Innovation in promotion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

In order to respond to the unprecedented security challenge posed by these Games, to design and deploy systems that are in keeping with the scale of the event and the diversity of the identified threats, France is also relying on innovation. Within an unparalleled dynamic of cooperation between the public and private sectors, public authorities and the French security industry have now been fully mobilised for several months, with a view to conceiving and producing technological solutions that will support the security forces in ensuring the smooth running of the Games.

By Amélie Rives

The French security sector, working in collaboration

The result of a shared effort, the series of technical & operational experiments launched in 2022 within the scope of the Strategic Contract for the Security Industries Sector (Contrat Stratégique de Filière des industries de sécurité, CSF-IS), has mobilised the Ministry of the Interior, major industrial players within the French security sector, and the very rich ecosystem of start-ups and SMEs – all drivers of innovation. The primary objective: to identify needs and specify technological solutions that will guarantee the security and the convivial spirit of the OPG, but also to significantly enhance the capacities of the French homeland security forces. The result: more than 170 companies offering 680 tried and tested solutions. 89 of these have been retained. More than 192 technical solutions were explored. The secondary objective: to unite the French security industry and develop this sector into an international champion, but also to contribute to the legacy of the Olympic programme and develop an exportable model. Today, more than 90% of the retained solutions in the area of R&D and production are of French origin, and more than 70% can be traced back to start-ups or SMEs. “This programme has demonstrated the effectiveness of an innovative process that has facilitated agile dialogue, combining the expression of needs and the presentation of new technologies, which the Ministry of the Interior is now no longer lacking,” explain Daniel Le Coguic, Senior Vice President for the Public Sector, Defence and Paris 2024 at Eviden and Gérard Lacroix, Deputy General Director responsible for security within the GICAT, on behalf of the CSF-IS.  Experiments concerning fields that are as diverse as command and hypervision structures, the intelligent use of images, OSINT, the intelligence cyber threat, waterway and nautical security, low-altitude air traffic control, on-site aircraft surveillance, flow management and crowd control, or even cybercriminality, video protection, NRBC-E… “These will be an opportunity to test the equipment in question in real situations, based on concrete use cases, in particular for the surveillance of sites, rivers, or bodies of water,” add Daniel Le Coguic and Gérard Lacroix.

Monitoring the sky

The battle against UAV systems will represent a central security element during the OPG. The Parade approach (Protection déployAble modulaiRe Anti-DronEs – modular deployable counter UAV-systems protection) attributed to the consortium formed by Thales and CS Group has already been deployed during the Rugby World Cup, providing security forces with new capacities for detection, classification, and decision-making, but also for the secure neutralisation of micro and mini-UAV systems. It will rely on French SMEs such as CerbAir (goniometers), Exavision (optronics), MC2 Technologies (interference), and European companies such as Dutch firm Robin (radar detection). And counter-UAV systems are continually developing. “New neutralisation capacities are already under development, such as laser systems, which are to be deployed over the coming months, or the High Power Electronic Microwave, which will enable the neutralisation of a UAV’s information systems via an electronic beam, thus forcing it to land. We are also working on interceptor UAV systems equipped with nets and dispatched to an interception point with a view to safety capturing a potentially threatening drone and dropping it within a secure zone,” clarifies Thierry Bon, responsible for the anti-drone division at Thales, who continues: “Innovation will also come in the form of operational concepts, with flight corridors dedicated to registered UAV systems, which considered to pose no threat and are thus authorised to fly there. This system will allow us to discriminate between authorised and unauthorised UAV systems and to detect abnormal behaviour, for example the unauthorised entering or exiting of these corridors. however, it will also involve deploying software programmes that will enable the issuance of multiple authorisations, their acceptance in accordance with regulations, their tracking, and their transmission to anti-drone systems, which also requires interoperability between these systems”. Developments will therefore still be required in order to integrate new anti-drone tools into the security set-up for the event, “including with a view to gaining an understanding of very complex urban areas where the risks of collateral damage must be perfectly managed,” concludes Thierry Bon.

Intelligent surveillance for a more secure Games

Video surveillance solutions and systems account for a large proportion of the technological innovations associated with the OPG. First and foremost, this is about providing better surveillance with a view to better protection, adapting the system that is generally used to suit the scale of the sites in question, the expected flow of visitors and participants, and the duration of the event. A three-fold challenge to which, for example, the surveillance systems using fixed balloons designed by Hemeria seek to respond. Filled with helium, they can be deployed to between 150 and 300 metres above the ground, for as long as is necessary and without interruption, which is what sets them apart from surveillance systems using UAV systems or helicopters. Their cameras combine an ultra-powerful zoom function and a 360° visual capacity, providing a comprehensive view of the entirety of the monitored perimeter, thus enabling the more efficient and faster direction of the emergency services or law enforcement in their response to incidents. They also successfully detect potential intrusions into protected zones, as well as airborne threats such as UAV – and unlike fixed ground-based cameras, which are by definition limited, they also enable the tracking of a target and its movements.

