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by Christopher Butler / October 24, 2013

Tech-Me out to the ballgame: High-tech secrets of AT&T Park. San Francisco Giants using the ISS 24/7 system for security.

Tech me out to the ballgame: High-tech secrets of AT&T Park

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Striking out foul fans

To most fans, the ballpark is a happy place, complete with cheering, high-fives, and a license to eat junk food without guilt. But to Jorge Costa, it’s more of a battlefield. Costa is the Giants’ senior vice president of ballpark operations, and it’s his job to keep everyone safe at the park. This job requires structure, planning, anticipation, and the constant gathering of information on city, state, and national security conditions.

“Tech allows us to keep up with the latest security trends,” says Costa. “There’s still a human being behind the tech, but using these resources makes me better at my job.”

Costa has his finger on the pulse of the latest security tech, and he constantly reevaluates his strategy over the course of a season. But his main strategy involves surveillance and an understated security profile that is always aware and available to help.

Before each game, the security team meets to discuss strategy for the day. The group goes over security wanding for metal detection at the gate, and LG Optimus V smartphones are distributed to security personnel, deployed in two-person teams. The devices run an overhauled version of Android 2.2 that the staffers use to text or message the park’s security hub. Eight of the teams receive iPads instead of Androids, but they use the tablets for the same purposes.

When an incident occurs in or around the ballpark—for example, when a fan slips on the stairs or a drunken brawl breaks out in the bleachers—security logs the incident through these mobile devices, and the note transmits to central command. The devices run a software program that features various touchscreen buttons for different types of incidents, so a security member simply taps icons to signal the control room and file a report. The entire system is called ISS.

Depending on the nature of the incident, the flare-up is assigned a category (for example, “injury” or “outside alcohol”) and security personnel in the control center decide who is best equipped to handle the problem, be it medical specialists, SFPD, or the Giants’ security team. Large display boards in the security control center show all logged incidents, coded red for incoming, yellow for in progress, and green for resolved. The control center then dispatches backup right away to address the issue.

In large letters near the Jumbotron, you’ll also see a number that fans can text at any time throughout the game. Type “fair” if you have a question, or “foul” if you’d like to report unruly behavior that’s disrupting the game for you. Costa says there’s an average of 100 fair/foul texts per game. It’s a great system for fans to take an active role in improving their ballpark experience.

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