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RFID Technology Scores Ticketing, Brand Engagement at World Cup

All 4 million game tickets, as well as the Adidas Telstar 18 official World Cup balls, came with RFID tags built in, leveraging technology provided by HID Global, NXP Semiconductors and Smartrac.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 30, 2018

When soccer fans attended this summer's 2018 FIFA World Cup in the Russian Federation, they employed HF RFID technology to enter each ticketed event, and Near Field Communication (NFC) to access targeted information regarding games and teams. For those who bought the Telstar 18, Adidas's official World Cup soccer ball, NFC came home with them as a way to engage with Adidas, view the locations of other ball users and access more information about their favorite players and teams.

In both applications, the tags were powered by NXP Semiconductors' chips. HID Global tags in game tickets transmitted data to readers at the stadiums, while Smartrac inlays were embedded in each soccer ball.

The Adidas Telstar 18 official World Cup ball
The event, held in 11 cities from June 14 to July 15, took place at 12 World Cup stadiums and required an NFC-enabled ticket read for access to each game. As part of the HID Global ticketing system, guests purchased an RFID paper ticket for each game, using an NXP 13.56 MHz MIFARE Ultralight EV1 RFID chip compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. The ticket not only made access to the stadium faster and more efficient, but also helped prevent the risk of counterfeits, says Christoph Zwahlen, NXP's global marketing manager for access management. Additionally, HID Global provides its tag encryption and Key Management System (KNS) to prevent fake RFID-enabled tickets from accessing the stadium.

The World Cup already has a history with RFID technology. In fact, HF RFID tags were first built into tickets for the 2006 World Cup, but were then omitted for ticketing at the 2010 South Africa event, at which time FIFA saw an increase in the rate of counterfeits and gray-market ticket sales. For that reason, RFID was re-introduced at the 2014 event in Brazil.

NXP's Christoph Zwahlen
Upon arriving for each game, fans presented their HID Global contactless tickets as they entered the stadium's outer perimeter, by tapping the ticket next to a reader, thereby validating its authenticity before they were permitted to enter. At the stadium entrance (the inner perimeter), they presented the ticket to another fixed RFID reader to gain access to the seating area. If they downloaded the FIFA app on their Android- or iOS-based devices, the users could view such content as directions to the stadium and schedule updates.

Once a ticket holder used his or her RFID ticket to enter the stadium, FIFA was able to collect data indicating that specific ticket holder had arrived onsite. The technology also could be used for in-stadium purchases at food kiosks or souvenir stores.

RFID also had a presence in merchandise in the form of NFC. Telstar 18, the World Cup's official ball, was named after a 1962 satellite known as Telstar 1. The ball was designed and is being sold by Adidas, a FIFA partner and official supplier. The Telstar satellite has significance to the World Cup because it enabled, for the first time, worldwide broadcast of the 1970 event. This year, the company reports, that same spirit of global connectivity was reflected in the Telstar 18, with NFC technology so that users could interact with the ball from anywhere around the world.

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