Major League Baseball adopts biometric ticketing

Fingerprints are replacing tickets at some Major League Baseball stadiums.

Major League Baseball and Clear have reportedly been testing biometrics in baseball stadiums with a few teams on a small-scale basis for a couple of years. Use of the technology is increasing with the Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers recently announcing that they’re all using biometric ticketing in 2019. Out of MLB’s 30 teams, 11 allow fans to enter a ballpark using biometrics to 11. To use biometric ticketing, a person must also be a Clear member. They need to link their Clear profiles with an account. When they get to the ballpark, they can use a fingerprint — and eventually facial recognition — to enter the ballpark instead of a ticket.

Clear and MLB say the partnership is all about speed.

“When experiencing a game, the biggest friction point is getting into the stadium,” Lauren Stangel, head of sports and events for CLEAR told Fox Business News last year.

Noah Garden, MLB’s executive vice president of business, echoed that. “Getting into the stadium as seamlessly and expeditiously as possible is important to the fan experience.”

Beyond enabling fans faster entry in ballparks, what else is in it for MLB? One theory is that offering high-tech conveniences could help boost ballpark attendance, which has been decreasing. According to Yahoo Sports, the average crowd size dipped below 30,000 people per game last year. New technology has a way of attracting people and biometric ticketing may help boost attendance. According to a press release, Clear will unveil biometric-powered concessions in some stadiums, “enabling fans to pay for food, beer and validate legal age with just the tap of a finger or blink of an eye.”

Another theory is MLB wants to boost security in ballparks. The organization hinted at that in comments to the press last summer. According to an MLB official quoted in the same Clear press release, “Developing a partnership that will unify emerging identity technology and ticketing is reflective of our commitments to always improving ballpark accessibility and maintaining critical security standards.”

Registration with Clear is free for sports purposes, but convenience could still be a tough sell. Clear has reportedly struggled to get people to sign up for its services, though they report that they have more than two million members in the U.S.  Whether people see security and convenience as fair tradeoffs for using their biometrics to enter a baseball game remains to be seen. Using biometrics to enhance security at an airport is one thing. Giving up that data to enter a park and buy a beer there is another.

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