Dill is familiar with potential customers, having done their job as an NBA franchise CIO. (Courtesy Armored Things)

Former Blazers executive is VP of business development

Boston-based crowd intelligence software company Armored Things has named one-time Portland Trail Blazers Chief Information Officer Chris Dill vice president of business development.

Dill most recently served as head of business development for sports and mobile platform Venuetize, whose clients include the Texas Rangers, the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles FC and TD Garden. 

Dill is also an adviser to augmented reality company ImagineAR. With Armored Things, he is charged with helping the company expand into the sports and entertainment market as well as the retail, corporate office campus and university markets.

In addition to helping venues optimize revenue, Dill’s work with Armored Things will focus heavily on facilitating as safe a return as possible of fans from the coronavirus-induced facility closures that have affected venues across the globe.

 Armored Things uses artificial intelligence to process data from inputs like Wi-Fi systems and cameras to give venue operators real-time views of how people are moving in and through their facilities and to generate trend reports.

“As one of the first CIOs in professional sports, Chris was an early innovator in connecting and applying different technologies in large venue settings to optimize operations and engage visitors in ways that delivered very tangible business results,” Julie Johnson Roberts, Armored Things co-founder and CEO, said in a news release.

Dill, who has been based in Portland since 1979, told VenuesNow that he’s watched Armored Things evolve over the past 3 ½ years and has been fascinated by its technology.

“What really attracted me a lot is Chris Lord, who is one of the co-founders and chief technology officer,” Dill said. “He’s brilliant and he’s just building a fantastic product. I’ve really done bus dev since I left the Blazers and so I sort of went from being on the other side of the fence, (from) being in a sports franchise, to the other side selling back in, which is really exciting. I get to call on CIOs and I know what it’s like sitting in their seat.”

Having been on that side of things and having run the technology around Moda Center, which opened as the Rose Garden in 1995, Dill has an understanding of sports teams’ needs, including their budget cycles and how technology can help maximize revenue while improving security and the overall fan experience.

“I was probably the second CIO in sports after Bill Schlough with the San Francisco Giants, who I admire to this day as one of the tech leaders out there,” he said.

He mentioned Christian Lau, CTO with LAFC, as one of a new generation of executives and team owners with an affinity for technology and what it can bring to venues.“It’s amazing how technologically driven (teams and venues) are,” Dill said. “What I see with Armored Things is a bit of a place that hasn’t been served. So, if we talk about artificial intelligence-driven, real-time crowd intelligence, I look at that like a missing piece of the puzzle in the dataset in the sports franchise.

“If you say data is the new oil, and we’ve been saying that a long time, somebody that’s coming on the scene like Armored Things and building awareness around this fusion of data to create this real-time crowd intelligence, I’m not sure that the market totally understands it yet. So, for me, that’s very exciting.”

Data from ticketing; social media; website and mobile app metrics; and food, beverage and merchandise purchases, which have long been analyzed to inform decisions about delivering services to venue customers, can now be combined with the kind of information generated by Armored Things to provide another layer of intelligence.

In the near term, knowing where guests are will be crucial in maintaining distancing as venues return to more normal operations post COVID.

“We’re doing things that can help with COVID, but we’re doing things way beyond that,” Dill said. “And that’s across all kinds of different departments.”

Having the right staffing because you can see what past events were like with crowd flow, or using information about how many people are in a room to determine optimal HVAC system settings, are but two examples of potentially cost-saving ways that Armored Things data can help improve operations, Dill said.

“There’s a lot of potential to use our crowd intelligence to drive efficiencies,” he said.