When Boston Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy joined the organization in 2001, the team’s management was facing questions about the then-89-yearold Fenway Park.
There was a campaign to tear down Fenway and build a new baseball stadium elsewhere in the city — a plan that was quickly nixed by Red Sox management in favor of one to preserve, protect and enhance the Boston landmark. One big obstacle they had to consider was how to handle potential threats more dangerous than the New York Yankees.
“Our job is to anticipate threats — probably the biggest threat to the sports industry, in general, would be some type of massive security breach or failure,” Kennedy said. “It’s certainly something that keeps us up at night.”
Kennedy made his remarks during the Johnson Controls Smart Ready Panel last week at Fenway Park, where panelists discussed how venues, buildings and cities are striving to become smarter and more sustainable.
To upgrade the park for the 21st century, the Red Sox organization began a project called Fenway 2.0 that would improve the fan experience via technology upgrades, additional seating and renovations to the area surrounding the park.
Another big part of the Fenway 2.0 project was working closely with city officials to protect fans’ cybersecurity and physical security.
“We have incredible partners at the city of Boston,” Kennedy said. “We work very closely with those guys and the regional intelligence center to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can … to make sure that Fenway is safe.”
Cybersecurity a ‘smart’ priority
During the panel, Johnson Controls’ vice president of global sustainability and industry initiatives, Clay Nesler, pointed to a company-issued survey that showed cybersecurity capabilities were among the top technologies that respondents predicted would have the most influence on smart building and smart city development over the next five years.
Cities and large venues like Fenway Park certainly deliver many benefits to patrons through advanced technology, but these amenities also create potential risk, Nesler added. Several questions have to be answered, he said, before making upgrades to tech such as Wi-Fi capabilities: “Can systems be easily updated with the latest virus protection? Do you really limit user access in a very controllable way? Is the data encrypted?”
Sam Kennedypresident and CEO, Boston Red Sox
Questions such as these are exactly why thinking ahead is essential to smart facility development, said panelist Elinor Klavens, senior analyst at Sports Innovation Lab, based in Boston.
“This is an open space that possibly could have Amazon drones flying over soon. What does that mean for the security of the people inside of it?” Klavens said. “We see venues really struggling to figure out how to secure themselves on that cyber level.”
Technology is certainly an enabler to get smarter about cybersecurity and physical security capabilities, Nesler said, but it’s still up to humans to interpret data. For example, new tech allows venues to create a 3D heat map of exactly how many people are in a 10-square-foot area to determine how fast they’re moving and find ways to avoid large groups slowing down during normal ingress and egress times. This information can also prove very valuable to prepare for emergency evacuations, Nesler said.
“We need to be clever about what’s really valuable to both the operations side and the fans and really be smart-ready in putting [in] place the systems and infrastructure to support things we haven’t even thought of yet,” Nesler said.
The data access conundrum
The new technology offered by smart venues poses other concerns, as well, Kennedy said. For example, fans distracted by looking at their smartphones or digital screens could be putting themselves in danger of being hit by a foul ball at a baseball game, and ones watching events through smart glasses bring up potential legal questions regarding the event’s distribution rights.
This goes back to the importance of communication for a smart venue to be successful, Kennedy said, with building management working together to ensure all of Fenway’s cybersecurity and physical security bases are covered.
“We need to be very, very careful in terms of providing fan safety,” Kennedy said.
And, of course, taking advantage of these technological advances often requires smart venues and cities to analyze a plethora of consumer-generated data. As a result, they must balance tapping into readily available data to improve amenities, cybersecurity and services with privacy concerns, Klavens said.
“Figuring out how to balance what is good for your fans and what is also your public’s appetite for giving up privacy in a public space is another way which we see venues really helping cities improve their understanding about how these new technologies will be deployed,” Klavens said.