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NFL tackles access security with staff face biometrics pilot

NFL tackles access security with staff face biometrics pilot

The NFL is testing a facial authentication system for credentialed staff at six stadiums this season, including the Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Cleveland Business Journal reports. The move to adopt biometrics for staff entry, orchestrated over two years by NFL’s senior VP of security, Cathy Lanier, seeks to digitize and bolster the existing system that regulates access for workers, vendors, and media during games.

Lanier compares the NFL’s security measures to the complexity of the Olympics, highlighting the intricacies of access zones and timing. Access to the field, for instance, is segmented into 20 different time slots. So, someone cleared two hours before kickoff might not have post-game access.

Says Lanier, “There’s a lot of holes in the current system. It’s a system that’s outdated and has a lot of vulnerabilities. It’s easy to pass a fake credential off. It’s difficult for security personnel to read a complex credential that’s got 27 different codes on it.”

The NFL plans to employ Wicket’s facial authentication technology, already adopted by the Browns for fan entry, to cross-check digital photos against real-time facial scans. Real-time face biometrics authentication software will make it far more challenging to transfer credentials illicitly, a common form of fraud. Every scan will produce a straightforward red or green signal for security staff, reducing the risk of human error at checkpoints.

Wicket was ranked towards the top of NIST’s FRVT 1:1 leaderboard as of mid-2023, with an algorithm submitted in early 2022.

By the Super Bowl, the league will assess the pilot’s performance. Brandon Covert, Browns’ VP of IT, noted that the technology has already proven successful at their training facility. There, it has eliminated the players’ need to remember their security cards and made things faster. “It’s been a tremendous success for us,” Covert says.

Covert estimates that around 500 individuals, primarily full-time team, NFL staff, and media, will use face biometrics on game days this season. However, given policy and legal considerations, rolling it out to the other 2,000 workers will require more time.

While Cleveland Browns Stadium is a confirmed pilot location, the NFL hasn’t disclosed the other participating venues.

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