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    June 21, 2024

    All Access with Scott Johnson & Alcatraz AI

    Stadiums and arenas offer great escapes to watch teams compete or see concerts, experiences that create lifelong memories. One study of only professional sports fans on estimated that over 142 million people attend games each year in the U.S. alone.

    These same stadiums and arenas present complex security challenges, trying to protect fans' safety without intruding on their enjoyment of the event. Recently, Alcatraz was lucky to discuss the challenges of protecting stadiums and arenas with Scott Johnson, Senior Account Manager with GC&E Systems Group, a premier system integrator based in the Southeast.

    AllAccessWithAlcatraz_Scott Johnson

    Throughout Scott’s 16 years in the Security Industry, he has demonstrated an exceptional ability to provide his customers with design, installation, and service solutions for Access Control, Video Surveillance, and Mass Notification productsScott is leveraging this experience to solve security challenges for some of the U.S.'s most famous stadiums and arenas.

    Your vast experience in the security industry, both on the integrator and manufacturing sides of the business, gives you a unique perspective on the ever-changing security needs of large enterprises, including stadiums and arenas. Can you explain the current challenges stadiums and arenas face regarding access control and security?

    The amount of technology out there now is almost overwhelming, and it’s our goal as security integrators to help strategize the technology solutions that are pertinent to their needs. 

    We work to set up technology review meetings annually or bi-annually to showcase what emerging technologies are available to accommodate their security needs. We typically have a base security system in place, and it’s often our job to find the right solution that integrates well with that system. We work to mold these solutions together to create one unified platform. This particularly applies to stadiums and arenas where tens of thousands of people are in the facility one day and very few people the next. 

    Stadiums and arenas can host different tenants, such as multiple sports teams, concerts, and other forms of entertainment. How do stadiums facilitate access control for each event's players, security, media, employees, and staff?

    People work in these stadiums or arenas every day, like in a typical office building, but on event days, there is additional event staff, and these systems need to accommodate the rules for access in both scenarios. 

    We implement overarching software that manages all the necessary access rules and the validation of each individual user into designated access groups. This can also mean temporary systems used only on event day for the non-typical user to help accommodate access and make entry seamless.

    These expansive facilities have varying levels of secured spaces, from team locker rooms to equipment storage and server rooms.  What are some of the most difficult areas of stadiums and arenas to secure?

    Our solutions need to address the possible security threats that can arise with stadiums and arenas and provide actionable data before, during, and after public events. Still, the ticketed eventgoers are there to enjoy themselves, so they should not perceive a higher level of security. 

    The highest valued areas to protect are the Main Distribution Frame (MDF) / Intermediate Distribution Frame (IDF) areas, where the entire networking infrastructure of the facility is centered, which touches not only network broadcast equipment but also all of the event information displayed on public screens inside the arena. This is where biometric authentication is crucial because, with everything going on during events, it would be particularly easy to lose a physical credential. Here, we use biometrics as a second security factor that confirms the person's identity.  

    There are often many locations where high-dollar items are stored, along with VIP and Locker Room areas you don’t want the general public to enter. Working closely with the security and facilities teams within an event space helps the security integrator identify entry locations that need to be secured, whether via card access, biometrics, or a combination of both.

    What is the role of access control systems, including biometrics, in securing these challenging areas?

    A physical access control system is necessary to help control secured spaces. Without one, there is no method or process to track who enters a space and when. Centrally managing many spaces without the need for physical key management saves a tremendous amount of time and headaches. In addition, adding biometrics to doors, along with card readers, provides a variety of entry methods to the end user while still being able to manage each opening centrally. 

    Players and VIPs want to be free from the burden of an access control card. How do traditional access control methods compare to biometric systems regarding effectiveness and reliability in stadiums?

    We often encounter situations where players and VIPs are burdened by a physical credential they have to carry to access secured spaces. This is especially true during game day or practice scenarios when players can’t carry a badge. Biometrics, like Alcatraz AI that can seamlessly integrate with an existing system (while utilizing physical cards) are crucial to help streamline the entry process.

    Today, teams extend well beyond the stadium to practice facilities and other offices. Have you encountered instances where different sites employ different access control systems? 

    Our goal, as a system integrator, is to develop a unified platform to roll out amongst many of the various facilities that a Team might utilize.  We work closely with the end-user to help identify systems in place and consolidate/upgrade where needed to streamline the process.  This often means creating one database to manage cardholders so the end-user can facilitate access to one or many of these sites without having to log in to different platforms.

    Often, when we are brought into a situation like this, there are disparate systems, and people use multiple credentials to go into multiple buildings. Our job is to streamline that down into only one credential that will work across the entire organization or even eliminate a card using biometrics. This is only sometimes possible because the card is a visual sign that the individual should be allowed in a secured area. However, people appreciate the frictionless authentication of biometrics even when they still need to carry a card.

    What is your favorite feature of the Alcatraz Rock?

    One great feature, as an integrator, is the minimal need for SDK/ API integrations or even no integration needed, allowing us to quickly “bolt-on” Alcatraz to the systems in place. This saves time upfront when implementing Alcatraz and overtime as the system progresses. The way Alcatraz is designed, it is not likely that an update to the access system will cause issues, which is not the same with other biometric systems.

    The other thing I like about Alcatraz is the ease of user enrollment. There are three different ways to enroll users; it is the easiest new user enrollment that I have seen and truly my favorite feature of the Alcatraz solution. The ability to use Mobile Enrollment to add users via their own mobile device before they are onsite is a huge time saver for the facility and the user; we’ve had a lot of buy-in on using that feature.

    Finally, Alcatraz's ability to detect tailgating or crossing events at a stadium or arena is more important than that of corporate settings. When there are 70,000 people in an area, it would be easy for someone to follow an authorized user into a protected space. The fact that the Alcatraz solution sends an immediate alert to the access control system and that video from the Rock seamlessly integrates into the security video management system cuts down significantly on security response time to this type of security breach. If Alcatraz’s ease of integration, enrollment, and use are the best features, the way it helps cut down on response time is the icing on the cake.

    Tag(s): All Access , Blog

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