Remote worker support at forefront for venue IT during coronavirus shutdowns

With almost all work now being done remotely, it’s no surprise that team and venue IT staffs have virtual operations support at the forefront as the coronavirus shuts down most business operations.

In emails and calls to a small group of venue, team and school IT leaders the task of making sure that staffs could work online in a virtual fashion was the one common response from every person who replied to our questions. According to our short list of respondents that task included getting mobile devices into the hands of those who needed them, and setting up systems like virtual private networks (VPNs) and virtual desktop environments (VDI) so that work could proceed in an orderly, secure fashion.

Since many of the people we asked for comments couldn’t reply publicly, we are going to keep all replies anonymous and surface the information only. The other main question we asked was whether or not the virus shutdowns had either delayed or accelerated any construction or other deployment projects; we got a mix of replies in both directions, as some venues are taking advantage of the shutdowns to get inside arenas that don’t have any events happening now. In addition to some wireless-tech projects that are proceeding apace, we also heard about other repairs to systems like elevators and escalators, which are more easily done when venues are empty.

But we also heard from some venues that shutdowns right now will likely push some projects back, maybe even a year or more. One venue that is largely empty in the summer will have to skip a planned network upgrade because it expects that normally empty dates in the fall and winter will be filled by cancelled events that will need to be rescheduled. Another venue said that it has projects lined up ready to go, but has not yet gotten budget approval to proceed.

Following our editorial from earlier this week, when we encouraged venues to make their spaces available for coronavirus response efforts, it was clear that many venues across the world had already started down that path. One of the quickest uses to surface was using venues’ wide-open parking lots as staging areas for mobile coronavirus testing; Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium and Washington D.C.’s FedEx Field were among those with testing systems put in parking lots.

Some venues have already been tabbed as places for temporary hospitals, with deployments at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field and New York’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center already underway. Other venues, including Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland and State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., have hosted blood drives.

Using venues to support coronavirus response efforts is a worldwide trend, with former Olympic venues in London being proposed as support sites, as well as former World Cup venues in Brazil. Perth Stadium in Australia is also being used, as a public safety command center, like Chicago’s United Center, which is being used as a logistics hub.

Many other venues are stepping forward to offer free public Wi-Fi access in parking lots so that people who don’t have internet access at home can safely drive up and connect. Ball State University and the Jackson Hole Fairgrounds are just two of many venues doing this.

Venues are also offering their extensive kitchen and food-storage capabilities for the response effort. The Green Bay Packers have been preparing and delivering meals for schools and health-care workers, while the Pepsi Center in Denver offered cooler space to store food. Many other venues have contributed existing stores of food to charitable organizations and support efforts, since those items won’t be used at any of the many cancelled events.

News roundup: Ramifications of Manchester attack

Will large sports and entertainment venues change their security procedures in the wake of the recent fatal bomb attack outside the Manchester Arena? As more and more venues look to add closely tied public areas to arenas and stadiums, it’s a good bet we will see security perimeters extend farther out from the entry doors. Here’s a roundup of stories exploring what comes next after Manchester. Anyone with comments or more links, please share as this topic needs to become a priority for everyone.

Manchester attack points to vulnerabilities even at venues with high security: The LA Times weighs in with info from counter-terrorism experts.

U.S. Authorities Are Taking a Fresh Look at Security Outside Arenas After the Manchester Attack: AP (via Time) talks to Wrigley Field execs about adding security cameras outside the stadium.

Concert Security Experts on Preventing Attacks: ‘Our Adversary Is Very Committed, Adaptive and Elusive’: Variety talks to reps from the Oak View Group’s new Prevent Advisors group.

Manchester suicide attack lays bare limits of security measures: Reuters looks at whether or not we’ll ever be able to completely protect venues against determined terrorists.

Manchester shows why even the best protection can’t stop attacks: The Washington Post weighs in with a similar view as Reuters.

Sonim’s rugged LTE phones get public-safety trials at Super Bowl, World Ski Championships

Sonim XP7 handset

Sonim XP7 handset

The new XP7 ruggedized LTE smartphone from Sonim Technologies will get some on-the-scene testing by public safety professionals at both the Super Bowl as well as the upcoming World Ski Championships in Vail, Colo., according to Sonim, a San Mateo, Calif.-based maker of ruggedized devices.

Expected to be publicly announced Friday, the news that Sonim’s newest ruggedized LTE handset will be tested by firefighters from the Phoenix Fire Department during their Super Bowl deployments is significant for those concerned with public-safety operations around large public venues, since it offers a new way for industry-standard applications to be shared in a potentially “extreme” environment. With support for both standard wireless-carrier LTE networks as well as the emerging “FirstNet” public safety LTE frequency, the Sonim XP7 also offers one potential path toward the long-desired goal of having communication devices that can allow different first-responder agencies to communicate with each other, or to more simply share information from different devices, applications or networks.

While the Phoenix test deployment of XP7 handsets will use AT&T LTE airwaves, a similar test process scheduled to take place in Vail and Beaver Creek at the Feb. 2-15 FIS World Ski Championships will use a demonstration version of the Band Class 14 LTE public safety broadband network, according to a release from FirstNet Colorado.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 3.15.18 PMThe Vail demonstration will make use of a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) that was built for the town of Vail by neutral host provider Crown Castle, as well as the Sonim phones, among other devices and services.

While it has the first-glance look of a regular smartphone, the Sonim XP7 has a host of ruggedized features including long battery life, an extra-loud speaker, protection against drops and weather, a touchscreen accessible with gloves, and a screen viewable in bright sunlight. In a recent interview with Sonim CEO Bob Plaschke, MSR got to see and hold Plashcke’s XP7, a bulky device that certainly feels like it could stand up to extreme weather and rough handling. In addition to its obvious target market of first responders and other extreme-condition businesses, the XP7 is also being targeted at extreme athletes and outdoor-lifestyle customers, who should be able to purchase the device from major U.S. wireless carriers later this year.

In Phoenix, the Sonim phone will be compared to consumer-grade smartphones in a test using a custom-built firehouse alert app, according to Sonim. The Phoenix firefighters will also test the XP7’s ability to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and will also test its compatibility and interoperability with other mobile devices.