Nicola Macdonald, Content Director at Collaborative Creations, takes a look at some of the technology making venues more Covid-secure.
Well, here we are. As the year 2020 draws to a close, it feels surreal to reflect on some of the major talking points that dominated the events and hospitality industries faced back in March:
“With so many events postponed to September, is a venue capacity crisis on the horizon?”
That, as it turned out, wasn’t something we had to worry about.
One of the most consistent elements of the Covid-19 crisis is that it has persistently surpassed our most ‘realistic’ projections. Sure, there are a few smug Nostradamus types who confidently predicted disruption until Summer 2021, but even they must be nervously eyeing their crystal balls.
It seems clear that there won’t be a sudden return to normality; it will be a gradual, careful, delicate process both in terms of navigating ever-changing rules and regulations but also in terms of understanding how audience behaviour has evolved over the past year.
Hospitality and events venues have been at the forefront of this process since the virus first began to disrupt international UK events. Whether it’s been installing plastic screens and new signage, implementing one way systems and enhanced cleaning procedures or stocking up on vast quantities of hand sanitiser, venues have been doing their utmost to create a safe, controlled environment for returning audiences.
But is it time to take the next step towards a Covid-secure environment for visitors?
Tech-supported Covid safety measures
As audiences begin to return to UK venues in the most significant numbers many will have seen since March, ensuring social distancing and implementing new safety measures may be an increasing challenge for businesses with limited space and resources.
This is where technology may be able to offer a solution. A number of tech companies and manufacturers have introduced new products or adapted existing ones to provide Covid-related solutions for hospitality businesses.
One thriving part of this fledgling industry is entry systems. Venue entrances are clear focal points of Covid safety efforts; the logical place to pick up on anyone displaying symptoms before they enter the premises.
As the industry has approached this challenge, two potential issues have arisen. Firstly, staffing an entrance-way requires manpower in an industry which is already stretched thin, and secondly in busier venues this level of caution often causes a bottle-neck at the entrance (and there goes the social distancing).
Depending on the type and function of a venue, there are entry system technologies which can support or replace existing measures, reducing the manpower needed while maintaining the safety standards on entry.
For venues which attract large audiences and need to avoid disrupting the flow of entry, fever detection cameras (pictured below) can be a useful investment. The camera uses artificial intelligence to scan crowds and measure temperature to identify anyone who may be displaying potential Covid symptoms. As crowds of up to 1,000 indoors are now allowed in Tiers 1 and 2, entry systems geared at non-invasive, mass temperature monitoring might well become the norm.
Smaller venues, and businesses that welcome return audiences (such as members’ clubs), might find it valuable to invest in entry systems which function both as a temperature scanner and check-in tool. As temperature-measuring facial recognition systems have a dual purpose they won’t immediately become obsolete in the event of an effective and widely-available vaccine (which, fingers crossed, might be soon).
Investing in new technology may seem like a big commitment for businesses which have already invested heavily in new safety measures, equipment and staff. However, as the government looks to venues to take responsibility for managing the risks specific to their premises, it may well be an investment worth making.