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Authenticity, AR, facial recognition: The future of ticket tech

The pace of technological change presents an exciting array of options for ticket companies. IQ's International Ticketing Yearbook 2019 examines the latest developments

By IQ on 17 Oct 2019

Ticket tech: Facial recognition is likely to be making an impact in the ticketing industry soon

Facial recognition is likely to be making an impact in the ticketing industry soon


From methods of tackling fraud to improving the visitor experience, ticketing firms are exploring a variety of tools.

High on everyone’s minds is the rapid rise of mobile tickets – as frequently reported in the market profiles throughout ITY 2019. But this is just the start of a mobile-first paradigm shift.

“We’ve got a generation of new consumers coming through now and they don’t just expect their services to be on mobile, they expect them to be mobile first,” says industry veteran Steve Machin, global director of ticketing strategy and innovation at FanDragon. “People are buying tickets now who don’t ‘go online’ to do something, they just use their phone. This move to mobile will make the shift away from CDs look like a slow meander.”

Security is the top priority, says international ticketing consultant Tim Chambers. “Unfortunately, prevention of fraud costs time and resources and all too often organisations fail to plan for worst case, without any regard as to how to recover post-incident, and assume they’ll continue to get away without specialised focus.”

He adds: “Related to this is the issue of combatting automated bots that impact site availability (DDoS), on-sale queueing, event webpage reload, ticket purchase and other operational factors. Unfortunately, as an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel.”

Maureen Andersen, president and CEO of the International Ticketing Association (Intix), thinks ticket authenticity is a significant focus for companies when considering how new technology can help them.

“As an industry, too little has been done with shared expertise, best practice or market intel”

“Tickets delivered to your mobile is well established, but what will be more important in this matter is that the distribution is tied to your mobile, for example, by using a barcode that’s refreshed frequently. Ticketmaster has now released SafeTix, which is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is.”

Launched in May 2019, SafeTix uses a barcode that changes every few seconds, meaning it can’t be copied or screenshotted. Fans can transfer tickets to friends or family using mobile phone numbers or an email address. A new digital ticket is tied to the recipient’s account and phone, each time a ticket is transferred or sold, making the journey of each ticket visible to organisers.

Of course, knowing who all the attendees are provides venues and companies with a rich source of data – an opportunity to track what experiences are valuable to any given consumer.

Generation Z is more comfortable with being tracked in exchange for a fast service, says Andersen. “They know they leave a digital footprint, but they want information right in their hand and they want it immediately. They understand they’re being tracked and they’re okay with it because they get served options and they’re all about options.”

She points to statistics showing that in Las Vegas while 68% of visitors attend a show or event, two thirds of them decide what to see after their arrival, and 60% of event tickets are sold within 72 hours of event. “This is because people are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision. They’re in the moment. It’s only the older generation that’s worried about being tracked.”

Nonetheless, we are moving towards a world where consumers will have more control over their data. That will affect not just the ticketing industry but all sectors of public-facing commerce, from the motor industry to travel.

“People are waiting to look at all the options that are fed to them before they make a decision”

“This means we will need to be able to deliver hyper-relevant services to individuals even when you don’t know who they are,” says Machin. “You’ll be tracking behaviour in an anonymised way. This is one of the benefits of blockchain.”

FanDragon’s ticket-wallet feature means while the person owning the wallet remains anonymous, their behaviour can be analysed. For example, if a wallet buys tickets every time a certain artist comes to their town, but suddenly stops, that sort of information might be interesting to the client. Similarly, if a wallet has 600 tickets in it, it’s a scalper.

“Tickets are no longer simply ‘a revocable licence to attend the event listed on the front,’ they are a personal communication hub,” says Machin. “Once you buy a ticket, you can have experiences, messaging or content delivered to your phone because the organiser knows you’re going and who you’re going with. It means the event experience can start much sooner. It’s a much deeper relationship but that requires greater responsibility not to impinge on people’s privacy and data.”

