Covid kit: The tech helping fans stay safe at shows
As buildings, venues and public spaces start to tentatively reopen following months of lockdown, savvy businesses and operators are turning to technology to help them boost confidence, both among consumers and staff.
From simply supplying hand-sanitisation facilities at store entrances to sophisticated mobile phone apps, thermal testing and scanning devices, numerous products and systems are being developed to bolster personal protection measures, giving people confidence that they can safely return to the workplace and, ultimately, get back to enjoying live entertainment.
Here, IQ takes a look at just some of the products and services on offer to the live events industry, as venue owners and promoters contemplate how to entice people back to their shows, concerts and festivals…
Biosecurity-Systems offers a comprehensive range of products, facilities and staff to augment safety procedures that are implemented in buildings and venues. Rather than being in the business of selling kit, the company’s goal is to minimise infection risk and help businesses to protect customers, staff and anyone else who visits their premises.
CEO Paul Twomey observes that while many people view the Covid pandemic as a ‘once in 100 years’ phenomena, those living in Asia and the Pacific rim have a different viewpoint. “It’s a key thing for people to think about: in east Asia there has been Sars, HN1, swine flu, bird flu and now Covid. So there are major viruses every five to six years,” he says.
“In terms of pandemics, this is a bit like a 9/11 moment. There was terrorism before 9/11, but everyone thinks of terrorism differently post 9/11. Covid-19 will probably do the same for pandemics.”
Consequently, Biosecurity-Systems urges clients not to make the mistake of simply bringing in equipment purely to deal with the current coronavirus, but to rather see their actions as a long-term investment to deal with this pandemic, as well as all future pandemics.
Currently working with the likes of airports, airlines and logistics centres, Biosecurity-Systems offers a turnkey solution, as well as bespoke solutions that include disinfection technologies, triage technologies, testing technologies and artificial intelligence, if needed.
The company morphed out of an existing robotics operation in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic and has strategy solutions in place that cover everything from simple health questionnaires and disinfectant misting tunnels to blood oxygen testing and robots that can continuously – and conspicuously – clean the likes of floors in airport terminals (as they do in Hong Kong). The company’s robots can also automatically clean toilets, hence protecting cleaning staff in an environment that is known to be highly virulent for coronavirus infection.
Twomey adds: “Things like temperature testing are not particularly effective for Covid-19, but consumers are demanding it, as it makes them feel secure. However, those same systems are very important in detecting other diseases – ebola, for instance. Meanwhile, blood oxygen testing does have more relevancy for Covid-19. So having such equipment should be seen as a long-term investment that can basically show people that it’s safer to come back to your facilities then those of somebody else.”
“In terms of pandemics, this is a bit like a 9/11 moment”
Ticketing operation Seats.io is using the challenges presented by the coronavirus restrictions to leverage its technology and create opportunities that should help restore consumer confidence when it comes to attending shows and concerts. Seats.io is determined to give venues and event organisers additional tools to help restart the live entertainment sector and begin selling tickets again, as soon as possible.
The company notes a key factor in these transactions will be trust: many surveys indicate that people want to go back to live events, but only if they feel they can trust that they and their loved ones will be safe in doing so.
In an effort to rebuild that trust, Seats.io believes demonstrating at the moment of ticket purchase that people will be safe is the best approach. To achieve that, Seats.io can make sure customers are aware, when they select their seat, that social distancing rules will be applied and respected.
As a result, Seats.io has configured its ticketing system with an option that shows ticket buyers how the seats around theirs will be blocked out, as they select their tickets. For some theatres, the distance required will be one seat, for others two; sometimes aisle seats will always be blocked, sometimes, not. In addition, it is essential that such a system can be integrated into any existing ticketing system, negating the need for a complete overhaul.
Seats.io says its system answers all these needs. Easily integrated, with world-class UX and UI, Seats.io can allow any ticketing platform to offer ticket buyers exactly what they need: the reassurance that they are safe, and that they can trust the event organisers to respect social distancing.
