Pitch perfect

Pitch perfect

Leveraging IoT for long-term stadium security by Fabio Marti, vice president, marketing, Security & Safety Things

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, billions of devices are networked each year. New technology developments have ushered in a new breed of smarter and more versatile security cameras that can not only provide data-rich video but analyse that data and trigger appropriate actions through the use of smart apps on the device. By effectively making them into IoT sensors, smart cameras can be flexibly equipped and re-equipped with applications used to address COVID-19 related needs at stadiums and other event spaces – then repurposed to address other operational needs.

Many stadiums are already putting into place new solutions to help them increase safety and security procedures, while further enhancing the visitor and fan experience. In the stadium space, smart cameras assist event managers and facility staff in gaining a greater understanding of attendee behavior, opening up new opportunities to optimise the event process and dynamically allocate resources on game days and during other large public events. Once COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted, these stadiums will be ahead of the global curve in ensuring their readiness to reopen and that every fan visit is a safe experience.

Amsterdam’s famed Johan Cruijff ArenA is one such facility that has adopted this readiness approach. In cooperation with Security & Safety Things (S&ST), the ArenA has installed a number of smart surveillance cameras throughout the stadium to optimise ArenA operations, increase visitor security and privacy and enhance overall fan experience.

Operations staff at the ArenA are accustomed to being ahead of the curve. Located in the heart of Amsterdam and home to Dutch soccer champion team AFC Ajax, the ArenA also operates the Amsterdam Innovation ArenA (AIA), an internationally renowned living laboratory established by the ArenA and the City of Amsterdam to enable testing and evaluation of innovative stadium and smart city solutions.

A series of smart cameras running the S&ST operating system are installed in key areas throughout the stadium that are equipped with Artificial Intelligence-enabled video analytic applications. Once the ArenA reopens, staff will be able to mine valuable operational insights from the camera such as real-time visitor flow, crowd behaviour, parking conditions and other insights that will help make crucial real-time decisions to manage and optimise these conditions to ensure the safety and privacy of fans, players and game-day personnel.

COVID-19 related uses for smart surveillance

When the ArenA reopens, crowd detection analytics will monitor social distancing compliance and visitor flow around entrances and food or merchandise kiosks. License plate recognition cameras will assist with real time occupancy monitoring for parking and traffic flow optimization.  Queue detection applications can be employed to reduce visitor wait times at food and beverage stalls by directing fans to less busy areas and by providing the insights required to optimise staffing levels at peak times. In one specific area, a camera also provides the ability for visitors to provide feedback about their stadium experience in an anonymous and contact-free way by detecting the visual of a “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” from a visitor, collecting only the rating without disrupting people flow.

Crowd detection applications are also able to detect people and the distances between them. Data from these applications offer a picture of crowd density across an entire venue, which is particularly ideal for larger stadiums such as the ArenA.  Such a “big picture” can be used to adjust venue layout in order to remove choke points where attendees may get too close to one another. By placing smart cameras near kiosks, ticket counters, food and beverage counters and other potential points of congregation, managers can determine if increased signage that encourages social distancing is needed.

One crucial concern for the ArenA, as well as stadiums around the world, is ensuring these technological solutions can be operated in compliance with local and national privacy regulations. By design, the S&ST supported cameras use powerful processors that analyse the images directly on the camera and can be configured to collect and transmit only the footage about relevant events, such as when a long queue is forming, groups of people gather too closely, or individuals are not wearing face coverings as required. This reduces the processing of visitors’ personal information to an absolute minimum as opposed to a traditional set-up where all footage is transmitted and centrally processed at all times.

While these applications can assist with COVID-19 related compliance, the ArenA plans to leverage the camera’s capabilities far beyond these short-term reopening needs and use them to gather valuable business intelligence and improve visitor experience.

There are numerous potential uses for JCA and other stadiums, since this new breed of cameras can be flexibly equipped and re-equipped with video analytics applications from an Application Store that features already close to 90 applications. The  applications cover a wide range of use cases, with more being added every month as innovation in computer vision progresses at a fast pace.

Maintain stadium safety and security

Smart cameras installed both inside and outside stadiums can help detect suspicious or aggressive visitor behavior before it becomes a potential incident. Fitted with powerful processors, the cameras continuously analyse video data and check it for particular movement patterns or detect potential escalations between opposing teams by analyzing visitor clothing, either inside the stadium or in the parking lot during pre-game festivities. If these activities are spotted in time, de-escalation measures can immediately be taken. Because of their on-device intelligence, smart cameras can detect individuals holding weapons and selectively upload related imagery to help security personnel or law enforcement assess and address the situation.

Manage the flow of visitor parking

Cameras outfitted with parking management apps and license plate recognition technology (LPR) help to direct traffic flow by detecting available spaces or recognizing when a particular parking area is full. They can also assist in controlling the flow of traffic at peak times to prevent jams and long waits at exits or recognise the vehicles of VIPs or season ticket holders and route them accordingly to the appropriate parking lot.

This technology can also reduce or eliminate the use of parking gates and ticketing machines, instead using LPR technology to track entry and exit times and integrate with parking payment systems for digital payments. This allows for a more frictionless, automatic process that can reduce staffing needs within parking management as well as minimize costs related to the hardware purchase and maintenance of the parking gates and ticketing devices.

Reduce waiting times at entrances and restrooms
In a manner similar to parking management, the flow of visitors inside stadiums can be assessed and controlled. Smart cameras analyse visitor behavior in real time and assist in predicting large numbers of visitors in standstill areas such as queues for restrooms, concessions or fan merchandise, making it possible to divert visitors to less busy areas and prevent congestion and gathering, or long wait times. This can also reduce the number of crowd outbursts, improve public safety by monitoring entry and exits, as well as securing cash handling procedures during events.

While many stadium facilities will be implementing technologies designed to mitigate risk from the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in smart surveillance cameras that can be repurposed later enables them to design a sustainable system with robust application offerings for all types of scenarios. The key is to invest in this technology today to have the flexibility when it will be needed the next time. Stadium operators should look to select a camera system that enables them to continually harness emerging video analytics capabilities that help maximise event attendee satisfaction, enhance operations and increase security and safety.

For further information please visit www.securityandsafetythings.com 


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