Ticketmaster has quietly revealed plans to use facial recognition technology in venues to facilitate admission to live shows and more.
The rollout constitutes part of a trial that follows the ticketing giant’s investment in Blink Identity, an Austin, Texas-based startup that participated in the TechStars music accelerator program and officially launched in January this year.
Ticketmaster’s plans were revealed as part of parent company Live Nation’s Q1 2018 earnings:
We will continue investing in new technologies to further differentiate Ticketmaster from others in the ticketing business. It is very notable that today we announce our partnership with, and investment in, Blink Identity, which has cutting-edge facial recognition technology, enabling you to associate your digital ticket with your image, then just walk into the show.
Blink Identity’s platform basically allows a venue to identify people using their facial biometrics without requiring them to stop and stand in front of a lens. This is a potential game-changer that elevates it above most of the consumer-focused facial recognition technology that exists today. Blink Identity claims it can capture people walking past at full speed and can handle more than 60 people each minute. For a venue that may hold tens of thousands of people, such efficiency is key.
More than that, Blink Identity cites various potential use cases for its technology once the gig-goer is inside the venue. They can buy merchandise and drinks, for example, assuming the user has a valid payment card attached to their Ticketmaster profile. Facial recognition could also be used to regulate access to VIP zones.
Ticketmaster hasn’t stated specifically how it will use the technology — the initial rollout will be kicking off soon in “corporate buildings and several Live Nation venues,” according to a statement issued to VentureBeat. The company will then examine “how the technology could be beneficial to fans, artists, and venues alike.”
The company suggested a number of other ways it may use the technology, including to serve more personalized offers and product tie-ins while attendees move around the venue. It would also allow for “development of deeper customer relationships” between fans, artists, venues, and teams. Moreover, Ticketmaster touts the technology as boosting safety and security, as it allows venues to know exactly who is in attendance, though it’s not entirely clear how this is more beneficial than having an e-ticket that’s tied to an individual’s mobile device.
The facial recognition smarts will be integrated into Ticketmaster Presence, the company’s e-ticketing platform unveiled last year that’s going to replace paper tickets with digital passes and other forms of proximity-based access keys. Indeed, we reported last year that Ticketmaster was trialing a system that admits users based on audio data transmitted from their phones.
Facial recognition takes things a step further, however, reducing friction for fans lining up to see their favorite artists.
The privacy debate
There is no ignoring the elephant in the room, however. This kind of technology will be viewed by many as a way to build a massive biometric database of millions of people that can be used for tracking, cross-selling, and more. Plus, as facial recognition technology becomes more pervasive, such systems raise questions over whether individuals can be tracked on their way to and from venues — and in time, the technology could extend across a city.
Facebook is already facing heat over its facial recognition technology. The company is currently in the process of trying to get European users to support its facial recognition platform under the auspices of security and protecting users from impersonation. In the U.S., Facebook is facing lawsuits over historical privacy abuses around facial recognition.
When Ticketmaster’s technology goes to market, it will presumably be on an opt-in basis, but it certainly hints at the future we are heading toward. Facial recognition technology is gaining steam, with China leading the way across myriad use cases, from finding criminals to replacing ID cards at company and university campuses. With the likes of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon all embracing facial recognition, it’s pretty clear this kind of technology is only going to become more commonplace.