Seats.io believes demonstrating at the moment of ticket purchase that people will be safe is the best approach
Staging company Megaforce has developed a range of products and facilities to help businesses protect staff and customers from the spread of coronavirus, and has already installed its equipment at everything from kindergartens to hardware stores.
Products include biometric fever screening, carried out using a thermal imaging camera, which can rapidly record body temperature with exceptional accuracy, and can thus make a significant contribution to the containment of pandemics.
The system uses state-of-the-art sensor technology to scan up to five people’s faces simultaneously in order to determine body temperatures. If an increased temperature is detected, the system triggers an alarm or can deny access – for example, as part of an automatic access control system. The temperature check also has an automatic mask detection option, so that if the camera detects a person without a mask, the system will politely remind them that they must wear one.
The system is already being used at border controls, airports, trade fairs and events, and is also suitable for protecting healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes; and at entrances to factories, offices, shopping malls, hotels, schools and public authority buildings.
Contactless hand-washing and hygiene stations are available as single, double or triple units with diverse areas of application such as shopping malls, DIY stores, bus stations, car parks, stadia/event locations, public places, wholesale markets etc. In short, anywhere with high footfall where there are too few or no sanitary or hygiene facilities.
Added value is provided by advertising/branding spaces on all sides of the stations with the option of integrating frames or dispensers for brochures etc, making them perfect for promotional campaigns. The stations can be branded accordingly depending on the theme.
Hygiene gates are gantries/locks based on a chlorinated water solution, much like swimming pools, and can be used for semi-disinfection of equipment and people.
The main area of application is access to work, backstage or production areas. Although it is not possible to ensure 100% disinfection, hygiene gates significantly increase hygiene standards and safety.
The gates are constructed using high-quality stainless steel; they are contactless and can be combined with Megaforce’s fever screening system.
Megaforce has developed a range of products and facilities to help businesses protect staff and customers
Realife Tech has developed a Covid Safety Hub – a customer-facing technology designed to help events safely relaunch once restrictions on large gatherings are lifted.
The Covid Safety Hub has a range of mobile-based features that will guide fans through new venue policies and procedures, with messaging delivered before, during, and after events. This includes digital ticketing, checklists, location- based directives, an AI Covid assistant (powered by Satisfi Labs), real-time safety tips, and post-event messaging.
At events, the location-based safety alerts share real-time information to help reduce congestion in high-traffic areas such as entrances and exits, and provide facility updates. The assistant also comes with touch-free mobile ticket scanning, as well as contactless ordering and collection of food, beverages, and merchandise. This is a powerful tool as it runs on Realife Tech’s platform, aggregating data from multiple systems at festivals and events. These include apps, ticketing, Wi-Fi, point-of-sale, digital advertising screens and access control points. In addition to the Covid safety features, organisers can capture a single view of the customer across their journey.
The Covid Safety Hub is being deployed across multiple events and will help welcome fans back this summer, as it aims to minimise event attendees´ fear and anxiety about the ‘new normal’ through dedicated messaging, features, and protocols put in place to mitigate risk.
Founded in 2014, with headquarters in London and Los Angeles, Realife Tech is an experience automation platform that unifies data from every event venue system, then analyses the data to provide truly personalised digital experiences. The company works with more than 65 of the world’s biggest venues and events, including The O2, London; Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London; Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin, and Outside Lands Festival, California.
Realife Tech is the recipient of three Event Technology Awards for Best Festival Technology, Best Venue Installation, and Best Venue Solution.
Realife’s Covid Safety Hub has a range of mobile-based features that will guide fans through new venue policies and procedures
Grid claims to be a game-changing new app that enables people to socialise in safe, socially distant and contactless ways. It has already received exceptional feedback from events, such as Kiesgrube’s Stay Wild Moonchild! in Duisburg, Germany.
Grid works by digitalising events and providing a safe way for social gatherings to take place by making ticketing, F&B orders and Covid-19 registration fully digitised – even the cloakroom is handled via the app, all in line with current Covid-19 safety regulations.
