Other issues on the IT radarPublished February 27, 2012
The fourth generation of cellular wireless standards brings the promise of significantly boosted speeds, and with it, the creation of vast new areas of mobile content. Each major cellular carrier is investing aggressively in 4G networks. But development, at least in the near term, is still likely to be bumpy. 4G devices in some instances have suffered from rapid battery drain. And because 4G service is not yet ubiquitous, even in major metro areas, many devices continue their battery drain constantly searching for the quicker signals. Given the rapid improvement of smartphones — Apple, for instance, has released a new iPhone each of the past five years — this is likely to be a shorter-term issue.
Radio-frequency identification technology has been around since World War II, and teams and venue operators have been dabbling in the technology for much of the past decade. The technology, when incorporated into smartphones, holds significant promise for use in areas such as ticketing, parking and concessions, helping speed and shorten lines at venues and tie consumer purchasing to loyalty programs that can provide rewards and boost fan affinity. But it has yet to truly hit critical mass due to security concerns and clumsy implementations. Several cellphone manufacturers have begun to develop devices equipped with near-field communication (NFC), a subset of RFID technology, yet U.S.-based adoption has been slow. If and when Apple places the technology within the dominant iPhone, as has been long rumored, NFC and RFID could hit a true tipping point. Even when that happens, user security will still be a paramount concern.
■ Paperless ticketing
On the surface, this is a no-brainer for teams, venues and fans alike. Tickets are purchased online or over the phone with a credit card, and that same credit card or a photo ID is presented to get into the game. Paperless ticketing systems can also feed into RFID systems, and tickets can be electronically transferred to another person if the original purchaser can’t or no longer wants to attend. Numerous industry heavyweights, including Ticketmaster, are developing paperless ticketing capabilities. From a technological perspective, it’s all fairly simple, and fraud is all but eliminated. The reality, however, is anything but simple. Business rules as to how paperless ticketing can be used vary widely from team to team and league to league, and a debate is rising as to what constitutes a fair and proper secondary market for paperless tickets. With the continued advance of mobile technology, the age-old question as to whether a sports ticket is a tangible asset that can be owned or instead is a leased instrument is rising anew.