As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, billions of devices are networked each year. As the number of end devices continues to grow, the technology is becoming smarter and more versatile. These developments have ushered in a new breed of smart security cameras that can not only provide data-rich video, but analyze 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.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, once restrictions are lifted, many stadiums will be searching for solutions to help them increase safety and security procedures, while enhancing visitor experience. Smarter surveillance cameras will likely play an important role in that by providing the operational intelligence required to take the right actions and automate processes to help visitors and operators alike.

A wealth of intelligence previously unavailable will enable end-users to the usefulness of their cameras beyond security. In the stadium space, event managers can use smart cameras to gain a greater understanding of attendee behavior, opening up new opportunities to optimize the event process and dynamically allocate resources at sporting centers and other events – thus ensuring every visit is a safe experience.

COVID-19 related uses for smart surveillance

When stadiums begin the process of reopening and evaluating existing infrastructure, flexibility is key. Smart surveillance cameras, equipped with zone counting apps are able to track people entering and exiting both the main venue and any additional areas, which might also have controlled access or occupancy limits– such as VIP sections. When placed at an entrance or exit, the cameras can partially, or fully, automate the process of occupancy management. When the maximum number of people is reached, venue staff can be alerted through a text notification allowing them to take proper action and notify personnel.

Taking it a step further than people counting, crowd detection applications can 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 or facilities.  Such a “big picture” can be used to adjust venue layout in order to remove choke points where attendees 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, if floor markers are necessary to maintain proper spacing or whether other measures should be implemented to ensure a safer experience.

In addition to occupancy management and monitoring of social distancing, smart cameras can also automate the enforcement process of other health and safety policies, such as the wearing of proper face protection. Using smart cameras equipped with object detection analytics, personnel can be alerted to attendees entering the venue without a face covering as well as determine the average number of people who violate this policy, allowing managers to identify problem areas and increase signage or allocate security personnel where needed.

While these applications can assist with COVID-19 related compliance – the capabilities extend far beyond these short-term needs. Once the pandemic is under control, these smart cameras can be flexibly equipped to generate valuable business intelligence and improve visitor experience. Below are a few long-term ways intelligent video analytics can assist in the event sector:

Maintain stadium safety and security

Smart cameras near stadiums can help to detect suspicious or aggressive visitor behavior before action is taken. Fitted with powerful processors, the cameras continuously analyze video data and check it for particular movement patterns, or detect potential escalations between opposing teams by analyzing visitor clothing. If these activities are spotted in time, de-escalation measures can immediately be taken. Because of their on-device intelligence, smart cameras can recognize a suspicious person. These devices may also detect individuals holding guns and selectively upload related imagery to help security personnel or law enforcement assess and address the situation.

Manage the flow of visitor parking

Often the most difficult and tedious task for visitors, the search for a parking space near stadiums and sports centers can be a true test of patience – if at times a deterrent from the event itself. Smart parking concepts through the use of AI-enabled cameras are intended to make parking before and after events easier and safer. These cameras can detect empty parking spaces and direct visitors to them using guidance systems. They can also assist in controlling the flow of traffic at peak times to prevent jams and long waits at exits. Assisting with visitor traffic will be particularly useful in managing large events, especially once restrictions on gatherings are lifted. Additionally, in the instances of attendance caps, smart cameras can help manage distance requirements and volume limits for attendee queues, as well as visitor access to specific areas within the event space.

Reduce waiting times at entrances and restrooms
In a manner similar to parking management, the flow of visitors inside stadiums can be analyzed and controlled. Smart cameras analyze visitor behavior in real time and assist in predicting large numbers of visitors in standstill areas. This technology makes it possible to divert visitors to less busy areas and prevent congestion and gathering, or long wait times. In this way, IoT cameras contribute to optimizing processes in the building and increasing visitor satisfaction and safety. This can also reduce the number of crowd outbursts, improve public safety by monitoring entry and exits, as well as securing cash handling procedures.

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 and bet on a camera system that enables stadium facilities to continually harness emerging video analytics capabilities to increase event attendee satisfaction, enhance operations and increase security and safety.