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The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning has transformed daily life, including people’s expectations of the new normal. Industries and businesses unable to keep up with consumer expectations will surely lose followers while those who continue to embrace trends have the opportunity to keep them coming back time and time again. The significance of emerging trends was quite prominent at the recent 2022 Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD) conference in New York City.
“Generally, in the past, it’s been a conference for ticketing and suite management and you know premium space type of sales and management. But over the last few years, they’ve started to develop more of a tech element of it,” noted Tod Caflisch, Smart Solutions Subject Matter Expert at Lumen Technologies.
Caflisch continued to reflect on current trends noting that “one of the interesting things is the silver lining of the pandemic has been kind of pushing the digital transformation for teams and venues with things like going digital ticketing entirely or contactless point of sale – those types of things. Even to the point now where there’s facial recognition being integrated into the point of sale at stadiums and arenas.”
While facial recognition may seem super advanced to some consumers, it’s been gaining popularity over the years to improve experiences. Retailers are using it to customize shopping experiences, help reduce shoplifting, and improve customer service. When it comes to incorporating this technology into stadiums and live event venues there are many ways in which the tech improves the experience for attendees and employees alike:
- Recognize criminals, persons of interest, or banned fans to quickly and efficiently remove them from the premises or detain them until law enforcement arrives.
- Identify weapons including guns and knives which can reduce event violence by allowing security to retrieve weapons before they are used.
- Identify and locate lost persons, including children, the elderly, or abducted individuals, to return them to their companions.
- Collect crowd data including what attendees are doing when, what experiences they are interacting with, which advertisements are getting attention, and where congestion is greatest to provide a better experience.
- Track employees in real-time as they move throughout the venue and ensure they are where they are supposed to be.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilizing facial recognition. Another popular tech transforming the fan experience is contactless engagements throughout the stadium. The rapid adoption of contactless expectations due to the pandemic has led to a fan experience that is accessible through mobile devices. And venues across the United States are increasingly going cashless – a phenomenon that was on a trend before the pandemic although it would no doubt have taken much longer to become the norm. It’s interesting to note that as of early 2022, “in the NFL, all 30 stadiums are cashless for food, beverage, and retail. A Visa study from 2021 showed nearly two-thirds of consumers say they prefer contactless payments.”
“One of the other neat elements that have a pretty big presence here at the conference is the new grab-and-go concession stand technology that’s going into a lot of stadiums and arenas now. It’s cashierless, using an app, checking in, grabbing what you want, and leaving and then your credit card gets charged from the back end,” said Caflisch.
The grab-and-go technology is changing the game. The convenience alone of not having to stand in line forever to check out as a cashier scans item-by-item-by-item-by-item is a game changer in itself. Caflisch highlighted two companies with a large presence at the ALSD conference – Amazon Go and Zippin.
In addition to the conference exhibits, some conference attendees, including Caflisch were able to see the Zippin installation at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“The beautifully designed bright blue store, which is open exclusively to American Express cardholders, offers a range of local Brooklyn-based drinks, cold and hot snacks, and Nets and Liberty branded merchandise, including t-shirts and caps. As with all Zippin-powered stores, shoppers simply scan their card to enter, pick up their items and then just walk out. Zippin’s AI sensors identify the items selected by each shopper (family, or group) and bill their account.”
Zippin’s store is strategically located near the American Express entrance on the Atlantic Ave. side of the arena. It’s just one example of venue upgrades incorporating innovative technology designed to entertain, engage, and enhance the fan experience.
Caflisch encourages people to “look for those opportunities when you are at another concert or sporting event to experience those digital purchasing options at the grab-and-go type of concession stands. There are more and more being deployed at stadiums and arenas right now.” Just another reason for fans to keep going back to enjoy their favorite past times – whether it’s watching a favorite team, enjoying theatre, or engaging with a large-scale event – is the opportunity to see the latest technology and its future iterations in person.