It’s a sad fact that stadiums and other types of arena are now a target for terrorists and other criminals. Ian Robinson looks at the technology and innovations that will mitigate security risks and change the way fans experience an event.
Over the past five years, incorporating security into existing or proposed designs has become a matter of urgency in the sporting and hospitality sectors.
Arenas, stadiums or even clubs hosting events with large congregations of people have become a target for attacks organised terrorist groups and lone gunmen.
One leading theory is sporting or musical events bring together a multitude of ethnicities, religions and backgrounds – something terrorist organisations seek to dismantle. This cultural and religious diversity is a key-motivating factor for groups such as Islamic State and is even promoted by key antagonists within terrorist organisations, as well as terrorist propaganda such as Inspire – an al-Qaeda publication.
The media attention given to these events are a driver for groups like IS, as it perpetuates its propaganda campaign and allows the use of social media to escalate the cause.
This combined with a large number of people condensed into one target or predetermined ‘nipping’ points, such as entrances and exits, makes stadiums a prominent target.
New and innovative technology has made great strides in hindering the progress of potential attackers by obstructing direct and proximity access to the target. Hindering progress is a key early tactic in any integrated security system – you can read more on this in our blog about perimeter security.
However, this can have the effect of moving the threat rather than nullifying it. As a result, the target and method of attack will vary – something organisers and security personnel will need to be mindful of.
For example, with tighter security inside stadiums, the threat could transfer to the entrance and exit of the building as well as routes to and from the venue.
This is why integrated security is so important. It’s not enough to simply think about the security of the building – instead, we have to consider how people will be travelling to the venue, where might they congregate beforehand or afterwards, and how can the security services mitigate those risks?
The smart stadium
While new strategies and considerations must be given to an ever-changing threat, technology undoubtedly forms a major part of the response.
Smart stadiums do not rely solely on physical deterrents, but by taking integrated security to the next level without impeding the experience for fans – in fact, it can even enhance it depending on how the technology is used.
There’s a huge range of innovative solutions ready to be implemented in existing and new stadiums, but optimised facial recognition, behavioural analytics and access scanning equipment are perhaps the three game changers here.
Optimised facial recognition
The use of optimised facial recognition in conjunction with extremely high-resolution IP cameras can provide a smooth method of entry to the stadium by integrating with the access control system. This has the simultaneous effect of seamless entry to the venue, while images can also be matched against a watched list or blacklist of specific individuals preventing unwarranted access.
This does not only apply to terrorists or criminals, but also as an to crowd control and to monitor “known” individuals. This system would also learn from each event, gaining robustness and becoming smarter. For example, smart stadium security at a football match could begin to identify and recognise individuals that liable to causing trouble at the event – perhaps someone who does not warrant being banned from the event, but a person to keep an eye on.
This frees up security personnel and stadium staff to get on with their “day job”, with the system alerting and redeploying staff to deal with a potential situation if required.
Unsurprisingly, behavioural analytics is a field of research and development that is rapidly being used in crowd control situations around the world. The ability to monitor a situation and be able to predict potential threats or crowd unrest is a key tool to help security staff and other personnel respond quickly to real-time data.
Behavioural analytics software and artificial intelligence can identify patterns of behaviour associated with violence or other activities that could compromise the safety of a crowd. This can be used to alert authorities to a heated situation before it erupts.
Moreover, it can begin to build up a profile of fans (at a regular event) so potential risks can be identified beforehand.
Analytics software, running off the CCTV System, learn and recognise the events leading up to any issues occurring. The more scenarios the software reviews, the earlier it can detect the issue, which can then be reviewed and mitigation can take place.
Access scanning equipment
We are all aware of the obligatory walk-through metal detectors most commonly found in airports, but the technology has advanced considerably over the past 10 years.
Walk-through monitors can now detect a multitude of substances that could pose a threat in an enclosed stadium environment. In fact, the “sniffing” technology on these monitors can be used to detect anything from excess alcohol through to nuclear material.
The access control barriers could then be used to divert the individual into a containment room away from the general public.
The fan experience
Smart stadium technology has the capability to make the fan experience safer, but they also can enhance it too. WiFi and stadium apps could allow fans to order snacks from the comfort of their seat, check on the queue for the toilet, or even access replays and other camera angles on their mobile phone.
While smart technology and security has the potential to improve the fan experience, there are some considerations for even organisers, stadium owners, and security personnel to keep in mind:
- Event organisers will need to understand the increased financial and logistical challenges and develop a strategy of how to control them.
- Education of the customer is key so they understand that every major sporting and musical event will have heightened security procedures to mitigate risks.
- Event organisers should allow more time for customers to enter the venue.
- The effects of slowing entry into the event will cause its own problems as crowds will gather on approach routes, presenting an alternative target. This risk will also need to be mitigated.
- The public will in turn need to understand their own risk from attending these events – organisers will need to develop an approach and response that works with the emergency services.
The risk at stadiums, or anywhere the public gathers, cannot be eradicated, but clearly smart stadiums have a big role to play to enable security personnel and organisers to do their job more effectively.