSphere application for the greenkeeper of FC Bayern knows what the turf needs

Grass as science

In addition to the greenkeeper, the important project partners and grass experts include the scientists at the Technical University of Munich. The developers glean in-depth knowledge of the “sacred turf” from employees at the Dürnast Greenhouse Laboratory Center. For example, how long should grass be lit during the winter months, and at what point does the energy invested no longer provide an added benefit?

Not to mention the arch-enemy of soccer turf, the mushroom – or rather, the up to 200 different types of mushroom. But even the experts don’t know everything: At what humidity level is the lawn susceptible to a specific type of mushroom? What are the first signs of an impending outbreak? And how can you stop it as early and effectively as possible? Here’s where the data collected by the lawn app might provide valuable knowledge in the future.

Connectivity as a definite plus

MindSphere makes it easy for us to access the data, visualize it, and hand over the results of the analysis to the user,” says Oyntzen. Even if that user is as experienced a greenkeeper as the one who works for FC Bayern. But app or no app, will he give up standing on his lawn just after sunrise, day after day, summer and winter, feeling the grass under his feet and watching it grow? Who knows? At least now – thanks to the app – he can also listen to it growing.