Delivering Big Wins
Innovative integrations allow stadiums to provide enhanced safety and security, while increasing operational efficiencies and supporting staff
- By Mark McCormack
- Aug 01, 2023
If we have learned anything from the past few years, it is that “the unknown” is one of the biggest challenges for stadiums and public venues. With an ever-changing environment, security departments must prepare for those “if” scenarios, now more than ever before. But the challenges for stadiums and other large venues go beyond the unknown and includes social unrest, crime and increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic in surrounding urban areas; hiring and staffing difficulties; and the necessity of protecting the environment 24/7/365, just to name a few.
With all these challenges as a part of the operational landscape, newer technologies and thoughtful integrations are taking center stage for venues – not only delivering security and safety to staff, employees, visitors and facilities, but also increasing operational efficiencies and providing tools for retention and support of existing employees.
By leveraging technology and implementing strategic integrations, security departments can bring value to a function that does not traditionally bring money into the business. Additionally, stadium management has opportunity to train security staff and cross-train other employees on installed technology, increasing the collective knowledge of staff, offering them continued education opportunities and deeper insights into building operations, and supporting employee retention.
Let’s take a look at several ways stadiums can use integrated technology to support existing staff, streamline security and operations, and boost the “people” experience from the outside on in.
Starting With the Perimeter
There was a time when many stadiums only needed temporary or hourly workers during game day. However, with salaried departments working on site, special events expanding hours throughout the year, and the publicly accessible environment surrounding many properties, stadiums and venues have had to adjust to securing their sites around the clock – all while pushing their perimeters out farther from the building to achieve a proactive security posture against the ever-moving target of the unknown.
At the perimeter, new technologies can provide immense value. For example, license plate recognition (LPR) technology can have a number of uses for stadiums. Season ticket holders can enroll in LPR programs for easy access into designated parking areas. Integrated with video surveillance and garage or gate access control, LPR tech can alert staff to VIPs, players or entertainers entering parking areas, streamlining the VIP experience.
When integrated with outdoor video cameras or sensors, analytics can track and alert staff to bottlenecks within parking lots. For instance, when analytics detect a full parking area, staff can be deployed to direct traffic or digital signage can be programmed to direct drivers to another parking area.
Intercoms and speakers integrated with analytics, video surveillance, sensors and a centralized VMS allow stadium operators to streamline several operations and make do with less staff beyond parking lots. Instead of police or security staff stationed at each entrance on the outside of a facility, for example, IP audio can give directions to visitors at set times or based on a triggered event, such as blocking an entrance, trying to enter a locked door or loitering. Video clips can be sent to staff to decide if a live response is needed.
For one large outdoor baseball venue, keeping certain gates locked to control entry became a necessity post-COVID, but some visitors decided to jump the fence or pursue forbidden entry regardless of the new restrictions. Video analytics and IP audio targeted this issue, alerting staff to potential incidents while triggering automated responses over speakers to mitigate the undesired access.
In addition, video surveillance integrated with analytics and audio can keep situations from escalating to dangerous behavior while tailgating or during pre-game events by alerting security staff to potentially aggressive behavior, gunshots or more. Such integrations can give staff access to pinpointed locations, time-stamped video clips, and a level of situational awareness that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.
Situational awareness on the perimeter can also be achieved during nighttime or off-hours. All-weather thermal cameras integrated with motion detection, edge-based analytics and cloud technology allow stadium staff to keep continued remote visibility when an incident occurs and respond or loop in law enforcement if necessary.
Ticketing and Merchandise
When it comes to entering stadium venues, newer bag and people screening technology allows for faster, more efficient entry, reducing bottlenecks and the need for extra staff – and alerting existing staff to issues that need attention.
Video surveillance and targeted analytics can enhance the ticketing and entry experience too. Analytics can detect suspicious objects or behavior, as well as be used for people counting during ingress and egress. If a camera detects a gate is backed up with long lines, for example, more staff can be requested to the gate or, alternatively, speakers can automatically or manually encourage visitors to move to another gate for entry or screening.
Audio can come in handy for severe weather events affecting indoor or outdoor venues too. Instead of sending in-person staff around with bullhorns to alert visitors to evacuate or take cover, automated IP audio can give clear, repeated directions.
Facial recognition technology integrated with video surveillance, intercoms and/or access control has a number of use cases inside the stadium walls as well. Some stadiums are piloting ticketless entry or kiosk entry tied to facial recognition that allow visitors to opt in with biometric information for a faster experience inside the stadium. Once enrolled, the technology has the added potential to help identify people in case of an emergency, as well as create a frictionless experience in stores and at concessions.
Such integrations can streamline the VIP, player and employee experience, allowing for touchless entry into restricted areas inside the stadium, while providing security and operations staff insight into the location of important stakeholders.
During games and live events, situational awareness is key to a proactive security posture. Gunshot detection or behavioral analytics tied with video surveillance can give operations staff pertinent information when an incident is detected.
In addition to using analytics for greater situational awareness, stadiums are tapping into other technologies like mobile apps and texting to leverage crowdsourcing whereby fans can alert the operations center about fights, aggressive behavior or other issues in the stands. Aside from emergency situations, other technologies like people counting analytics can be used for restrooms, concession stands or condiment areas to alert staff to areas that need attention or restocking.
Along with traditional video cameras, body cams can increase situational awareness, support employees, streamline responses and aid training. Worn video surveillance may serve as a deterrent on the ground, while helping to document incidents that staff encounter. Body cam footage can be used as digital evidence and to help support staff with a visual record of an event. Integrations with a video management system allow body cam video to be accessed on one central platform, along with other video cameras, sensors, intercoms, access control and other deployed technology.
Body cams can also be beneficial for training scenarios, giving staff real events to learn and grow from, and giving management insight into training gaps or areas for improvement.
Another integration that can be particularly impactful for stadium settings is cross communication and connection with law enforcement and first responders. Targeted integrations can allow operations staff to manually or automatically send video, audio and location information directly to law enforcement for response in the event of an emergency incident. With these integrations, first responders have access to crucial information surrounding an incident for faster, more targeted response. For large venues or international events, seamless communication with public service departments is essential to enhancing response and removing the burden of staff to relay vital information in an emergency.
Technology to Adapt
Today’s security technology can be a force multiplier for existing staff during game time and beyond, but the true advantages of integration and relevant analytics are further realized with two things: open platform technology and a VMS.
A centralized VMS offers stakeholders and security personnel one platform to view all technology installations, providing further insights, response options, reporting, evidence and a highly informed view that could not be achieved otherwise.
In addition, using open platform and open standards technologies can be particularly helpful for stadium operators as it allows stakeholders more options for customized, tailored analytics and integrations that can pinpoint the organization’s specific pain points and challenges.
The ability for customization also makes it easier for stadiums to adapt and grow with the organization’s changing needs and challenges – and, ultimately, the ability to adapt will justify (and in many cases lower) the total cost of ownership of new technology investments. Though the threat of the unknown will continue to morph and change, the right security technology offers the opportunity to help stakeholders adapt and grow right along with the ever-changing threat landscape of public venues.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2023 issue of Security Today.