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Major League Baseball’s biometric ticketing collects 6K opening day hits

Major League Baseball’s biometric ticketing collects 6K opening day hits

Fans entered a stadium with biometrics during the opening day of the 2024 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, one of four ballparks to deploy the technology, and the league has high hopes for the touchless access program.

The Washington Nationals added biometric ticketing to their opening day lineup through MLB’s Go-Ahead Entry. The introduction of Go-Ahead Entry allows fans attending Nationals games to use the MLB Ballpark app for touchless entry at gates equipped with dedicated hardware.

Fans using the optional service register their biometrics with a selfie and then use facial authentication to enter at full walking speed through dedicated gates. Four lanes have been deployed at Nationals Park in D.C. Two of those are on the west end of the Park’s center field gates, another in center field, and one more on the first-base side of the stadium.

The rollout in Washington follows trials last year at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia last year. Those trials showed the biometric lines moving 68 percent faster, and 2.5 times more people passing through them than the fastest lane using physical or smartphone-based tickets, reports the Fredericksburg Free Press. The Phillies have taken their deployment stadium-wide for the 2024 season.

Prior to that, face biometrics were used for entry to New York Mets games with Wicket technology, and to Cleveland Guardians games with Clear’s technology.

The facial recognition technology for MLB’s Go-Ahead Entry was developed by NEC, according to an April 1 ESPN report.

The Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants have already implemented Go-Ahead Entry, and around 6,000 fans used it at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Thursday, ABC13 reports. MLB plans to eventually expand from the four above teams to all 30 in the league.

Washington and San Francisco opened on Thursday on the road, while Philadelphia’s home game was rained out.

One fan asked about biometric venue access by the publication said she was not comfortable with the optional program, but the Astros are looking for increased participation over the course of the season.

“I don’t think it’s something that’s inherently bad,” Jake Laperruque of the Center of Democracy and Technology told ABC13. “It’s important to ask what happens to these profiles.”

Laperruque’s tentative approval is noteworthy, given his well-documented concerns about the deployment of facial recognition in a regulatory environment compared by some to the “wild west.”

The Astros say the technology did not run perfectly on opening day, but did not struggle to identify people on any particular race or gender.

“In terms of the technology, the end to end execution and implementation is proprietary,” MLB Chief Operations and Strategy Officer Chris Marinak told Mirror Sports U.S.

“Now we use vendors and we use other third-party technology for a whole host of things, including the security screening process, the facial recognition element, you know, some of the other software development pedestals, screen delivery,” Marinak adds. “But we really do believe that we’re the first one to kind of put all the pieces together in a way that you’ve seen. And we’re really optimistic that more and more clubs next year will get a chance to use that technology.”

The Mirror also notes that the league is handling the rollout, rather than delegating it to the teams.

Marinak says 93 percent of fans currently use mobile devices for stadium entry, compared to 12 to 15 percent in 2019. He also says that the very first trial of biometric ticketing through Go-Ahead Entry drew 2,000 signups without being actively promoted. Eventually, he says, facial authentication could be deployed to concessions and in-stadium vendors for biometric purchasing, as well as suite access and VIP areas.

This post was updated at 12:48pm Eastern on April 1, 2024 to add the identity of the company supplying the biometric algorithms.

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