Archive for April, 2014

The Robot in the Stadium

The security robot rolled down the access tunnel at the start of its shift and began its initial patrol.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

Robot patrolling the receiving dock, and monitoring changing temperatures.

It was late on Thursday night and the stadium was quiet now. It would start to get busy again in just a few hours as the preparation for the big game on Saturday escalated. But for now, the halls, tunnels and corridors were pretty quiet. The security team had been busy during the day: checking in all the vendors, providing access to storage areas, and dealing with the thousands of little problems that crop up. But now it was quiet.

 As it traveled the robot used its sensors to scan the corridor. It was looking for intruders using integrated thermal sensors and sonar, checking the air for any signs of smoke or explosive gas, and  mapping the current position of any boxes, crates, or other objects left by the vendors that day.

The annual attendance at major sporting events in the US is significant; in 2005 over 277 million tickets were sold for paid events. Events like the Indianapolis 500 race can have over 200,000 fans in attendance, and college football games frequently see attendance figures approaching or exceeding 100,000 fans. Keeping these people safe is a monumental task.

Due to the expected attendance at the game, security was especially tight, and the robot had a new sensor package installed, allowing it to read the vendor’s RFID badges while on patrol, ensuring the vendors were where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there. Of course, at 11:00 pm there was no expectation that any vendors would be in the stadium, nevertheless the robot diligently scanned for responses. As it worked its way under the visitor’s stands, it noted a packing crate left in the corridor. It slowed down to investigate.

Scene of a tailgate party at a college football game. cars and people and foot in front of the staduim.

Tailgate party at a college football event.

To put things into perspective, about 50,000 people worked in the two towers of the World Trade Center, while nearly 165,000 attended the 2013 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. These events are tricky to secure since fans typically arrive very early (sometimes days in advance) and often bring vehicles loaded with the supplies and equipment for ‘tailgate parties.’

The robot compared the crate with its mental model, and determined that the crate was not present on its last patrol of the area, which meant that someone must be in the facility. It checked with the access database and found out that no vendors were supposed to be in the building.  Checking with its security map detailing where the cameras were located in the stadium, it concluded that this crate was not in an area covered by a security camera. The robot’s artificial intelligence quickly evaluated the situation:  a crate left behind, no one suppose to be in the facility, and no current cameras to monitor activity. All these potential problems lead to a threat assessment way above its current threshold. The security robot sent an alarm to the Security Operations Center (SOC). 

One key strength of the security team is the ability to adapt to changing conditions, and to respond when potential problems are spotted. One weakness is that, generally, nothing happens. This means that the security teams need to stay focused and alert during long periods of dull, monotonous activity.  People are not good at that – but robots and computers excel at diligent vigilance for long periods of time. This makes human/robot teams an ideal tool for the security tool box.

The robot received a command from the SOC to activate the optional* explosive vapor detection system and move in close to the package. After a few seconds the robot reported no indication of explosives. The SOC then directed the robot to do a fast sweep of the rest of the corridor, while the human officers raced down to the suspicious package, secure in the knowledge that it was safe to do so.

As the robot rounded the corner, its RFID reader picked up a response from a vendor tag. The tag had been discarded into a pile of trash near the wall, where it might have been swept up the following day.  With the human members of the security team now at the incident site, the robot could go back to its regular patrols, keeping the stadium safe.


Where is your Robot?® Gamma 2 Robotics robots are designed to work in stadiums, arenas and other sports facilities to keep people safe.

Find out more at Gamma 2 Robotics!

* integration currently under development, not yet available

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