Biometric security technology at the Super Bowl is a big win for public safety

Biometric security technology at the Super Bowl is a big win for public safety

This is a guest post by Kevin Freiburger, Director of Identity Programs, Valid.

Past Super Bowls have relied on helicopters, police dogs and dozens of security agencies to ensure public safety. These kinds of security measures are top-notch and undoubtedly serve as powerful deterrents to would-be bad actors. However, these tactics have a serious blind spot: They’re unable to keep known bad actors from entering the stadium — and that’s where biometrics can change the game.

In addition to the federal and international bad actor watch lists, nearly every stadium in the world has banned certain fans due to rowdy, sometimes alcohol-fueled, incidents. But watch lists and lifetime bans are incredibly difficult to uphold when venues are forced to rely on humans — ushers, ticket scanners and concession staff — to recognize and apprehend ousted individuals. It’s simply impossible for security teams to spot a single face among tens of thousands of sports fans. And at events like the Super Bowl, it means identifying a few bad actors in a sea of 65,000 or more fans.

Biometrics-based security measures work exceptionally well for identifying bad actors from the disorderly to the criminal: Cameras scan faces, software compares the captured face to watch lists, human staff review the potential matches and then venue security initiates the removal process after the match is confirmed.

In the current security technology landscape, biometric matching provides another layer to ensure unwanted guests never enter the stadium. Of course, biometric matching is based on probability, but we can all agree that the probability of biometric security methods catching a bad actor among 65,000 sports fans is much higher than the probability of a human doing so. Plus, any the false positives produced by the system are mitigated by the human reviewers so legitimate guests are not removed by inaccurate match results.

The use of biometric security tactics in large arenas is already happening

Sports venues already offer a biometrics option for ticketing and admissions to increase operational efficiency and create a better user experience — a practice that creates a use case and path for biometric adoption in those same venues for public safety.

Biometric verification technologies like Clear (already in use at UT Austin) keep lines and employment costs down by using fingerprint scans to verify ticket holders’ identities, and quickly route attendees to their seats without the need for human intervention. The Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles also currently use Clear technology in their respective stadiums. Clear and other extensions of biometric matching technology, like facial recognition, will dramatically improve the admissions experience at events like the Super Bowl and can be implemented as both a permanent feature of the stadium or a temporary measure for high-traffic events.

In these use cases, biometrics improves the fan experience, increases ease-of-use and ushers in money-saving benefits for the stadium itself. This baseline acceptance underscores public acceptance of a new technology when it improves their lives. By extension, for the public to accept biometric security methods, the technology’s value in protecting sports fans must be proven by those of us in the biometrics space.

Continued education on biometric technology and public policy discussions are critical to widespread adoption and public acceptance. The core message is that this technology works to keep people out, not identify and store fans’ private, biometric information.

Discussions about biometrics should emphasize topics like access control and data security within the systems. It’s important to note that discussions stemming from current events, like San Francisco’s recent ban on biometrics, are a positive development because they provide a jumping-off point for further conversations about the use of biometrics in public safety.

The future of public safety depends on biometrics

A biometrics-based security and access control system for the Super Bowl may improve public safety. Policy, human intervention and review, and venue operating procedures can address false positives stemming from mismatches due to face paint, obscured features from bad lighting or other environmental conditions that prevent the technology from matching faces with high levels of confidence.

However, given the use cases that already improve the fan experience, it won’t be long until we improve the safety of fans with the same biometric technology — making the big game even safer for fans, players and workers.

About the author

Kevin Freiburger is Director of Identity Programs and Product Management at Valid where he leads a team that builds and delivers large-scale identity management and biometric matching solutions to public and private enterprises.

DISCLAIMER: BiometricUpdate.com blogs are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BiometricUpdate.com.

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