Providing “just the ticket” for the best possible fan experience
- By Cesare Paciello
- Jul 11, 2018
As soccer fans around the world prepared for this year’s
2018 FIFA World Cup, millions went to the FIFA
website to order tickets so they could watch the games
in person. As with all major sporting and entertainment
events, the goal is for everyone using a ticket to
have purchased it from the authorized ticketing entity and to have a
seamless experience both when they pick it up and when they present
it at the venue.
Trusted identities make this possible. 2018 FIFA World Cup event in
June and July once again has used tickets created from a combination
of electronic and physical security features including RFID inlays
and special security paper that, together, bring trust to the ticket issuance
process. Repeating as this year’s “Official Ticket Producer” for
the event, HID Global was responsible for creating and delivering
these secure RFID tickets that fans could use to enter 64 matches in
11 host cities of the Russian Federation during the month-long event.
The evolution of RFID ticket issuance technology has followed
a path very similar to that of e-passports, which initially were exclusively
paper-based and then transformed into a mixture of paperand
electronic-based security, including a token containing an RFID
chip. This approach, combined with secure fulfillment, consignment
and delivery services, ensures trusted transactions when fans pick up
the tickets they’ve purchased for a major event like the 2018 FIFA
RFID tickets integrate numerous security features designed and
customized to prevent counterfeit and forgery. A key component is
the physical token inside the ticket’s paper layers that contains the
secure RFID chip. Data stored inside the RFID chip is encrypted.
The chip’s purpose is two-fold: first, it contains protected data that
brings trust to the electronic transaction; and second, it speeds the verification and entry process. Letting an
RFID access control reader validate the ticket
and flag counterfeits is much faster than
having someone physically inspect each one.
Remember, event organizers must move tens
of thousands of people through the gates in
as little as an hour.
Event organizers should also explore other
applications and services that are possible
with today’s multi-application embedded
ticket tokens. This includes reserving a section
of the RFID chip for data that can give
fans access to museums, public transportation
and other host city amenities.
Making it Personal
After tickets are produced, the next step is
personalization, fulfillment and consignment.
An event like the 2018 FIFA World
Cup is attended by approximately three
million fans, each of whom needs a way to
acquire the tickets they’ve purchased online.
The most common practice is to load prepersonalized
tickets into machines at a combination
of self-service and manned ticket
terminals where fans can pick them up.
The base terminal configuration consists
of a desktop with external (or integrated)
webcam, and a printer. The customizable
terminals include all hardware and software
necessary to manage all aspects of ticket issuance,
including electrical personalization
of the chip and thermal printing of graphics.
A secure application module (SAM) is used
to digitally sign data inside the RFID chip,
and a key management system generates
keys and certificates for all data encryption
An increasingly popular fulfillment alternative
is for tickets to be delivered directly to
fans’ homes. This requires pre-personalizing
the tickets and then using data provided
by the ticketing vendor to execute the final
personalization. Middleware interfaces the
ticket terminal with the ticketing provider’s
software, and fulfillment is completed with
a delivery partner. Event organizers need to
know that their issuance provider can deliver
all of these services across high volumes of
tickets in extremely compressed timeframes.
This is especially important in the final sales
round of a major event when as many as a
million tickets or more might need to be personalized
and shipped to fans within a few
short weeks before the matches begin.
One other fulfillment option is typically
used for group associations such as Participating
Member Associations (PMAs), which
receive a Smart card to collect their tickets.
This represents an easier way to pick up multiple
tickets for multiple matches. The designated
member of each PMA will receive an
RFID smart card containing all information
about the group’s entire number of tickets to
be collected. One tap of the card to the machine’s
reader is all that is required for this
person to receive the group’s entire ticket order,
all at once.
Using Real Time
Many event organizers also want to take advantage
of the real-time analytics that secure
RFID tickets can provide before and after an
event. They can benefit, for instance, from
information about the number of accesses
per gate or time slot, and other customizable
statistics such how many non-authorized
tickets were denied at each gate. Despite their
security, RFID tickets continue to be tested
by fraudsters, with some events reporting as
many as 2,000 counterfeit tickets refused at
the gate for every million tickets sold.
Besides stopping fraud at the gate, the
technology inside today’s secure RFID
tickets also speeds the verification process
because problems are revealed the instant
the ticket is tapped to the reader. There is
no need for someone to inspect each paper
ticket or scan mag-striped ones and slow
down the line. All holders of valid tickets
simply “tap and go” to immediately enter
the stadium, and only when a ticket is denied
is there a disruption, which may be solved
with a secondary magstripe swipe or may
need further investigation.
One other trend in ticket issuance technology
is trusted mobile tickets that enable
spectators to enter a concert venue or sports
arena with a ticket on their mobile device.
This ticket issuance model builds on the success
of mobile ID programs at major universities
and in enterprises where users carry
IDs on their phones and tap them to readers
to quickly and conveniently access buildings
and make cafeteria purchases, among other
applications. The concept has already been
piloted at a major European sporting event
that hosted 30,000 people.
The latest ticket issuance technologies
are playing a critical role in protecting
event organizers from fraud at some of
world’s highest-profile sporting and entertainment
events. At the same time, they are
improving the fan experience from the moment
when tickets are picked up to when
they’re used to “tap and go” through the
venue gate or to enjoy a
variety of other potential
services in the event’s
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Security Today.