Replacing Complex Hardware With Mobile Phones

from the times-are-changing dept

Apparently, you’re not allowed to give away or resell season tickets to the Futbol Club Barcelona. In order to cut down on the practice, the club has taken a digital photo of all 112,000 ticketholders – sometimes going to their homes to get the shot. They’ve build a large database tying the barcode on each ticket with the image, and when the ticketholder shows up at the stadium, stadium workers scan the ticket with a mobile phone. The phone reads the bar code and takes about 90 seconds to send back the image, so the ticket-taker can make sure the ticket holder is who they’re supposed to be. While I’m still a bit confused about what’s wrong with reselling or giving away your ticket, this is interesting for a few other reasons. First, I guess it’s a statement on Barcelona culture that people don’t seem to mind having their local sports club show up at their homes to take their photo so that they can do less with their tickets. I’m also amazed at the patience these fans have to wait 90 seconds each for their photo to be retrieved and approved. I would think this would create sensationally long lines. Still, the most interesting part of all this is simply the fact that they’re using mobile phones as the necessary technology. A few years ago (or even today with many sports franchises), I’m sure clubs would be looking at special proprietary hardware and software systems to build a similar solution. Today, they just write a single piece of software, and do everything else with off-the-shelf Nokia phones.

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Comments on “Replacing Complex Hardware With Mobile Phones”

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beck says:

Something's Wrong

This story can’t be right.

First, even if they had 500 ticket-takers at the gates, it would still take over 5 hours to get everyone into the stadium.

Second, it says they scan a bar code on the ticket-holder’s membership card and then wait for the photo to show up on the phone. Why not just print the person’s photo on the membership card?

Third, why would a sports team want an unused ticket and an empty seat in the stadium? That would mean one less person to buy overpriced hot dogs and beer.

Mark says:

Re: Something's Wrong

No doubt they’re cracking down on scalping. The prohibition of giving a ticket away is no doubt just an extension of this, to close the loophole of, “I didn’t scalp my ticket, I gave it away to my good friend Miguel (and he happened to give me some money at the same time).”

And the answer to the question of why the club would want unused tickets can be answered by looking at professional sports clubs right here, which also prohibit redistribution of tickets. It’s all about control; if anyone’s making money off ticket sales, the club wants to be the one doing it. The Chicago Cubs were spotted last season scalping their own tickets, in direct violation of state law (though somehow a judge managed to rule them innocent of all charges).

Why would Barcelona’s residents put up with a soccer club coming to their home to photograph them? Because it’s soccer in Barcelona; anything the club does is OK because not following the club would be unacceptable. Imagine the most died-in-the-wool Yankees fan facing the same situation: he might grumble, he might complain, but in the end there’s no way he’s giving up his tickets, so he’d pose for the photograph and put up with the ridiculous rules.

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