Big Brother at the Football Match

Allow me to bring up an interesting article, plucked from my incoming Twitter-feed, that has languished a while among my bookmarks. It’s from the website of Ekonom, the weekly economy/business magazine affiliated with the leading Czech business newspaper Hospodářské noviny; entitled How Hooligans Are Caught, it describes an episode of Czech export success of a quite unexpected sort, from a firm with the rather funny name (even in Czech) of Integoo – namely providing anti-hooligan security at football stadiums.

I suppose what Integoo is selling fairly describes every stadium-manager’s dream, as this security system has at its core a combination of video-cameras and software that enables fairly precise facial recognition. Most soccer/football clubs these days (at least in the Western world) operate on the basis of “club cards” or “season tickets” held by their established set of fans, who are expected to attend a majority of games, with only limited tickets for each match left over for casual visitors. So when you apply to get your club card, you have to provide a photograph of yourself; that then enables the Integoo security system, when someone tries to go past the stadium turnstiles for a match, to match up the face of the person holding the ticket with the face of the person on record – and to block the turnstile either if the faces do not match or if that face has become officially undesirable due to past bad behavior.

Only the Krakow club KS Cracovia is benefiting from purchasing and installing this system as of yet, according to the article. So it’s obviously a sort of guinea-pig for the technology, which will presumably spread far more widely, and quickly, once it has proven itself there.

Make no mistake, Polish football needs something of this sort of technology, for at least two reasons: 1) Polish football hooligans are a real problem! (Everyone hears about English hooligans – or did, until a few years ago when the problem seems largely to have died down – but their Polish counterparts have long been a serious societal scourge.) And 2) You might have heard about that Euro 2012 football tournament coming up, to be held in Poland and the Ukraine (if the latter can actually get its act together in time) – football stadiums hosting those games will have to deal with hooligans from all corners of the continent!

Then again, there’s more than a whiff here of all the bad associations conjured up by the mention of George Orwell’s title “1984.” On the one hand, it’s understandable why this is happening here from these lands’ recent pasts under oppressive Communist governments, which would have lept to implement such technology – for purposes way beyond just football – had it been available then. On the other, it’s hard imagining the Czech Republic as being the locale for this sort of pioneering technology – but I guess that just unfairly maligns that country, which actually boasts inter alia considerable programming talent, as evidenced by world-class anti-virus software companies and the like. Still: Is this sort of face-recognition set-up all that pioneering? Surely something similar has been implemented already elsewhere, somewhere in the world?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.