Your Face Could Speed Entry Into Baseball Games This Year

Facial recognition technology gives fans at some parks faster admission, though some express privacy concerns.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

April 3, 2024

3 Min Read
Facial recognition has started making inroads at sports venues.
Facial recognition systems being implemented at more Major League baseball stadiums are speeding entrance for fans willing to submit their facial images with their ticketing account.cmannphoto/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

At a Glance

  • More major league baseball teams have implemented facial recognition systems to offer fans expedited entry.

While the implementation of the pitch clock was the big change in baseball last year, there’s are no controversial rule changes or use of earthshaking new technologies on the baseball diamond slated for 2024. But the fan experience at ballparks continues to evolve, with one noticeable trend the use of facial recognition technology to speed fan entry into some ballparks.

Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies started a trial program where fans previously agreed to have their faces scanned and their images stored to gain expedited admission to Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies play. According to published reports, that program has spread to several other teams this season, including the San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, and the Washington Nationals as well as the Phillies.

Under the program, fans can verify ticket information by simply walking by the gate pedestals and looking at the camera. Fans must first enroll in the system via MLB’s Ballpark app by taking a selfie picture and linking that to their ticketing account. Once at the game, fans can use the Go-Ahead Entry lanes and have tickets validated just by walking past and looking at a camera. Multiple tickets on the same account can be verified with one look, allowing groups of family or friends to enter at the same time.

Related:Batter Up! Tech Hits Grand Slam on the Baseball Diamond

The trial deployment program at Citizens Bank Ballpark, which rolled out last August, shows early signs of success, according to a report on the site Stadium Report.  The report noted that fans entered through the Go-Ahead Entry gates 68 percent faster than regular ticketing gates. MLB was also quoted as saying Go-Ahead Entry gates could handle 2.5 times the throughput of a regular ticketing gate.

Although MLB has not provided any actual statistics to back up their claims, the consensus is that such systems are much faster than traditional ticket scanning at pedestals or by staff using hand-held scanners.

The facial recognition technology for the ticketing pedestals comes from NEC, which, according to its website, supplies biometric authentication and facial recognition technology for border controls, airports, transport hubs, and conferences as well as stadiums and concert venues.

Facial Recognition Phasing In

Baseball and other sports have been flirting with facial recognition technology for several years. An article on the site of Sports Business Journal noted that another facial recognition software company, Wicket, has partnered with NFL football teams the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons, as well as baseball’s New York Mets, to deploy facial recognition ticketing isimilar to the MLB program. The article noted that the Browns were the first to use Wicket program and has seen over 20,000 fans sign up for the expedited ticketing program.

Added Security or Privacy Intrusion?

Facial recognition technology is no stranger to most people. Anyone traveling through an airport gets his or her face scanned as part of the extensive security gate scanning. Many buildings or companies within buildings use facial recognition to identify employees and screen those who warrant access to facilities.

Privacy experts worry that using facial recognition in a recreational venue such as a ballpark is yet an unreasonable intrusion. But in the Sports Business Journal article, Ricardo Amper, Founder, and CEO of Incode, was quoted as saying, "A key concept to understand is that to follow The National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information (INAI) guidelines, the biometrics must be in possession of the owner. That is, a fan is the sole owner of their personal data and biometrics.”

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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