Live sports, who’s watching whom?

Posted in Intellectual property Data protection, privacy and cybersecurity

Like it or not, we live in a digital age where we are constantly being monitored and watched. A report from the British Security Industry Association estimates that there are between four and six million CCTV cameras in the United Kingdom and that the average person is seen by approximately 70 CCTV cameras a day. Many of these cameras are in high density areas such as transport hubs and even sports stadia.

One would reasonably expect that by attending a live sports event, a person would be seen by far more than the average of 70 CCTV cameras a day. What many people don’t realize is that when attending a live sports event, you may be monitored by something more than just CCTV cameras. If you thought that it’s just the players being filmed in ultra-high definition, you would be wrong. By attending a live sports event, you may also be observed and photographed by ultra-high definition cameras aimed at spectators.

Step in Fancam, a South African company that is pioneering the technology of 360º photography in stadia at live events. The purpose of such technology is to help stadium management and team owners analyse, and get valuable insights into, their customers. The technology allows for every single person sitting in their seat in a stadium to be photographed and the pictures to be digitally stitched together into one 360º gigapixel image. Fans can even access the image online, tag themselves and share their picture to social media.

Fancam’s system works by having cameras mounted in fixed locations around a stadium. Through an automated process, the cameras take pictures of spectators throughout the event and then computer software stitches those pictures together into one image.

The 40,000-megapixel stitched image can then be used as an extremely valuable intelligence tool for stadium management and team owners. By combining the raw imagery with facial recognition technology, as well as some consensual tagging of photos on social media, you can determine:

  • The age, gender and racial demographic of the crowd;
  • What music the crowd reacts to;
  • Whether the crowd is drinking;
  • What the crowd is drinking;
  • The number of millennials in the crowd;
  • Who is paying the most attention to the advertisements on the stadium screens; and
  • Pretty much anything else you could imagine by applying computer vision to high resolution images.

Fancam’s technology is already being used in a number of high profile stadia and sports venues. Madison Square Garden in New York, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Minute Maid Park in Houston and Gillette Stadium in Boston are just some of the venues which have Fancam cameras installed.

By using the data available to them, stadium management and team owners can enhance the stadium experience for fans, improve security and even make sure the beer of choice doesn’t sell out. 

There is a trade-off however. In an age of big data and enhanced concerns around privacy, consumers face the realization of balancing their experience with their own privacy. 

The next time you are at a live sports event, check the back of your ticket and read the fine-print disclaimer saying that the venue has the right to use your image and photo, and that you surrender control of that right the minute you enter the stadium.

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