SKIDATA is a global innovation leader, which is demonstrated in many ways but most recently in Manchester with "The Stadium Business Award 2019," a distinguished honor to receive in the Product Innovation category. Josef, Business Segment Manager Event, explains how innovative Austrian ideas are used all over the world.
Josef, congratulations on the The Stadium Business Award in Product Innovation. What is the prize recognizing?
We received the Innovation Award for our joint project with FC Bayern Munich for their Near-Field Communication (NFC) ticketing via Apple Watch and iPhone in the Allianz Arena in Munich. The project is part of our mobile contactless solution, oriented explicitly towards paperless ticketing, and we are delighted that our innovations were thus recognized. The Stadium Business Summit brings together the owners, operators, and developers of stadiums, arenas and sports facilities from all over the world, as well as the trendsetters and forward-thinkers who identify and drive innovations for the sports industry. That's why this is such a special award.
Paperless ticketing, what is that?
We are working on driving the paper ticket out of the market. Over the past several years, SKIDATA has been offering an e-ticket service in which we generate an electronic ticket in lieu of the conventional paper ticket. The e-ticket can be sent to a mobile phone and stored in the Apple Wallet, for example. Many people are already familiar with this experience for boarding passes or train tickets.
What’s innovative about the SKIDATA solution?
Conventional wallets are a thing of the past. At SKIDATA, we always try to be one step ahead of market technology. The innovation lies in the concept, utilizing NFC technology rather than displaying the ticket information as a visible barcode it is instead stored "invisibly" as a so-called "payload" in the NFC chip of the mobile device. The advantages are clear, a guest isn't forced to search in an app for their valid ticket, and instead, the ticket is automatically recognized by the reader! Plus, this finally ends ticket piracy. The whole transaction is completely contact-free. After Apple decided to use NFC technology for iPhones, it was an obvious decision for us to turn to Apple and use their Apple Pay platform to implement the delivery of e-tickets.
And where have you implemented?
We celebrated the debut of our NFC solution at the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) and then implemented our solution at the brand new Banc of California Stadium. Another project was with FC Bayern at the Allianz Arena in Munich, where Apple also introduced Apple Pay for Germany, and this is the project that brought us the Innovation Prize at The Stadium Business Summit.
Why did Apple decide to launch in Germany with the Allianz Arena and SKIDATA technology?
I think it's because Apple always selects the "Best in Class" for their launches, and just like Apple, we are passionate about delivering the perfect solutions for our customers. We offer everything from a single source, we supply the hardware but also develop and design the software specifically to the customer's requirements, all of this is an advantage that makes us the most technologically advanced. We deliver the complete package. At SKIDATA, we are always enthusiastic about using the latest technologies, and our research and development departments are incredibly committed to making life easier for our customers.
DetailCould you generally describe the sort of team that develops innovative solutions at SKIDATA?
In general, employees with a range of various skills are required for innovative projects, but that said, because our applications must predominantly be web-enabled, web technology is crucial. Additionally, our solutions involve data management and identification technologies, which, among other things, includes biometrics. Naturally, for tasks like facial recognition, we use artificial intelligence. We're currently looking for software developers with professional experience and familiarity with the latest programming languages, to keep us on the cutting edge.
Are you developing paperless ticketing solutions for other situations?
Oh, definitely! An example of a new application for this technology is in parking garages. Drivers only have to register once, after that their license plate is automatically recognized when they drive up, and the barrier opens without the driver having to obtain a ticket beforehand or pay at the machine afterward. NFC tickets will be particularly useful when available in other spaces, streamlining access to places like amusement parks and swimming pools or even accessing changing room lockers. Our use of technology for contactless identification is continually advancing ease of access with new our applications, both here and internationally.
How do you think up these solutions?
We take stock of the market with our eyes open to possibility. Beyond the dedicated work of the research and development departments, all employees are invited to contribute their ideas. At SKIDATA, we hold an event called Innovationathon — encouraging everyone to think outside the box — and without fail, this event always produces compelling solutions!