Concert crowd

‘Smart tone’ tech on smartphones to replace tickets and QR codes for concerts

Image credit: Dreamstime

Ticket agency Ticketmaster is launching a new system that will passively check gig-goers as they enter a concert or similar event using audio data captured from the attendee’s smartphone.

Instead of venue personnel having to manually scan a QR code stored on someone’s phone or scanning a barcode on a printed ticket, the ‘smart tone’ will capture the attendee’s data using their smartphone’s ultrasonic sound transmission in order to verify the mobile ticket and ID. The idea is to keep the incoming crowd moving smoothly into the venue, as guests would simply flash the green ‘approved’ screen on their phones to security.

The new system is called Presence and is powered by Lisnr, a Cincinnati-based company which has previously partnered with event-planning start-up Splash and also with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). For its work with JLR, Lisnr created a ‘smart tone’ that could identify the driver’s seat preferences from their smartphone and automatically adjust the settings for them.

Lisnr’s smart tones are audio signals in the 18.75–19.2kHz range, pitched high enough to be inaudible to over 90 per cent of the human population. As guests approach the venue, their smartphones would broadcast ticketing data contained in the app. This data is detected by a scanner at the venue, which would validate all the necessary details.

The Ticketmaster-Lisnr partnership is also designed to reduce ticket fraud, as the technology not only ties the ‘ticket tone’ to one person’s account, it also ties it specifically to their smartphone.

Granting access to an individual’s smartphone in this way does present other, more tangential opportunities using this technology. Venues would have the precise geo-location of every visitor, allowing organisers to send personalised messages to individuals as they moved around the venue. This has obvious applications for sales and marketing push messages, such as shopping options either related to the venue – e.g. purchasing drinks without having to stand in a queue at the bar – or to the event itself – gift shop and merchandising opportunities.

“We used identity as our ‘North Star’ – our guiding light to develop a product that makes each individual fan experience the greatest it could be,” said Justin Burleigh, EVP of product at Ticketmaster.

“This means using identity to drive customised experiences based on who you are and where you are, eliminating fraud, resulting in a safer environment and delivering more personalisation based on the specific event you’re attending.”

The Lisnr technology is already in place at hundreds of venues in the US and the company expects a full global rollout to take place over the next four years. Since its inception in 2012, Lisnr has raised over $14 million in business capital. Intel is one of its biggest backers.

Beyond concert venues, the same geo-location principles could be applied in future to shopping centres, with retailers able to send proximity-based alerts and offers to shoppers in real time as people pass by.

Other start-ups, such as London-based Chirp, are also exploring uses for data-over-audio, while Google’s Nearby tool already uses near-ultrasonic audio signals to drive its proximity-based messaging technology.

Ticketmaster has been looking for ways to “up its technology game” in recent years. In May 2016, it held a hackathon in Dublin to encourage developers to create new ticketing systems for the company using its Open API.

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