RFID to score goals at world cup soccer

Organizers of the 2006 FIFA World Cup soccer games in Germany plan to issue tickets with smart tags in what is expected to be the largest-ever deployment of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology at a sporting event.

The executive committee of the soccer tournament, which is organized by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, has decided to include RFID tags on tickets to expedite ticketing and prevent fraud, said Jürgen Domberg, director of the committee's ticketing unit in Frankfurt, Germany.

"We view these tags as quick and secure -- far more effective than a manual check process at the gates," he said.

Information on the chip will include data about the game and seating, according to Domberg. Whether it will also include personal information, such as name and home address of the ticket holder, is still undecided, he said. "We don't intend to make public exactly what information we will embed in the chip but all information will be in line with data privacy rules adopted by regulators," he said.

FIFA has no plans to track the movement of spectators, especially soccer hooligans, Domberg said. Hooligans caused several riots during the European tournament in Belgium two years ago.

"At the gates, where we check tickets, we plan to use RFID tag readers with a maximum reach of between 10 and 15 centimeters," Domberg said.

The semiconductor division of Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV in Amsterdam is working with the FIFA executive committee on its RFID project. The committee, however, has yet to decide which company will provide chips for the ticketing project. "We plan a public tender, which will be open to every company manufacturing RFID chips," Domberg said.

As for price, Domberg said he could "live" with an RFID chip's current price, which ranges between US$0.20 and $0.30. "I'm absolutely convinced, however, that prices will fall by the time we need them in 2006," he said.

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