Exclusive: Boosting stadium security with AI technology

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Mark Zayek, COO of Astrophysics Inc. discusses how the use of Artificial Intelligence can help to improve stadium security.

As we pass the one year anniversary since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, our daily lives still remain dramatically disrupted. Travel remains low from pre-pandemic highs, corporations are slowly bringing employees back to their offices and stadiums remain quiet as sporting events, concerts and live performances gradually open back up. Live events have started again and their return will mark a shift away from a year that centred on global health concerns and back towards pressing security issues. As people gather again for live events, stadiums and arenas will once again be tasked with protecting fans, athletes, performers and their staff at these potential targets.

Arenas can be challenging locations to properly protect. They have multiple entrances for both the general public and players, performers and staff; each entrance requires security checkpoints that prevent threats from entering the facility. Layouts may change from event to event, requiring staff and equipment to relocate to accommodate shifting security procedures. On top of it all, threats are constantly evolving, requiring security personnel and their systems to stay up-to-date with the latest screening and threat identification tools.

There is one stadium security tool perfectly suited to meet all these challenges: x-ray screening. These non-intrusive, high-throughput scanners can quickly evaluate backpacks, purses, bags and deliveries to locate threats and verify shipping manifests. Scanners equipped with enhanced mobility packages can relocate quickly and help security personnel adjust to changing security needs. The latest technologies, including Astrophysics’ Artificial Intelligence (AI) software, decreasing the need for extra security personnel while improving threat detection and ensuring throughput is not impacted during popular events.

In fact, Astrophysics offers an x-ray scanner designed specifically to protect stadiums and arenas that includes all these advanced features: the XIS-6040SE with AI. This modular scanner, based on our most popular design, is ideally suited to protect fans, performers and staff at live events, for the reasons we will explore below.

Built for stadium security

Stadiums are fast-paced, high-energy environments. Security scanners need to be designed to operate and keep pace with all the activity within those locations and the XIS-6040SE is perfect for that mission.

The XIS-6040SE is a checkpoint scanner designed to screen backpacks, parcels and packages for hidden threat objects. Its compact design allows for deployment in the tightest locations and it comes equipped with the latest advanced imaging technology including colour imaging and material discrimination.

The XIS-6040SE is also optimised for operating in stadium environments. It is designed with a mobility package for easy relocation. Its shock-absorbing wheels, stainless steel handles and collapsible roller table all facilitate quick and easy movement around any facility and allow for rapid redeployment to new checkpoints. Its spill-resistant conveyor belt protects its critical components from liquids, ensuring neither security personnel nor exciting fans accidentally damage this critical equipment.

These features pair well with the scanner’s compact frame, helping it fit through narrow doorways and move down small hallways. This small footprint allows it to operate in nearly any location and serve as the focal point of any security checkpoint. In arenas, speed and flexibility are critical. The XIS-6040SE is ideally designed for these environments, delivering critical security screening when and where it is needed.

Advanced Artificial Intelligence imaging technology

All Astrophysics’ scanners come equipped with industry-leading imaging technology. High-resolution images are displayed with 24-bit colour. Combined with enhanced material discrimination, operators can quickly identify an object’s material composition, helping determine whether it is harmless or threatening. Enhanced Imaging (EI) and high-contrast analysis deliver clear, precise images, making sure no threat escapes security personnel detection.

The key element of effective security screening has traditionally been the use of well-trained personnel operating the equipment. Highly trained screeners understand the scanner’s features and can leverage its capabilities to quickly screen numerous objects without slowing throughput. The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically impacted facilities’ ability to recruit, train and maintain effective screening personnel. Budgets were cut while arenas and stadiums sat empty and personnel who contracted COVID-19 had massive negative impacts on security operations.

The challenge in stadiums and arenas often comes down to understaffed or undertrained security personnel. These personnel may not be familiar with how to operate x-ray scanners and received minimal training in how to effectively screen objects. However, rapidly improving technology, including advanced neural networks and artificial intelligence, are now making those concerns a thing of the past.

Astrophysics’ AI software supports and supplements security screening with even the most novice personnel. This fully-integrated screening software provides automated threat recognition and is available on all Astrophysics units. This cutting-edge technology is a game-changer for critical infrastructure checkpoint security.

The AI software is fully adaptable and learns how to recognise and better identify threats as it analyses more scanned images. The system is also so adept at finding hidden objects, it can identify threats that are hidden, rotated or partially obscured, ensuring no object escapes detection. Once a suspicious object is located, whether it might be a knife, gun, or liquid container, the software highlights its location on screen and notifies security personnel that a physical inspection is needed. Best of all, it does not require extensive training for personnel – simply activate a scanner equipped with Astrophysics’ AI and start screening.

A revolution in X-ray security

The XIS-6040SE with AI will revolutionise x-ray screening, especially for stadiums and arenas. As these locations reopen for live events, they will need to balance not only keeping performers, fans and their staff safe, but also juggle costs with limited revenues as event capacities slowly increase. Time and resources will be limited, making AI software a key tool in ensuring screening checkpoints are ready for the rush of fans returning for live events.

AI software will not pry into athlete’s personal belongings – it simply scans an object, looks for identifiable threats and then quickly moves on to the next object to scan. The AI software does not differentiate between fans, performers or staff – it takes the same objective approach to every object it scans. It eliminates opportunities for profiling and removes biases from the screening process, ensuring everyone is treated the same as they enter a facility.

As capacities expand, the arenas will then need to adjust their security plans and checkpoint layouts to accommodate larger crowds. Different events, such as sporting events, concerts and live performances, will require different checkpoint configurations to manage throughput while screening every fan that enters the facility. If an arena hosts a sporting event one night and then immediately follows it up with a concert the next, screening personnel can efficiently relocate the scanners before the first fan arrives for the new event.

Stadium security checkpoints are the perfect locations for the compact, mobile XIS-640SE. When paired with AI technology, even the least experienced security operator can quickly and effectively screen fans and staff at a very high throughput, without sacrificing performance or overall security. Facilities can also save on labour costs by not needing to worry about hiring additional staff or training them on the new system. This extra benefit helps drive home how critical x-ray security is for stadiums and arenas and how easily it can be incorporated into existing security budgets.


This article was published in the May 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy on the link here

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