Facial recognition swings for the fences
By Terry Schulenburg, vice president at CyberLink
In 2023, an estimated 65 million fans will attend regular season games at one of the 30 stadiums currently in use by Major League Baseball teams. To manage crowds of this size and ensure a positive experience, stadiums are turning to biometric technologies.
The newest stadium, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas – home to the Rangers – boasts first-of-its-kind technology which allows fans to use the palm of their hand to buy concessions at the ‘Express Grill.’ Visitors can grab items, adding them to a virtual cart, which is then automatically charged to their card once they leave the concession area – no checkout, no line.
It’s not just the newest stadiums taking advantage of emerging technologies. Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in use, built over a century ago in 1912, announced this year the debut of AI technology to more efficiently move visitors through security and into the game – wasting no time before buying peanuts and cracker jacks.
Beyond concessions and security, baseball is moving towards a future where “your face is your ticket,” as is the motto at the Met’s Citi Field stadium. More importantly, fans are embracing it. The new generation of fans are more open to the use of biometrics like facial recognition technology (FRT). Recent research shows 29 percent of Americans are open to FRT at sports stadiums if it improves safety, the same agreed to FRT at stadiums for the sake of improved convenience. What’s more, 18–34-year-olds are 5 percent more likely than older fans to approve of FRT usage at stadiums.
Here’s how you can expect to see biometrics in use at stadiums this year and in the future:
Any event that draws crowds also draws safety concerns. In 2021, fans enjoying a National’s game in the middle of summer were sent running to safety after a shooting outside the park wounded three and scared many. At the Denver-based All-Star game the same year, police were on high alert for a feared mass shooting incident. Beyond weapons detection, vision AI has many great uses when it comes to maintaining the security of baseball stadiums.
First, vision AI can effectively protect fans and players by identifying anyone on the banned list. People can be banned for bad behavior like harassment, use of racist terms towards players and other fans, inciting violence or throwing things on the field or into the stands. This type of behavior not only ruins the fun for everyone, but it can be traumatizing for others in attendance.
In cases like the All-Star game, when police know of a violent act ahead of time and have a photo of the suspect, they can quickly identify the person and neutralize the threat – keeping everyone safe.
Many people bring their families to games and facial recognition can play a large part in protecting children by identifying known predators and barring them from entry. In the case of a missing child, vision AI can quickly help security locate the child and get them back to their guardian safely.
We’ve all been there. You’re waiting in line for a much-needed snack when the biggest play of the game happens and you’re left watching it on a tiny television while waiting behind other hungry fans.
Stadiums have been a testing ground for cashier-less check-out thanks in part to the massive volume of people served in a short amount of time. Food and venue management company Delaware North partnered with Mastercard and leveraged Accel Robotics friction-less technology for high demand concessions. The combination of AI and computer vision technology allows customers to just walk out, getting them back to the action faster. As the technology improves, fans could soon use their face to purchase age-restricted items like alcohol.
In addition to food service use cases, stadiums are using vision AI to quickly move people through ticket lines. Just as airport travelers can opt into biometric-powered touchless security using their eyes and face, stadium goers will have the option at some stadiums to skip the line and scan right into the game, foregoing old school tickets altogether.
Enhanced Customer Experience
In the future, vision AI will not only protect fans and move them through typical bottlenecks faster, but it will also enhance their experience at the game through more personalized engagement. Just look at the app 15 Seconds of Fame, which allows stadiums to offer fans videos of their own appearances on the jumbotron, delivering them directly to their phone where they can share, save and replay for friends in perpetuity.
Imagine a future where your concession preferences are automatically delivered to whichever seat you’re sitting in that day. With new AI technology, you can find where the shortest lines are, ask questions about the food preparation process and interact with the jumbotron while you are at the stadium.
While some might bristle at the use of AI, this tech will be necessary for the next era of fans who expect convenience and personalized experiences. For fan buy in, it’s crucial that guest privacy is protected. There are very few laws that do this, so it’s up to the stadiums to anticipate future regulation and behave ethically.
Using technology that is securely encrypted and doesn’t rely on the storage of past data is key. Stadiums are also learning that biometrics should only be used with consent of the consumer – otherwise it is seen as intrusive and may violate privacy laws. Fans should have clear information on how biometrics and vision AI will be used and have the genuine option to opt out. Facial recognition with consent is the only way to take the benefits of biometric technologies out to the ballgame.
About the author
Terry Schulenburg is a Vice President at CyberLink. Terry’s 35+ years of experience in the technology space include roles at Blackboard, Genetec, Apple and more.
DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.