However, the main innovations in this area will no doubt come from smart video surveillance, authorised by the Olympic Law of May 2023 with a view to detecting certain predetermined events in real time: the presence or use of abandoned objects or weapons, outbreaks of fire, failure to respect the direction of traffic; intrusion into a prohibited zone; people on the ground, crowd movements… For Laurent Assouly, Marketing Director for surveillance video image analysis software specialist at Evitech: “detecting these situations in an automated manner will save time and lives, by reducing the time between the occurrence of the incident and the response by law enforcement or emergency services, essentially by monitoring the places they are not looking.” In particular, the company is focusing its efforts on density calculation, which is of vital importance for effective and proactive flow management and crowd control. To ensure the optimal positioning of security, hospitality, and filtering teams and so as to be able to direct them in real time, the security forces must be provided with instantaneous indicators, in the places where overcrowding could pose a danger. “However, the cited classification algorithms used for “classification”, based on the detection, and counting of individuals or fully recognisable elements within the image are not sufficiently reliable during peak times: they end up reaching their limits, to the point that significant differences can be observed between their results and the reality of the situation,” explains Laurent Assouly. In contrast, the approach developed by Evitech “involves teaching the algorithm to interpret the link between the shapes formed by pixels in the image and the number of underlying people. It is not always capable of distinguishing each person individually, however the final result is infinitely more reliable,” explains Laurent Assouly, clarifying: “In order that these smart video surveillance systems can be truly effective , dedicated AI solutions must be deployed, optimised on the basis of the use case for each camera, and depending on what you are attempting to detect: movement, weapons, speed, smoke… However, this does not currently appear to be the direction being taken in terms of calls for tender for the OPG, which are prioritising algorithm-based solutions in the form of one-off multi-application processing licences, which are as such less specialised.” 

Algorithm-based processing for the analysis of surveillance videos is also at the heart of the expertise of the ChapsVision group. A specialist in the processing of sovereign data, it recently acquired the Belgian company, ACIC, whose solution offers more advanced functionalities than the majority of classic image analysis solutions, thanks to the use of AI technologies and networks of neurons, such as Deep Neural Networks. “This enables the detection of a certain number of elements defined by the client (individuals, weapons, etc.), including unexpected movements or public gatherings, for in addition to malicious or terrorist acts, incidents associated with a poorly managed flow of people can quickly develop into serious security issues. In the run-up to major events such as the OPG, we are doubling our efforts to strengthen our technologies, seeking to offer solutions for the enrichment of our clients’ heterogeneous data, so as to offer solutions that are even more effective,” emphasizes Chantal Genermont, CEO of ChapsVision CyberGov. However, some people regret the fact that facial recognition was excluded from these studies: “It could have indeed been used within a tightly controlled framework, ensuring compliance with GDPR, for example within the context of access control, to authenticate authorised persons. This was initially planned. I find it regrettable not to have had the opportunity to see through to fruition something that seemed to me to be a genuine way to render major events more secure,” explains Laurent Pellegrin, France Public Security and Identity Director at IDEMIA.

Better protected intervention teams

Artificial Intelligence also plays a major role in robotics. Robots that are increasingly fast, effective, and responsive, in service of the security and intervention teams; this is the objective pursued by Shark Robotics, whose firefighting and mine disposal robots are already in use by the French security and emergency services, and may be deployed at the OPG. “AI, autonomous navigation, computer vision and data science are now our top prioritiesOur objective is to use the data that our robots collect and observe during their various missions to benefit the operator, whether this is in terms of predictive maintenance, or to make the robots more intelligent and thus afford them greater decision-making autonomy,” explains Cyrille Kabbara, Founder and CEO of Shark Robotics. These robots could thus be capable of detecting a breakout of fire more quickly, identifying which type of fire this is, or even collecting data that would enable the provision of real-time mapping to an operator on the ground.

It is also with a view to supporting and protecting the security and intervention forces that the specialist in geo-trackers and biometric tracking within constricted environments, TRAAK, aims to offer a complete solution prior to the arrival of the OPG, enabling both geo-tracking within indoor, underground, and outdoor environments, and the communication of emergency alerts. The first building block within this system: Deepcom, a point-to-point communication protocol designs for and alongside the BSPP, with the aim of transmitting warning or biometric data using neither audio nor video (temperature, geo-tracking, shock, presence of gas…). The PIXYS 3D® solution represents an addition to this module, which incorporates WHEERE technology, according to the CNES potentially just as revolutionary as GPS, which, once deployed, will enable the geo-tracking of any individual equipped with a dedicated tracker in 3 dimensions (latitude, longitude, altitude) with 1-metre accuracy in any environment, even GPS-denied.

