Blink Identity’s facial recognition technology may replace ACL tickets

Sunny Kim

Soon, you might be able to use your face to enter Austin City Limits music festival. Blink Identity, a facial recognition startup based in Austin, has software that can identify over 60 people at a time in just half a second even if they’re not directly looking at a camera. The technology could be used to reduce entrance crowds at ACL by next year.

Mary Haskett, the CEO and co-founder of Blink Identity, said the company’s biometric identification system can quickly identify people based on their face regardless of lighting conditions or how fast they walk.

Similar to creating a Facebook or LinkedIn profile, Haskett said Blink Identity will involve an app where people can input their personal information. The app will link to other companies, such as Live Nation and Ticketmaster, to provide data on who you are.

“If you buy a ticket, you take a picture with yourself in your phone, you send us a selfie and you enroll,” Haskett said. “When you walk by the entrance, we have our sensor which takes a picture and matches it to the one you sent us.”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster, two large live entertainment companies that sell concert and sporting event tickets, partnered with Blink Identity in May, and said Blink’s facial recognition technology has the potential to allow people to associate a digital ticket with an image. Then, a user can just walk into the show, according to Live Nation’s 2018 report.

Petroleum engineering senior Nicole Ting said she is a concert junkie. Ting said she supports using facial recognition as a way to replace physical tickets because it can reduce “ticket scalping,” or illegally reselling tickets to other concertgoers.

“It would make it an easier, happier, calmer process for fans to get tickets since bots wouldn’t be able to attach their faces to hundreds of tickets,” Ting said.

But some people have concerns about privacy. Hannah Rumbarger, a marketing and German senior, said she would feel uncomfortable submitting her photo because she doesn’t want a company to have access to her identity, including her picture and address.

“My initial thought is that it is kind of creepy because they would only be able to do face recognition if they had some data about what I looked like,” Rumbarger said. “That would assume I would have to submit a photo or my ID number when purchasing the ticket, which I am not comfortable doing.”

Haskett said it’s entirely up to the consumer if they want to participate in Blink Identity’s product.

“Our system is entirely opt-in,” Haskett said. “We only get data from individual users who provide it to us.”

If people believe their Blink Identity account is an infringement on their personal privacy, people can delete it like they can with their personal social media accounts, Haskett said.

Some people are concerned that Blink Identity will have access to other documents such as police reports, Haskett said.

“We don’t have access to any of those databases,” Haskett said. “We don’t want access to any of those databases. But if you are a regular concert consumer who is throwing beer bottles at talent and causing problems, then security might ask you to leave and now they know who you are.”

The hardware sensor is very visible, so when the facial recognition is happening, it’s not discreet, she added.

Haskett said Blink Identity has tested its prototype at The Wiltern Theater, Hollywood Bowl and Ticketmaster’s corporate office to collect data, verify results and make any adjustments they need to build an actual product. She’s hoping to test its prototype in Austin sometime next week.

The company is still in its early stages. They’re testing its prototype to develop into a full-scale product by early 2019, Haskett said. If all works well, we might be seeing some of their products next year at ACL.