As the world's stadiums lie empty, opportunity presents itself to rethink the entire at-match experience. In many cities this is exactly what executives from stadiums and teams are doing, formulating plans on how they'll service patrons once the gates reopen. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, stadiums on both sides of the US coast are looking to go completely 'touchless' to both to increase patron safety as well as enhance the overall 'sidewalk to seat' customer experience. Soon, your reserved seat will represent the only necessary physical contact we have with a stadium.
Your face is your ticket
Key to the 'touchless' stadium is your biometric information. As detailed by the WSJ, patrons will no longer hand over a ticket. Instead it'll be a temperature check and a scan of your face. If you pass the health check and your face scan matches your account's profile picture you'll be admitted entry.
At a cost of "several thousands of dollars" per kiosk and up to "$250,000 a year" in software licensing, it's far from a cheap solution.
The immediate plan is to enhance safety at the front gate but LAFC endeavour to extend the technology in stadium to provide a contactless experience to purchase food, concessions and more.
Do the implications outweigh the benefits?
When it's safe sports fans across the globe will be chomping at the bit to get back into stadiums to witness their favourite teams and athletes compete. Advancements to provide a safe experience will be very much welcomed.
The question has to be asked though, is facial scanning a heavy handed approach, a sledgehammer to a crack a nut so to speak? Thinking from a privacy and personal security point of view, should stadiums need to be so invasive in authenticating its fans?
Biometrics identify at the most detailed level and in turn are an individuals's most prized information. Patrons will be placing immense trust in stadiums to secure this data and advocate that this information is not shared with external entities.
Keeping hold of our biometric information
We all carry a trusted device (ie. our phone) that we use biometrics to authenticate. Our information is stored securely on device in a dedicated enclave ensuring upmost security even if our device was lost or stolen. Coupled with bluetooth, NFC and other technologies available on our phones, there's more than enough opportunity here to use the device to inform the stadium of our identity. If BMW can allow you to identify yourself and securely unlock a $100K+ autombile with your phone then there's no denying the technology is capable of authenticating ourselves at stadiums using a similar approach.
An alternative option could be akin to Disney's MagicBand. Disney ushered MagicBands into its parks and resorts back in 2013, arguably cementing wearables as an integral component to provide great customer experiences. With Walt Disney World in Florida hosting the NBA restart, special MagicBands were given to players and staff as passports and contact tracers. These MagicBands grant entry when the wearer has correctly entered their health information that day. An approach that's secure and both health and privacy focused.
The new normal must be privacy focused
Adapting to the current climate and putting measures in place to ensure the safety and health of patrons is absolutely what stadiums should be doing. Any approach in this regard must put the customer first, especially their privacy. Thankfully, suitable technology exists through using our phones as our authenticated passport.
A byproduct of taking a customer first approach to the problem will also empower stadiums to create better match day experience for fans. A 'touchless' stadium, with concessions, food, kiosks, signage all responding to a fans movement and interaction is a future we should be moving towards.