My face is my ticket
Using your face to unlock a smartphone has been commonplace since Apple launched FaceID in 2017 (other earlier phones used facial recognition but it could be easily hacked). But when Live Nation Entertainment invested in biometric company Blink Identity in 2018, the prospect of being able to walk into a venue without needing to get your phone or paper ticket out took a step closer to becoming reality.

Justin Burleigh, LN-owned Ticketmaster’s global chief product officer, says: “We didn’t want to have a database of millions of customers’ faces, so instead this technology uses the same mechanism as the facial recognition tech that unlocks many smartphones. By scanning a face and converting that information into code, it negates the need for storing images of people’s faces.

“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control. For example, if you’re carrying some beers and food it will mean you don’t have to reach into your pocket for your phone or ticket to gain access.”

“Facial recognition will be able to create some really compelling experiences for backstage, or VIP personnel control”

However, he adds, “We have a lot more to do in the lab before this gets rolled out. We want to get it right because we know if we get it wrong we won’t be given a second chance.”

It’s not just the world’s biggest ticketing company that’s interested in the technology. Former Ticketmaster CEO and later head of commerce at Twitter, Nathan Hubbard, recently announced a facial recognition-powered ticketing platform of his own, Rival. Its first client is Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, owner of Denver’s Pepsi Center (20,000-cap.), although migrating from AXS had some teething problems.

And while there may be what Machin calls some “ickiness” around the idea of facial recognition at music events at the moment, the technology’s use at airport security is commonplace. And as people become more comfortable with it in this context, that will smooth the path for its arrival in entertainment.

Enhanced real life
Augmented reality is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more common in live entertainment, so how will the ticketing industry respond to that? Andersen reckons the answer will be driven by how much consumers want to buy into these things and what they want to experience.

“Whereas a 50-year-old might want to come into a venue and sit down, buy a hot dog and watch the show, somebody younger wants to engage with technology that recognises them as an individual. You could be watching the game from your seat but also see it from the players’ perspective by looking at your device.”

Other examples include creating 3D virtual venue models that can be expanded using AR. This could mean being able to see a model of the venue before you go to a show and finding out where everything is, as well as seeing sponsorship activations, and even connecting it to a Facebook account to see where your friends are sitting. You could find out where the bar queues are shortest, or where to get your favourite pretzel.

“SafeTix is not unlike other technologies out there, but that the largest ticketing company in the world has done this shows how important authenticity is”

Looking forward
That’s the present situation. But what nascent tech or business models might we see in the near future?

Ticketmaster’s Burleigh says he is excited to see new hardware come online, such as more powerful NFC tech, which would mean people don’t have to take their phone out of their pockets to scan on entry. He would also like to see more powerful cashless opportunities across venues. Andersen suggests a subscription-based model could have potential in the future.

“Like a Netflix model, where you buy something today and have access to it later – for example, if you want to go to a big game or play-off you can get access to early booking because you’ve paid a subscription.”

It’s not without precedent. In the cinema industry, MoviePass allowed people to go see films for a monthly subscription fee. Currently, the venture is in difficulty as the company behind it struggles to control its cash burn. However, US cinema chains AMC Theatres and Cinemark are also running subscription models with some success. AMC’s programme, which allows customers to see three movies a week for $19.95 a month, has over 900,000 subscribers. Could that model be transferred to live? While it’s unlikely to work for the largest companies and artists, it could be more viable for grassroots-level venues and promoters.

Whatever the future holds for ticket tech, Chambers predicts that the fragmented nature of all the options means there will need to be open-API schemes to ensure that a seamless customer delivery service is provided: multiple backends but unified consumer experience.

“This is increasingly evident in [London’s] West End theatre or with the NFL ticket retail and distribution agreements, and will inevitably spread to other sectors and territories to become much more commonplace,” he says.

For more insight into the state of the global ticketing industry, read IQ’s International Ticketing Yearbook 2019.

 



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