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Sports Teams Moving Towards Facial Recognition at Entrance for Fans Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

Facial recognition (Photo Credit: Reuters)

Facial recognition (Photo Credit: Reuters)

With everything going contactless due to coronavirus pandemic, sports teams are looking to use facial recognition to admits fans.

Contactless buying, contactless delivery and now, there may be contactless entry to sports stadiums for fans to be a part of the arena ambience once again.

With the coronavirus pandemic wrecking havoc, fans have not been able to go to the stadium to watch their favourite teams play. In order to curb the spread of the disease, sports has been taking place mostly behind closed doors.

However, as the world prepares to welcome the fans back to the stadiums, it is facial recognition they are looking at in order to make the experience as contactless as possible.

Chief executive of facial-recognition supplier Trueface Shaun Moore said to the Wall Street Journal that sports teams are looking at facial-recognition scanners to begin bringing back high-value fans such as VIP guests or season-ticket holders.

"How to reduce touch points and (avoid) people having to hand over credentials" has been the major talking point according to Moore. He also added that Even scanning ticket bar codes could pose a risk of spreading the virus.

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Major League Soccer (MLS) club Los Angeles FC (LAFC) will have the Alclear app for fans to speed up security checks by presenting their fingerprints or showing their faces.

With the app, the fans will take a selfie and link their Clear accounts with their existing Ticketmaster profiles. At the stadium, one camera will check their temperature while another will determine whether they are wearing masks. Then the fans will be required to pull down their masks and get their faces recognised to admit them based on their ticket purchase.

If a face isn't recognized, a red frame will show around the face on the screen and the person will be denied entry.

"Our plan is to move everything to face," WSJ quoted Christian Lau, chief technology officer of LAFC and Banc of California Stadium, as saying.

Lau said the club's did trials of the app just before lockdown, when 600 fans has used it over the course of two games. Lau added that less than 1 per cent of customers had to adjust or rescan their faces.

James Stickland, chief executive of British facial-recognition firm Veridium IP Ltd., said such software could cost between $200,000 and $250,000 a year for a stadium.

"At some point in the not-too-distant future, you can walk up and use your face to buy pizza," Lau said.

Currently Major League Baseball's (MLS) Mets are using Alclear to authenticate players and staff as they enter the stadium and take their temperatures. They plan is considering using it for fans later.

Johan Cruijff Arena, home to one of Europe's most-successful soccer clubs, AFC Ajax, installed facial-recognition cameras at its stadium entrance two years ago as part of a pilot for ticketless fan entry.

However, Dutch data protection regulators warned the stadium was violating privacy rules, and they had to take the cameras down six months later.

Now stadium managers are asking regulators if they can reinstall the cameras and software when they allow 10,000 fans for a practice game with RKC Waalwijk on August 8.

"Hopefully we use this coronavirus pandemic to change rules," said Henk van Raan, chief innovation officer at the arena. "The coronavirus is a bigger enemy than (any threat to) privacy."

"It's the same old story, it's Big Brother," Moore said. "But if you sit and tell them, and they understand [how it works], that takes a lot of the mystery away."


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