Using Grid, long lines and guest lists; cash transactions and face-to-face ordering; lost tickets and wristbands; and smudged morning-after stamps, are no longer an issue. The app can also incorporate loyalty rewards.
Solutions already built by the Grid team pre-pandemic, are now helping to prevent further job losses, as well as allowing economies to thrive again and providing people with the opportunity to go out and socialise whilst prioritising their safety.
Grid works by digitalising events and providing a safe way for social gatherings to take place
Rebuild the Chain
An international consortium led by Dragon Gateway, in collaboration with Accubits Technologies Inc, FutureTech, Nexus and LL Consultancy, has launched a pandemic management solution called Rebuild the Chain (RTC) to try to help the live event sector get back to business.
In brief, RTC Sport and RTC Entertainment create a Covid-free zone around a venue in which no person or surface is Covid infected. The two apps are similar in that they harness the speed, efficiency and accuracy of rapid test kits (98.6% accuracy), a mobile app, appropriate PPE and the security of blockchain technology.
With a global network of contacts and suppliers, RTC offers all the latest Covid safety tech such as thermal cameras, sanitiser mist tunnels and so on to ensure the public feels as safe as possible. At events, real-time test kits mean that a consumer’s ‘safe status’ can be uploaded immediately to their smartphone to be checked by stewards at a green zone checkpoint and again as they enter the venue at ticket collection.
With the aim of enabling audiences to safely return to sports, festivals, concerts and even B2B conferences and exhibitions, Dragon Gateway further claims to be in contractual discussions to deploy RTC government across entire nations.
RTC creates a Covid-free zone around a venue in which no person or surface is Covid infected
Social distancing within the live event industry is an obvious challenge. Static barriers and markers will never work in a fluid environment. However, a cost-effective alternative is already available. The Bubble Band is a simple wearable social distance alarm. Worn as a wristband or on a lanyard, the Bubble Band is ideal for artists and backstage event crew. When two Bubble Bands come within the set proximity to each other they will vibrate or alert the wearers.
Bubble Band settings are managed through an app available on Mac or android mobile devices. Connecting via Bluetooth they are easy to set up and fully rechargeable. Distance and alert settings can be adjusted to meet current government guidelines.
Groups of Bubble Bands can be linked with varying settings: e.g. lighting and rigging set at 1m, backline and catering set at 2m. Available in a range of colours, the bands help to easily distinguish between working teams, as requested in the UK’s Working Safely During Coronavirus guide.
The Bubble Band is a simple wearable social distance alarm, worn as a wristband or on a lanyard
Production Resource Group (PRG) has designed a temperature scanner that can easily be installed in entertainment venues, convention centres and workplaces. PRG’s SmartXcan is a portable thermal scanner that provides instantaneous feedback on up to 700 people per hour.
“The SmartXcan is much more accurate and faster than other devices that are being modified to meet current needs,” says Mark Peterson of PRG Scenic Technologies. “We use a diagnostic tool that measures temperature in the sinus cavity and behind the eyes in 0.6 seconds.”
The SmartXcan leverages advanced fever-scanning technology developed by Kentix, a German company that develops smart building security. The temperature data is protected and not connected to identifying technology, to meet privacy laws. “We wanted to ensure that people feel comfortable using the SmartXcan, so it does not have facial recognition capabilities,” adds Peterson. “Who you are is not important to us, we are just trying to assist in reopening as safely as possible.”
Portable SmartXcan options include a wheeled pedestal, kiosk, countertop, or built-in turnstiles for automated entry control. The devices can be plugged in or operated using a built-in battery that provides up to 24 hours of continuous use. Each scanner offers hands-free scanning that quickly notifies individuals via a green or red light that they are okay to proceed.
SmartXcan “measures temperature in the sinus cavity and behind the eyes in 0.6 seconds”
London Palladium pilot event suppliers
On 23 July, London’s iconic Palladium venue held a pilot event, featuring singer Beverley Knight, to test the theatre’s readiness to deal with audiences and overall safety, ahead of a mooted return for indoor shows in England in August.
