By securing the rights to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010, the world's eyes are now firmly focused on South Africa to see if the country is up to the task of hosting a successful international tournament.
Apart from pitch conditions and infrastructure, safety and security around the six-week tournament is one of the main criteria by which success will be measured. Recent crowd control catastrophes such as the Ellis Park disaster in Johannesburg in 2001 and the threat of terrorist attacks around the world have placed even greater importance on safety and security. Security guards and visible policing are usually the first lines of defence when it comes to stadium security and defusing tension among fans before, during or after matches.
However, with World Cup stadia set to handle capacities in excess of 30 000, a full overview of the venues and effective control of spectators is going to be a tall order for the guards. This is where video surveillance systems are so important; particularly Internet Protocol (IP)-based systems.
To manage the threat of criminal activity, hooligans or any other unwanted crowd behaviour, one needs to have a clear view of the crowds, by positioning cameras at various points around the stadium. However it is not always possible to have a camera positioned exactly where it is needed, especially as surveillance cameras require power to operate and with the way stadia are built, there are not always power points at the desired camera locations.
This poses a problem for analogue camera installations, but the new generation of IP cameras has evolved beyond this limitation. Because IP cameras draw power from the same Ethernet cable that connects them to the stadium's network, they can be placed at any location, provided it is within the reach of the network cable, which can extend up to 100 metres.
While supplying power to a camera is a common problem, there are instances where a power point is not always available and running cables is not possible. In such cases the IP cameras' wireless network connectivity provides the solution. Wireless IP cameras can be placed at any location in or around the stadium. All that is required is a power point, and this can be situated anywhere in the vicinity of the stadium. This is because wireless IP cameras have a range of up to 60 kilometres.
Worldwide, football fans are known for their hooliganism and, often during games, football stadia are vandalised and the surveillance cameras around the stadia are usually not spared in such malicious attacks. Tamper alarms, which are now found in IP cameras, alert operators when a camera's normal operation is interfered with. The operator can then send a guard to inspect the camera, who in turn will restore the camera to its operational state or report the case to a technician.
As the host of the world's most popular sporting event, South Africa is under tremendous pressure to stage a great tournament and do well as a team. While good results may not be guaranteed on the field, a safe and secure tournament can be guaranteed through the use of IP video surveillance systems.
Roy Alves is the country manager of Axis Communications.
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