Exclusive: Utilising open platforms in the real world

Azena

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Fabio Marti, Vice President, Marketing at Azena delves into how open platforms can be used to boost safety and security.

Like many large facilities, stadiums and sports venues are much more complex than meets the eye. In addition to the playing fields, stadiums have operations in retail, food and beverage, office space, medical and athletic training areas, groundskeeping and parking, making them microcosms of the cities that they serve. These facilities, with both public and private spaces, have different security and operational needs that are increasingly being served by a new generation of smart camera technologies, helping to streamline many aspects of modern-day sporting venue operations.

Traditionally, security operations at sporting venues centred around CCTV operations, enabling security staff to monitor game-day crowd activities and watch for potential issues unfolding as fans enter and exit the facility. Similarly, operators were using the cameras to monitor the shops and food areas for potential theft, slips and falls or unruly fan behaviour. The use of new smart cameras equipped with video analytic applications is automating the detection of these incidents, alleviating the burden on human operators tasked with live monitoring of video during busy game days. 

Not only are these smart camera solutions helping sporting venues to increase safety and security procedures, they also can be used to enhance the visitor and fan experience. In the stadium space, smart cameras assist event managers and facility staff in gaining a greater understanding of attendee behaviour, opening up new opportunities to optimise the event process and dynamically allocate resources on game days and during other large public events.

Equipped with Artificial Intelligence-enabled video analytic applications, smart cameras enable staff to mine valuable operational insights, such as information about real-time visitor flow, crowd behaviour and parking conditions. These smart cameras are capable of simultaneously running multiple analytic applications on a single camera. These insights will help operations staff 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

Crowd detection analytics can monitor social distancing compliance and visitor flow around entrances and food or merchandise kiosks. License plate recognition cameras assist with real time occupancy monitoring for parking and traffic flow optimisation.  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. Cameras can also provide 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 a “big picture” can be used to adjust venue layout 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.

Stadiums around the world also need to ensure that these technological solutions can be operated in compliance with local and national privacy regulations. By design, smart cameras, such as those supported by Azena, use powerful processors that can analyse the images directly on the camera. The cameras 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, stadiums can leverage the camera’s capabilities far beyond these short-term reopening needs and use them to gather valuable business intelligence and improve visitor experience. This new breed of cameras can be flexibly equipped and re-equipped with video analytics applications from an Application Store that features more than 100 different applications, covering 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 behaviour before it becomes a potential incident. Using powerful processors, the cameras continuously analyse video data and check it for specific movement patterns or to detect potential escalations between opposing teams by analysing 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.

Reduce waiting times at entrances and restrooms
Particularly during these pandemic times, the ability to monitor and manage the flow of visitors inside stadiums is important for health and safety requirements. Smart cameras analyse visitor behaviour 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.

Streamlining stadium parking operations

The influx and exit of tens of thousands of vehicles on game days can be one of the more challenging aspects of live sporting events. The growing deployments of smart cameras in stadiums around the world are helping to alleviate many of the traditional chokepoints of parking operations. With capabilities ranging from license plate recognition to traffic flow detection and speed as well as a host of other utilities, analytics can also detect the presence of smoke, fire, ice and spills or other hazards within the parking environment.

Smart vehicle routing and reduced hardware maintenance costs

Smart cameras can 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 minimise costs related to the hardware purchase and maintenance of the parking gates and ticketing devices.

Additionally, cameras outfitted with parking management apps can help to direct traffic flow by analysing the queue of vehicles waiting to enter the facility and pairing them to available spaces or recognising 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 identify the vehicles of VIPs or season ticket holders at an event venue and route them accordingly to the appropriate parking lot.

Parking lot monitoring and incident detection Smart cameras can also help to manage people, providing valuable security and visitor management functions. Crowd detection analytics can detect the formation of a crowd in the stadium parking lot before it escalates into a post-game brawl, weapons detection analytics can detect the presence of a firearm and people counting analytics can detect the number of occupants within each vehicle entering a parking area to better determine anticipated attendance of an event or daily occupancy level of a corporate office location.

For more information, visit: www.azena.com

This article was originally published in the January 2022 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here.

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