Security in sports venues is a collaborative effort and responsibility of both spectators and security staff such as stewards and first responders. The two different types of mobile apps (check “Dual Flavour” of Mobile apps) share functionalities and features, as needed for supporting the proper collaboration between stewards and spectators. Such collaboration is required at all times, yet it is very crucial during emergency events and evacuation processes.
Overall, the following functionalities must be supported by the apps:
Spectators Notification: The apps enable the delivery of notifications to the spectators during emergencies. Notifications concern the safety status of the stadium, such as the provision of information on whether an evacuation process is on-going.
Spectators’ Guidance and Instructions: The spectator’s mobile app provides context-aware guidance to the fans through indicating the nearest safe exit and the optimal route to reach it. Furthermore, other useful information (e.g., general instructions) can be delivered to spectators via the mobile app.
Identification of Spectators’ than need Assistance: This functionality is mostly relevant for the stewards mobile app. It helps stewards identify visitors that do not seem to progress with the evacuation procedure i.e., fans that need extra assistance. To support this functionality, the app must provide reliable location awareness features, while being able to visualize spectators on the venue’s map.
Stewards’ Two-Way Communication: The stewards mobile app must provide an alternative two-way communication channel for safety personnel and first responders. The advent of next generation networking technologies (e.g. 5G networks) promises to make this channel secure and reliable, even in extremely crowded settings where all fans and stewards use their mobile phone.
Stewards Control Room Communication: Stewards’ are also provided with the means of communication with security officers in the control room. Such communications are important in various occasions such as when there is a need to report incidents during a game, but also whenever security officers need to give instructions or assign tasks to stewards.
The provision of the above-listed functionalities is challenging and important for supporting safety procedures in sports venues. However, they are not sufficient to make an application acceptable by end-users and effective during evacuation processes. To stand-out and be successful, mobile applications must offer the following qualities:
Exceptional Usability: Mobile apps should come with user interfaces that are easy to learn, easy to use and even easy to remember how to use them. This is a key prerequisite for making the application simple enough to be used even for the first time and even without a need for special instructions.
Scalability: Venues have capacities of thousands of spectators, which means that mobile apps and their back end mobile platforms must be able to deal with increases in workload without performance degradation. This is very important given that all spectators will try to use the app during emergencies. Likewise, scalability and accuracy in location awareness should be easily supported through the addition of needed sensors (e.g., beacon nodes).
Availability and Reliability: The applications should be available at all times when the spectators enter the venue or when the stewards begin their work. Moreover, the applications should operate flawlessly for a very large number of users that exceeds the venue’s capacity, and for a timeframe greater than the duration of an event. Any possible downtimes could jeopardize safety and cannot be tolerated.
Security and Data Integrity: As the mobile apps serve communication purposes, it is important to safeguard the security and confidentiality of the communications. In this direction, secure communications protocols that ensure data integrity must be supported as well.