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Solving Stadium Security Challenges with Robots

In an era when everyday security demands have reached levels that were truly unimaginable just 20 years ago, the technologies being implemented by forward-thinking security teams equally defy tradition. A case in point: security robots, once viewed as an oddity, are becoming more commonplace as security directors recognize the value they bring to their security solutions arsenal. Industrial spaces, and more recently shopping malls and corporate environments, have been successful early adopters of security robots, but their potential value for solving security challenges within stadiums and arenas is undeniable as well.

Security directors who have integrated security robots into their operations have found them to be a welcome addition to their security teams. Robots on patrol can be pivotal in providing security personnel with important information, allowing them to respond to incidents in real-time. They can detect a potential threat, identify anomalies and communicate with human security personnel via audio/video chat to quickly mitigate risks. But for security management at large stadium venues, their potential benefits extend beyond security and into the realm of convenience, providing a mechanism to improve the fan experience while reducing staffing costs.

Welcoming thousands of fans in a huge space, stadiums are hard pressed to staff enough people to effectively admit spectators, direct fans to their seats, show them to the nearest exit, or even let them know where the nearest concession stand or lavatory is located. From a flow-of-traffic perspective, strategically located robots can serve as stand-alone “Information Kiosks” throughout a venue, helping to keep people supported and moving about in an orderly fashion. And, unlike traditional kiosk structures, robots can easily “move themselves” to new locations to best serve the changing needs and traffic flow of specific events.

Robots stationed as Information Kiosks are like super-human helpers. In addition to providing directions and answering questions, they are also a highly effective tool for supporting emergency situations related to security, health and safety. Their sophisticated sensors can pick up on unusual changes in temperature, as well as detect fire and the presence of questionable levels of CO in the air – all critical concerns in any sports arena packed with people. If a fight or disturbance breaks out in the stands, spectators can alert their nearest robot station so that security staff can be called in to diffuse the situation. In the event someone experiences a medical emergency, people can quickly convey this to the nearby robot to summon a paramedic. And, in this age when random shootings or acts of terror are top of mind to those charged with security in crowded spaces, a robot can serve as a trusted first responder. Equipped with audio anomaly detection capabilities, robots can sense an explosion or gunshot instantly, and alert emergency personnel for a rapid and educated response.

While the added convenience that robots can afford fans is readily seen, the benefits they deliver, from a security standpoint, often take place behind the scenes. Strategizing the most effective solutions to secure sensitive areas is enough to keep a security director up at night and, in a venue as vast as a stadium, sensitive areas run a wide gamut. They range from locker rooms to private parking garages, preferred VIP seating areas to press boxes, locations designated for coaching staff and players to food storage areas set aside for concession stand vendors. Using robots to solve some of the security challenges inherent to sensitive spaces is a viable solution.

Robots can screen visitors’ credentials and permit or deny them access to exclusive areas. They can be used to autonomously patrol less trafficked areas and, equipped with motion detection and other sensors, as well as AI, immediately alert staff when something out the ordinary is occurring. Their “human height” perspective and mobility allow them to sense, see and record activity that mounted video cameras might miss. They can also supplement the effectiveness of access control systems with their “Open Door” detection technology capabilities, quickly notifying security to close and lock doors that have been found open and checking out the area for any suspicious activity. Plus, any on-site video they record during that investigation can be later used as evidence.

The benefits and cost savings that robots bring to stadium security are a force multiplier for the security officers on site, helping them pinpoint where to better focus their energies. All those extra robotic “eyes and ears” can be monitored in real time from within a Security Operations Center, increasing situational awareness and, when necessary, guide an informed response by human staff. Plus, even after the fans have gone home and the stadium goes dark, robots can continue to shed light on the logistical areas where management can improve operations. The data they collect can be analyzed and serve as the foundation for strategies to both enhance the fan experience and increase the overall security of the stadium.

Security directors can benefit from the lessons learned from a recent study conducted by the University of Southern Mississippi and the National Center for Spectator Sport Safety and Security (NSC4). It clearly shows how robots at work can be instrumental in solving security challenges specific to sporting arenas. A Cobalt robot was deployed at the SAP Center in San Jose, California, home to the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, to assess its abilities, functions and effectiveness in supporting stadium security. For security directors responsible for such venues, the takeaways warrant serious consideration. They include:

  • The robot detects door openings, breaches, wet spills, and heated areas. Each of these sensors on the robot can be valuable and can lead to improved reaction time to incidents.
  • The robot camera technology operates well in varied lighting situations.
  • The robot is user friendly … durable and easy to look at.
  • [The robot can deliver] long-term cost savings … and help organizations with safety and general maintenance.
  • [The robot provided] sound detection from afar.

Check out the full scope of the study on the NCS4 website.

For additional information and to learn more about how robotics can help enhance stadium security, please visit the Cobalt booth #300 at the upcoming National Sports and Safety Conference & Exhibition July 9 – 11 at the New Orleans Marriott.