More responsive security forces

The security and reliability of communication systems remains a major challenge for security forces and emergency services. CrossCall, a supplier of smartphones and tables to police forces and emergency services, has worked to improve performance, in particular with “more effective algorithms for the reduction of noise, so as to ensure clarity of communication, especially in noisy outdoor environments. With regard to the transition from private communication networks to public networks, or the increase of the coverage of the networks used by the forces, progress has been notable. The switchover is now automatic and very fast, taking only a matter of seconds,” explains Thibault Holley, technical expert at CrossCall. In order to render this system complete, CrossCall has recently started offering X-Comm, a remote micro-speaker that, when connected to smartphone by means of a wired connection or via Bluetooth, enables the simple remote control of spoken communication via a button on the shoulder piece or belt. It will also be deployed during the Games. “The goal is to address new operational requirements born out of the transformation and digitalisation of these services,” specifies Denis Thayanithy, Solutions and Partnerships Director at Crosscall.

It is also about enabling security forces to communicate with visitors and participants, and warning them in the event of a security incident. It is with this objective in mind that Chapvision combined the CAIAC and NP6 mapping and warning systems within a solution that won the contract tendered by the City of Paris for the 2024 OPG. “Having been tested at the Rugby World Cup on more than 12,000 volunteers, this solution enables the simultaneous transmission to a large number of registered users (visitors and members of the public) of information and alerts within a defined zone, in the event of an imminent threat or hazard that may directly affect them.”

Another challenge with regard to security at the Games: that of facilitating the “mobile” intervention of the police and Gendarmes present at the respective sites, and accelerating the judicial processing of incidents as necessary. The new version of the “NEO” secure mobile phones issued to police and Gendarmes will incorporate mobile sensors enabling the collection of digital fingerprints. Tested within the context of a pilot programme, the application currently being developed by IDEMIA enables the reconstruction of palm prints based on several images, using sensors that can therefore be made smaller, lighter, and less expensive, and suitable for rapid deployment directly on-site. “The progress made in the area of interfaces and recording tools, combined with those recently made in the area of biometric comparison algorithms, means that we may soon be able to do away with ‘ink’ prints on paper. Recording prints on the electronic sensor is much more convenient and faster. Furthermore, the prints recorded in this way can be immediately processed, and the results communicated directly to the officer in question. We are convinced that this will significantly improve the lives of operators in the field, accused parties, and citizens in general,”  assures Laurent Pellegrin.

A legacy of innovation

As a result of the range of studies conducted, we will be attentive to the acquisition planes underway within the ministries, authorities and transport companies (RATP and SNCF), to ensure that these technologies are actually implemented within the operational systems of these organisations,” inform Gérard Lacroix and Daniel Le Coguic. As a matter of fact, within the scope of the heritage approach adopted for the Paris Olympic Games, these major acquisition projects also aim to guarantee the desired economic outcome of these Games. “The spectrum of security being extremely vast and calling for a very broad range of technical responses, incorporating critical security and digital technologies, this dynamic could have a major impact on France’s innovation strategy, in particular with regard to AI, cybersecurity, and the battle against UAV systems. The Games could just provide the opportunity for the consolidation of French industrial and innovation policy,” they continue.  This could therefore be of benefit both to major players within the sector and to start-ups and SMEs . “The majority of sub-contractors and partners are part of France’s defense industrial and technological base (base industrielle et technologique de défense, BITD). In France, we are fortunate to have such golden nuggets. We need to protect, make them growing and it is essential that we ensure their sustainability in the long-term. Contracts such as those associated with major events are essential to sustain competences, knowledge, and technologies,” emphasizes Thierry Bon. Such reference contracts with French public bodies will not only allow us to pass business on to other players within the territory, but will also allow us to define a French major event security offering that can be outsourced internationally.

At present, various studies have already been initiated, and a certain number of acquisition plans have been launched or are in the process of being launched within the field of intelligence, data platforms, secure telecommunications solutions, and even counter UAV solutions, however, we are still waiting for several decisions to be made between now and the end of the year,” add Gérard Lacroix and Daniel Le Coguic. Decisions that, when they are announced, could represent significant commercial opportunities for the French sector, both in France and abroad. For TRAAK, for example, “the objective is to be able to present a final, operational product by the end of the year, available as an off-the-shelf solution for all emergency services and intervention teams in France, as well as overseas – in any country to which we are authorised to export from the French State.” In contrast, others are somewhat more ambivalent regarding the opportunities offered by the Games. “Of course, there are major communication challenges involved when it comes to export business, however, within the context of events on the scale of the OPG, host countries tend to favour local technologies,especially the United States. We are therefore somewhat cautious regarding the opportunities to supply the next OPG in Milan or Los Angeles. That said, we are delighted to be able to offer superior services to the security forces, with a view to better supporting them in performing their duties,” stresses the founder of Shark Robotics. “Our ability to extend our reach will also depend on our ability to communicate, as within this field, discretion regarding the solutions deployed is another condition determining the effectiveness of the overall system,” recalls Laurent Assouly, before clarifying: “However, the fact that our solutions are deployed within an extremely strict regulatory framework with regard to personal data, an area in which France is at the cutting edge on a European level, may play in our favour and represent a key export criterion.” The challenge now lies in specifying the needs of the public authorities, so as to respond to them in a timely fashion. The clock is ticking.