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Silicon Valley Builds Data-Sharing Network to Mitigate Threats During Super Bowl 50

Several businesses and public entities have banded together to share camera feeds and sensor data in an effort to identify security threats early.

In February, Silicon Valley will become the center of national attention when the biggest pro football game of the year comes to Santa Clara. With that attention will come crowds, and with those crowds will come a public safety challenge.

And the valley, home to so many technology companies, will use its digital chops to face it.

The San Francisco 49ers — now in their second season at the new, high-tech Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara — have entered into a partnership with the city of Santa Clara, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, local sheriff and police departments, and two local companies to wire as much public data as possible into a central hub. The organizations are looking to use that hub to mitigate security threats and other problems in February.

Mark Brule, chief application architect for the San Jose-based Allied Telesis, was one person who helped to bring the data together. Using information from cameras and sensors from the various organizations, he and Allied patched it together and fed it into a single “command post” in Levi's Stadium.

The venue that will play host for the 50th Super Bowl can fit 68,500 people, according to the stadium website. But Super Bowls commonly draw more attendees than the regular capacities of the stadiums that host them.

Further, the event’s notoriety makes it a national security concern. According to a Tuesday press release from the city of Santa Clara, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has marked Super Bowl 50 as a “level one” event — the highest classification for security at national events.

“After the World Cup, this is the second-largest televised sporting event in the world,” Brule said.

Facing the throngs and security challenges, he hopes the data sharing will create better situational awareness for security and public officials.

“As [a threat] may be on its way and going toward the stadium, rather than learning about those threats for the first time as they walk in the front door, wouldn’t it be better to learn about it when it’s five iles away and getting on a bus?” Brule said.

As useful as the participants in the collaboration think the data sharing will be for the Super Bowl, Brule said it will hold value after the big game as well.

“Maybe some of the urgency is driven by the Super Bowl, but they’ve got events going on every weekend at the stadium,” he said. “It’s a very busy place.”

Most of the system is already in place, according to Santa Clara CIO Gaurav Garg. For instance, the city has made public the video streams from 15 cameras trained on intersections near the stadium. The streams, available through a smartphone application and on the city’s website, are meant to give people in the area an idea of which intersections are congested ahead of time.

Of course, those privy to the Levi’s Stadium command post have access to much more than that.

“Really it is creating a single pane of glass for multiple types of information [that can] then be visualized: where the situations are happening, where our public safety assets are, where the cameras are and what the traffic conditions are,” Garg said.

It’s the same information that will be available as the city and stadium deal with crowds for concerts, soccer matches and future football games. In that sense, Garg said, the security concerns for the Super Bowl aren’t so different from any old weekend.

“From our point of view, it’s no different than a regular game day,” Garg said. “It’s the same aspects that happen on a regular game day, but with the heightened visibility of the Super Bowl.”

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.