As the world starts to look a little more like normal, large public venues need to prepare for the return of crowds. That means strengthening their networks to meet evolving user demands.
For more than a year, the idea of a large public gathering has been little more than a fantasy. Now, as vaccination rates increase and case numbers decrease, large gatherings are finally starting to return. For large public venues (LPVs), that means it’s time to take steps to ensure spaces are ready for the influx of crowds and their devices.
Whether your venue is a stadium, a concert arena, a convention center, or an airport, having a reliable network is critical. Unfortunately, delivering that network is often much easier said than done. At a time when there are eight devices connected to the Internet for every American — a number that is only expected to grow in the coming years — LPVs face more high-density, high-capacity demands for connectivity than ever before.
When compared to other buildings or campuses, LPVs deal with unique challenges related to their size and the complexity of their networks. LPV administrators must also take into account public safety measures such as managing congestion and tracking visitors. Plus, to create an increasingly interactive experience for guests, many venues are expanding their digital sports and entertainment offerings to include social sharing, on-demand player stats, and more — all of which increase bandwidth requirements.
Fortunately, recent IT developments have made attaining networks that deliver pervasive, secure wireless connectivity more feasible than ever. Here are some solutions LPV administrators should consider implementing as they prepare for the return of crowds.
One of the biggest network changes over the past year has been the explosive growth of WiFi 6 and the introduction of WiFi 6E, which has been described as “a giant leap forward for Wi-Fi.” WiFi 6E operates on the recently-opened 6 GHz band, and opens up over 100 high-performance digital channels. It includes efficiency features from Wi-Fi 6 like OFDMA, WPA3, and Target Wake Time, extending them to the 6 GHz band where there is less interference and greater security.
WiFi 6E is particularly useful in areas where high-speed data is important, such as sports arenas, concert venues, or airports, where guests may want to stream high-definition videos or order food from an app on their phone. This is critically important for LPVs given that the guest experience is transforming from a purely physical one to one that combines the digital with the physical. If your network isn’t strong enough to deliver quality connectivity for both indoor and outdoor LPVs, your guest experience will suffer. Unhappy guests are less likely to return to your venue, which can quickly translate to a major loss of revenue.
There are already a variety of WiFi 6E-enabled products on the market. Standard Power (SP), Low Power Indoor (LPI), and Very Low Power (VLP) APs all support 6E, though use varies by geography and regulatory permissions. These APs improve performance by leveraging OFDMA to create carpool lanes and increase network capacity, using Target Wake Time (TWT) to reduce traffic and extend battery life on IoT devices.
According to the Unisys Security Index Report, 81 percent of U.S. consumers are at least somewhat concerned about having their data stolen while using the WiFi at large public events. Unfortunately, that fear is far from unwarranted. With so many high-value targets in a single space, LPVs are a potential goldmine for bad actors looking to create a security breach. The combined financial and reputation costs for an LPV that falls victim to a cyberattack could easily prove devastating.
With so many people connecting to a LPV’s network on thousands of devices at any given time, it’s critically important that solutions are in place to make sure those connections are secure. Fortunately, an Aruba solution called ClearPass (which focuses on delivering fast, secure network access to authorized devices) can help with that.
ClearPass Guest, a solution that’s already popular in a variety of LPVs including airports and stadiums, makes it easy to deliver secure guest access and to create a customized web portal that uses your own branding. You can even leverage additional features like credential delivery, usage policies over text or email, and sponsor approval. With ClearPass Guest, you can be confident that you’re offering your guests the most secure network connection possible.
In addition to network security, preparing for the return of crowds includes ensuring that your venue is able to keep guests safe. Some of the most significant advancements in physical security over the past year have come from smart cameras. As restrictions continue to loosen and crowds start to flood into LPVs, smart camera features like contact tracing, mask compliance, and video analytics have become increasingly important. These solutions can help ensure safety in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
But the pandemic is not the only cause for concern for guests at LPVs. In 2020, consumers’ fears about personal safety increased, with 58 percent of those surveyed reporting that they are extremely concerned. With the threat of violence, unrest, or terrorism still on the radar for LPVs, it’s essential to have a comprehensive physical security system in place. Fortunately, smart cameras allow security teams to detect an intrusion or attack as it occurs as well as identify and track any bad actors in real-time.
Over the past year, Avigilon cameras have come out on top when it comes to physical security — especially for LPVs. Not only do Avigilon’s video security and access control solutions deliver incredible image detail and system control to help teams respond to events quickly and effectively, you can also use their powerful search features to identify individuals for contact tracing as well as standard security. These AI-powered cameras are an essential investment for any LPV that is serious about maintaining guest safety now and in the future.
As your venue prepares for the return of guests, don’t let poor network performance or security concerns negatively impact user experience. The experts at Turn-Key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) can help LPVs ensure that their networks are ready to handle a high volume of devices as crowds fill in once again. From the most powerful WiFi and access control systems to the best smart cameras on the market, TTI can help you implement the solutions you need to meet consumer expectations.
To learn more about how the team at TTI can help your large public venue prepare for incoming crowds, contact us today.
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