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Initially, Riedel Communications launched its Remote Operations Center (ROC) to centrally manage wireless communication between referees for the German Football League (Deutsche Fußball Liga, DFL). The company has since redesigned and expanded the center and now uses it for many other live events. RedTech joined Lutz Rathmann, head of Riedel’s Managed Technology division, to discuss remote services for live events during unusual times.
RedTech Tribe: On June 1, you re-joined Riedel Communications to lead the Managed Technology Division. How did you experience the ending of the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Lutz Rathmann: It was a very odd situation, indeed. I have been in the event business for more than 25 years and I can’t remember having experienced anything similar. At times I was the only one in our large manufacturing hall where normally over 50 engineers and project managers are busy preparing for different missions. The others all worked remotely from their homes. Fortunately, that changed relatively quickly when the first live events gained momentum again.
RedTech Tribe: How did the demand for ROC services develop under these special circumstances?
Lutz Rathmann: When the Formula 1 season re-started, and DTM races and other sports areas followed suit, remote operations significantly gained in importance. The Covid-19 crisis was kind of a blueprint for us and for the event organizers. One of the key questions before the crisis has been: How can we create more sustainable, cost-saving and flexible events and reduce the impact of large amounts of people travelling around the world?
Actually the pandemic eliminated some of the obstacles we had previously faced. A year ago, for example, many critically regarded the subject of remote work. This is clearly no longer an issue today. The barrier in people’s minds as to what remote operations can actually do has been torn down. We were quickly able to prove that this is not just some crazy idea, but that it makes sense in many cases.
RedTech: You recently introduced the Riedel DisTag, a small distance monitoring device. What other changes has the company made made to ROC workflows due to the current situation?
Rathmann: In many cases, we have to plan our work even more meticulously. For example, if our ROC services several events at the same time, we have to be creative. Even though our ROC has already quite a number of workplaces, hygiene measures with safety distances are important as well and we need to reduce the total number of allowed people in the room. Luckily, we can scale the system at our compound and modify any conference room to an extension quickly.
RedTech: Which of last summer’s events was your personal highlight?
Rathmann: At the virtual Wacken Open Air event I was really surprised that it’s possible to completely virtualize a festival and yet not lose its local impact. Wacken in particular is known for its special atmosphere. As an engineer, for example, it used to be nothing special to free a cable from several layers of mud. But you get used to the new working situation quite quickly. The contact with all participants is still there and the production also has a lot to offer for the audience.
RedTech: How do you think the event situation will develop in the coming months?
Rathmann: As we do not yet know how long the pandemic will influence our daily business, we have to risk a glimpse into the famous crystal ball at the moment. I think we’ve developed a good gut feeling at the moment for what works and what doesn’t work under the hygiene and distancing constraints. Especially with a large event series such as the Formula 1, for example, which has held the most back-to-back races this year since 1950. For this last edition, everybody worked very professionally and we were all able to adapt to the new conditions relatively quickly. I believe that we’ll still have to live and work with pandemic-related restrictions throughout 2021. But we’re well prepared.
RedTech: Are there any concrete plans for the future development of the ROC?
Rathmann: We are continuing to work on reducing the effort on site and are asking ourselves the question: “What else can we map remotely? For example, we have concrete plans to cover all three major time zones with our ROC, resulting in a 24/7 ROC.