How the IoT Helped Keep Super Bowl LI Safe

Last month’s Super Bowl went far beyond the championship football game to include a series of events, including a nine-day fan festival anchored in Discovery Green, a 12-acre park in the heart of downtown Houston. With a high profile and more than a million spectators, the event created an obvious target for attack. Authorities responsible for protecting the Super Bowl festivities knew the importance of coordinating the vast public safety presence at the event to provide the fastest and most informed response to any terrorist or criminal threat or activity.

The authorities had the benefit of being able to draw from a wide range of data feeds, including surveillance video, audio sensors, traffic sensors, alarms, and phoned-in reports. In the period leading up to the game, Houston’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security selected dome network cameras, thermal network cameras, and audio sensors to monitor key areas of the Discovery Green, such as entrances, stages and entertainment areas. The dome network cameras provided long-range, high definition recording capabilities with autofocus. The motion-sensing thermal cameras provided the ability to track nighttime intruders. The audio sensors detected aggressive sounds.

But manpower limitations made it impossible for public safety personnel to adequately monitor the huge amounts of data generated by these sensors. The people responsible for viewing the feeds and making decisions would have been overwhelmed by the huge volumes of data to the point that they could have easily missed danger signs until long after they first appeared. Even after they were notified of an event is occurring, it would have taken considerable time to identify the most relevant information sources and formulate a response.

The City of Houston used the Vidsys software platform to integrate the wide range of sensors and devices together with analytics onto an integrated command center display. The IoT-based technology collected information from the data feeds and used rules to present decision-makers with the most relevant data. Workflow and collaboration tools helped ensure that the data was used as effectively as possible to neutralize any threat.

The application used to protect Super Bowl LI was put together in less than a week by taking advantage of the platform’s ability to automatically discover and connect to sensors on the network. The software platform’s rules engine and workflow tools were used to configure what data should be correlated and what data should be filtered out. The software runs over the cloud, so there was no need to purchase, install, or configure hardware.

The software brought together all of the appropriate video feeds and data sources into a single dashboard. Algorithms analyzed the data and sent notifications to human operators of suspicious events, such as when someone left a backpack behind or screamed. In case of a suspicious event, command center operators were notified and cameras automatically zoomed in. Operators were also presented with the location of the incident and the surrounding security assets on a map along with the organization’s approved concept of operations (con-ops) for evaluation and resolution of the incident to ensure compliance and swift resolution. Once the situation was resolved, the information was added to reports for after action analysis, and these reports could be clicked through to the underlying video.

For example, vehicles parked in zones where cars are prohibited were detected either by analysis of a video image, a vehicle detection loop sensor, or by a phoned-in report. Once such a vehicle was parked for a pre-specified time, an operator was notified and cameras in the area were trained on the offending vehicle so the operator could inspect the vehicle from different angles and run the license plate. With a single click, the operator was able to route the information to a supervisor or specialist to put another set of eyes on the issue.

When operators tracked suspicious persons through the event venue, the software integrated all of the relevant information, including video and sensor data. Video cameras automatically tracked the movement of the person, and the video feeds from the cameras closest to the person were automatically displayed.

The software was also configured with workflows so that events that met specified criteria were automatically routed to a supervisor. First responders, supervisors, IT staff, and senior executives with authorized credentials were able access the dashboard from anywhere via a cellphone or tablet for enhanced situational awareness. First responders also used mobile clients to push information to the command center.

“The city of Houston used the IoT as an interactive collaborative dashboard to easily share information with the various agencies involved in the event and encourage closer collaboration between security stakeholders,” said James Cheong, Chief Executive Officer of Vidsys. “While large events are always a logistical challenge, having the right technology, people, and process, along with a strong partnership, reinforced a well-executed program at Super Bowl LI.”

Image by Texas.713 on Flickr (CC by 2.0)

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