In addition to limiting the venue’s capacity to 30%, attendees were given staggered arrival times and had to pre-order drinks to allow staff to organise in-seat service.
Assisting the Palladium in the trial were:
- Hikvision, which has a range of products and services that can be used by the live events sector to bolster coronavirus safety protocol. These include MinMoe touch-free, temperature-screening terminals; crowd-density control solutions; mask-detection solutions; and thermal-imaging cameras to detect skin surface temperatures.
- In addition to developing a room disinfectant system using ozone gas, Purehold has designed a range of hygienic door-handle covers that fit over existing handles, while its door push plates use a similar silver ion coating that works continuously to combat germs deposited onto the surface by users.
- MegaHertz uses the latest technology in decontamination fogging and sterilisation, with the chemical involved tested and proven not to be harmful to humans, animals, plants or electrical equipment. The company’s fogging devices distribute the chemical into the air so that it is able to make contact with every part of the decontamination area, killing 99.999% of bacteria and viruses.
Purehold has designed a range of hygienic door-handle covers that fit over existing handles
CrowdBlink Protect has been used by essential businesses during the shutdown to assess employees daily for symptoms of Covid-19, allowing them to safely continue operating. Now, as economies start operating once again, other organisations are beginning to use the same system to reopen safely.
From construction, manufacturing, and retirement/senior care facilities to childcare centres, office buildings and more, CrowdBlink Protect is an easy, affordable solution to help keep communities safe. The company charges $49 per ‘screener’ per month, with screeners being individuals who assess others, or who can scan QR codes for people who have completed CrowdBlink’s self-assessment procedures.
The CrowdBlink plug-and-play system also allows event organisers to create and sell tickets to their events, scan tickets as people enter, and use CrowdBlink’s point-of-sale facility to sell items during the event.
On the attendee side, fans can use the Patron app to buy tickets, enter the event, add funds to their cashless accounts, make purchases on-site, and even interact with sponsors. Patron allows attendees to use the app if they lose Internet connectivity. And for anyone that doesn’t want attendees using an app, CrowdBlink can run events via NFC or RFID wristbands or even traditional printed tickets.
Screeners can scan QR codes for people who have completed CrowdBlink’s self-assessment procedures
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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IQ Focus to spotlight the technology of a pandemic
This week’s IQ Focus virtual panel will shine a light on the various technological solutions helping to get live back on the road and enabling venues and events to operate within coronavirus-related restrictions.
The recent pandemic has changed the face of our industry as we know it, almost overnight. Since March we have seen complete closure of venues, festivals, tours and all live music operations. Overtime we have seen the relaxing of those restrictions and in some countries venues are open, albeit with certain restrictions, and more countries will follow.
However, until powerful anti-virals are in play or ultimately a vaccine, we will need to put into place technology and systems that allow venues to function at their peak with social distancing in mind.
The Covid tech panel looks at these technologies, whether they be software solutions, access control and biometrics or automated disinfecting systems, with individuals presenting various technology across all genres, the panel will present ideas of what can work for your venue or event.
Joining chair Steve Machin of LiveFrom.Events, is Adam Goodyer (Realife Tech), Brigitte Fuss (Megaforce), Joren De Wachter (Seats.io), John Sharkey (ASM Global) and Paul Twomey (Biosecurity Systems).
Nerves of steel: Staging and steel review
Business is booming for the event infrastructure and staging world, with new markets cropping up all over the world and an ever-higher number of shows each year.
However, as designs become more complex, driven by the ambitions and desires of artists and promoters to stand out from the rest, stretched resources and soaring costs are pushing companies to their limits.
As 2020 begins in earnest, IQ talks to major figures in the staging and steel world about the hectic 2019 season, the growing demand for bigger production, the cost of ensuring safety at events and the uncertain future of a post-Brexit Europe.
‘Busy but challenging’
Sebastian Tobie, CEO of Event Europe at global event infrastructure supplier eps, describes 2019 as a “very strong year in Europe.” Major international artists embarked on stadium tours in every country that eps serves, including – but not limited to – the UK, Germany, Italy and countries across Scandinavia.
