IPL 2020: How do you create a bio-bubble for a cricket series?

Botan Osman, CEO of Restrata - the UK-based firm which set up the bio-bubble for IPL 2020, explains how technology has helped to keep the players and other stakeholders safe inside the bubble.

Botan Osman, CEO of Restrata, discussing the bio-bubble plan.   -  Special Arrangement

When the Indian Premier League started in the United Arab Emirates in September, there were apprehensions about the future of the tournament. In the times of COVID-19, it has been a real challenge for all the stakeholders to maintain a bio-secure environment.

While it has been a smooth ride so far, the bio-bubble and how it works continue to interest the fans and the cricket enthusiasts. In an exclusive conversation with Sportstar from London on Tuesday, Botan Osman, the CEO of Restrata - the UK-based firm which set up the bio-bubble for the IPL, explains how technology has kept the players and other stakeholders safe inside the bubble.

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The company was also responsible for setting up the bio-bubble during England’s home series against the West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia.

It’s been almost a month since the IPL started in a bio-secured environment. Tell us a bit about the bio-bubble…

So far, 29 games have been played and we are deeply proud to be involved with the IPL - it is such an incredible tournament. Building the bio-bubble has been BCCI’s achievement and our role here is to help them with the technology and enable the bio-bubble - to function and monitor. Inside the bio-bubble, each individual is given a band, with which we can understand the location of the individual using the censors that we have put across the stadiums and the hotels. With this, we understand the location and the movement of one person in relation to another. We have deployed our censor technology across 12 hotels, three stadiums and one main training ground. All of these facilities act as a single bio-bubble in order to manage the end to end of the tournament and ensure that everyone stays COVID safe.

“We have deployed our censor technology across 12 hotels, three stadiums and one main training ground. All of these facilities act as a single bio-bubble in order to manage the end to end of the tournament and ensure that everyone stays COVID safe.”

But what are the factors to keep the bubble safe and ensure that the protocols are maintained?

We are helping with the compliance through the regulations that the BCCI has set for the players. Our technology helps enable that – the reduction of social distancing violations, help the reduction of people going into one zone, to help with the reduction of capacity violations. All of those things contribute to the maintenance of a safe bio-bubble.

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Now women cricketers, too, will be travelling to the UAE for the Women’s T20 Challenge. So, every time new members enter the bio-bubble, what’s the process that is followed to ensure that things are safe? How foolproof is the process?

When someone comes here, the person goes through the quarantine process at the beginning. Then, they are issued the tags, which they wear on their necks or wrists – depending on preference – and that’s how they are allowed inside the bio-bubble. There are ways to monitor who’s going where, who has not been seen for a while and etc. Through those checks and reports, you are able to understand whether people are respecting the bio-bubble or not, and also whether they are inside it. If there is a positive case, then the technology is used to understand the contact tracing.

Before the tournament began, there were a few cases in the Chennai Super Kings camp. How challenging was it to ensure that things remain under control?

I can’t really comment on specific cases. I am not sure whether we had started on the project around that time. But if there is a case, we can very quickly identify who did that person come in contact with and single him out – so that we can isolate those individuals, stop the spread and maintain a COVID-secure environment. The technology gives you the eyes and ears or the data that you need to respond to stop things at the source.

Restrata's role has been to help BCCI with the technology and enable the bio-bubble.   -  Special Arrangement

 

You spoke about the band – which is given to all the individuals. How does it work? How do you get to know about a breach?

The technology that we use has been proven for many years. The tracking technology helps you understand where the people are. The beacons that people wear or the lanyards help in communicating with the locators which are placed in different hotels and structures through various locators. So, if this is the hotel lobby, you have various locators within the building. That gets sent out and our system picks it up and that becomes the interface through which you manage things. Some elements are important to manage live and some elements are managed historically. You have everybody’s profile in the system and each tag is associated with a person. That’s basically how it works and it gives you a little bit of intelligence to understand what’s happening.

How many designated zones are there inside the bubble?

There are about 20 assets, each of them is divided into multiple zones. It’s a big number. In stadiums, you have about 15-20 zones. It’s similar in the hotels as well – there are a lot of zones. This helps you get a picture of where people are going and to manage those elements. With any new technology or project, you have to make people realise what it is and what are you using. It is important to let them know about the tags and how to wear them. We drew some of the regulations, but it was largely shared by the BCCI and the franchise.

“Each franchise has its own bio-bubble managers and task force, who are responsible for managing things. Everybody works together to make a bio-bubble work. The BCCI and the bio-bubble managers of each franchise have been excellent.”

Each franchise has its own bio-bubble managers and task force, who are responsible for managing things. Everybody works together to make a bio-bubble work. The BCCI and the bio-bubble managers of each franchise have been excellent.

Restrata created the bio-bubble for the England and Wales Cricket Board. But it was mostly restricted to bilateral series. In the IPL, with so many people on board, how challenging has the job been?

The ECB project was for the entire summer – it finished in September. We are now planning for the next season with them. It was not just one series (there were four series), and across two stadiums. It was of lesser people, but challenges were similar. With the IPL, there were more teams, greater number of people, more venues – so there was challenge. We had a short space of time, but in the world of COVID, everything happens quick. We have a large office in Dubai and there is a big team, but the only challenge was the time. We are covering about 20 assets and because of that there was massive hard work on ground – both from us and the BCCI.

There has been no crowd in the IPL. But going forward, with the advancement of technology, is it possible to get the fans back to the stadiums?

How can technology help in return of the fans is the question! Well, we had a trial of the fan return technology (in the UK) to understand social distancing, contact tracing not within a bubble, but within a stadium. When the fans enter, they get a lanyard. It ultimately becomes a management tool for a venue because if you get X thousand people in the stadium, you have to manage the situation – whether there is social distancing, whether there is any break in the zone, whether there is too much capacity. How do you manage it all? So, our crowd return system works on that. We are now working with a number of organisations in the UK to see how we can get the fans back into the stadiums.

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