How RFID Could Improve World Cup 2014 Visitor Experiences

June 30, 2014 Lea DeJarlais

The FIFA World Cup is underway, and soccer fans around the world have flocked to Brazil to cheer for their team and take part in history. With over 12 venues and millions of visitors expected by the end of the tournament,  the World Cup is one of the most popular sporting events around. Fans without tickets to a game can still take part in a number of activities at the FIFA Fan Fest, including live musical and cultural performances, interactive games, and other activities. With so many games, activities and attendees, FIFA should have leveraged RFID technology to track match statistics and build-out personalized, interactive experiences that make sharing on social media quick and easy.

RFID technology isn't new to sporting events. In fact, it's been used in numerous cases to collect accurate stats and make fan experiences more interactive and fun.

Collecting Accurate Stats

FIFA's World Cup website offers an amazing amount of stats: goals per match, average passes per team, actual playing time, how far a player has run throughout all their matches, and more. Stats are collected using the Castrol Index - a tool developed by the oil company that uses mathematics to calculate and evaluate player performance. These calculations are based on the subjective interpretations of the analysts, meaning while they do give a good idea of what's going on during the match, they might not be 100 percent accurate. However, using an RFID system to collect stats could lead to more accurate information.

TopGolf, an RFID-powered driving range, is one example of how RFID has improved the collect of sports-related statistics. At TopGolf, the fairway is made up of close, mid and long-range target greens.  The target greens are holes in the ground that, much like a dart board, are divided into sub-targets that make up different scoring zones.  Players earn points by hitting balls in the target green with higher points for getting closer to the pin. TopGolf offers different games which have varied scoring based on target and style of game. The TopGolf experience is based on RFID technology. Golf balls from Callaway Golf contain an RFID tag designed and tested to withstand the rigors of the TopGolf game and a minimum of 600 hits. In the target greens, each sub-target contains an RFID reader antenna powered by an Impinj reader controlling up to 16 antennas. After a ball is hit, the player is provided with stats on their drive, including accuracy and distance.

Another example of collecting sports stats can be found in the hockey arena. A Finnish company specializing in building analytics and electronic recording solutions for various team sports, created a real-time, on-ice system that utilizes passive UHF RFID technology to track players during games. With RFID tags attached to the player's knee pads and RFID readers placed at the ice entry points, the system allows coaches to review the ice time logged by each player, including average shift length, number of shift changes and total ice time.

Building Fan Engagement and Customer Experiences

FIFA Fan Fest offers soccer fans a place to watch matches and attend events outside of the main venues. Past World Cup Fan Fests have had more than 20 million visitors, making it the perfect opportunity to connect with visitors and make the experience more engaging. Using RFID at Fan Fest would have allowed organizers to understand who is attending and what exhibits are most popular, and would have also allowed visitors to share their experiences online, much like visitors at the Summer Olympics were able to do.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, chocolate maker Cadbury used RFID to develop an interactive exhibit where people could learn the history of the company and share their experience online. Before entering the exhibit, guests were given RFID-enabled ID badges which could be linked to their Facebook accounts.  Once inside the exhibit, guests could “check-in” on Facebook by placing their badge next to a check-in station powered by an RFID reader.  After the initial check-in, visitors’ badges were automatically registered by the other RFID readers throughout Cadbury house.  To post a photo on Facebook, a guest would simply enter a photo area and pose for the camera. With RFID, the Cadbury House was able to measure engagement, and saw 5,824 check-ins by new RFID badge users and 8,958 photo shares during the first two and a half days of the event.

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