This year, the supplier has worked on tours for the likes of Rammstein, Muse and Pink, as well as providing infrastructure for all major festival and show promoters in Europe. In the United States, however, business was more pedestrian. “We had the major festivals as usual,” says Tobie, “but from an open-air touring perspective, almost everyone was in Europe.”
Elsewhere, the Middle East is becoming a “stronger and stronger” market for the German company, as countries in the region attempt to secure their place on the international events map. However, navigating uncharted waters can involve unexpected obstacles. Tobie notes that local resources and supply networks are not as strong in Middle Eastern countries as in other markets. “We need to plan much more intensely and prepare to be extremely flexible,” he says, explaining that “surprises” can crop up at any time.
“From an open-air touring perspective, almost everyone was in Europe”
UK-based Brilliant Stages has also enjoyed a busy 2019 so far, working on many “technically challenging” shows for artists including Take That, Spice Girls, Hugh Jackman, Shawn Mendes and Rammstein, as well as events such as Reading and Leeds festivals, Wireless Festival, the Brit Awards and the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend.
The main challenge for the stage manufacturer has been “time and risk management.” The process from interpreting the brief, to setting out a plan in accordance with the technical scope, and finally working with all parties to meet deadlines, remains the most difficult aspect for the Brilliant Stages team.
Figuring out the “whole picture” has proved a challenge for fellow staging company Megaforce, with CEO Michael Brombacher noting the difficulty of co-ordinating materials and staff across all projects. Both “busy and challenging,” 2019 saw Megaforce provide ambitious staging for tours by Phil Collins and Andreas Gabalier, and for festivals including Trondheim Rocks and Firenze Rocks.
UK-based Star Live, the brainchild of events specialist David Walley, perhaps had the busiest year of all, albeit in a very different sense. The result of a merger of four Walley-owned businesses, Star Live officially launched on 1 August as a full-service business for the live industry.
Since its inauguration, Star Live has worked on shows for Spice Girls, Pink, The Who and Stereophonics, as well as for events including British Summer Time in London’s Hyde Park and Download Festival.
“The need for ever-more engaging shows has produced the need for individuality”
In addition to providing staging infrastructure, Star Live now partakes in design and brand activations, enables sponsorship and partnerships, and supplies staff and structures such as ice rinks and grandstand seating. However, the staging aspect remains the most challenging, with “late rigging information” and “ever-shorter venue rentals” causing particular headaches for the team this year.
Staging the impossible
The oft-talked about experience economy continues to ensure the rude health of the live industry and the staging sector is certainly reaping the rewards of this. Yet, the growing penchant for the all-encompassing, hyper-immersive experience is also proving a sticking point for suppliers and stage manufacturers.
“The need for ever-more engaging shows has produced the need for individuality,” explains Brilliant Stages’ senior project manager Alan Carradus. “This is driving the technical design to levels not seen before.”
The company has had to widen supply chains and “really think outside the box” in order to keep up with the demands of the creative brief. Evolution within the industry has also led to the development of new ways of working and of new technology, in addition to considerable site investment, to satisfy both current and future demands.
For Carradus, “the real explosion has been in the use of LED screens and large-format projection systems to enhance shows.”
“Artists want to give fans not only a concert but an experience too”
Megaforce boss Brombacher also notes the predilection for more visual shows, as well as the demand for a higher calibre of audio experience. “The weight of light and sound equipment is increasing and therefore we have to adjust the capacity for heavy loads in the roof and in other constructions,” he explains.
The increasing weight and size of infrastructure has required Germany’s eps to make significant changes in recent years.
“Artists want to give fans not only a concert but an experience too,” says Tobie, “and currently that has a lot to do with the size of production.”
As an infrastructure supplier, this means eps has had to put a lot of work into growing its inventory and decentralising its warehouse network, facilitating easy access to different markets and venues.
All this signifies additional expense but, for Tobie, human resources are the most problematic.
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 86 2019, or subscribe to the magazine here