Ticketmaster will soon admit you to events using audio data transmitted from your phone


Ticketmaster will soon be able to admit you to live events and track your movement using nothing more than a discrete digital audio broadcast from your smartphone.

The ticketing giant has teamed up with Lisnr, a data-over-audio company that uses an ultrasonic sound technology it calls “smart tones” to transmit information between devices.

There are myriad use-cases for Lisnr’s  technology — for example, it recently partnered with Jaguar Land Rover to enable vehicles to communicate with mobile devices, other cars, and potentially the broader environment, where smart tone technology is enabled. This could be used to replace a key fob with a smartphone to unlock the door or to personalize seat settings, including placement and climate control.

Founded out of Cincinnati, Ohio in 2012, Lisnr has raised north of million since its inception and has some notable backers, including Intel, which led its million series B round back in 2015. As one of the world’s largest ticketing vendors and distributors, Ticketmaster is a major coup for Lisnr as it looks to scale its technology in the real world — the company told VentureBeat that this is the biggest commercial agreement it has made to date.

Lisnr’s technology will be used to power attendee verification for hundreds of millions of tickets. Though the rollout has already begun in some venues, Lisnr said it will take around four years to complete the process globally.

How it works

In a nutshell, Lisnr’s smart tones constitute audio signals in the 18.75 kHz and 19.2kHZ range and are completely inaudible to more than 90 percent of the human population. As you approach the venue, you take out your phone and it broadcasts your ticketing data, which is detected by a scanner at the venue and confirms your identity, thus expediting the entry process.

Above: Ticketmaster and Lisnr

But why use smart tones over QR codes or other forms of contactless technology, such as NFC? Reasons, according to Lisnr, include cost — comparatively little expenditure is required to support smart tones in terms of venue infrastructure. Fraud prevention is another reason given for Ticketmaster’s interest in the technology. Lisnr-powered tickets are tethered to not only a person’s account but their mobile device, too, meaning the venue can always be certain who is at the gig. This also gives Ticketmaster greater control over the reseller market for fans who can no longer attend a live event.

Cost and convenience are all very well and good, but digging under the hood of Lisnr’s technology reveals other reasons a public venue may wish to embrace Lisnr’s smarts.

Each smart tone carries its own unique identifier, meaning venues can install smart tone scanners around a space to track gig-goers as they move around — this not only arms venues with a vast swathe of geo-location data, it also lets them target individuals with tailored messages and “deeply personalized experiences.”

“We used identity as our North Star — our guiding light to develop a product that makes each individual fan experience the greatest it could be,” explained Justin Burleigh, EVP of product at Ticketmaster. “This means using identity to drive customized experiences based on who you are and where you are, eliminating fraud, resulting in a safer environment, and delivering more personalization based on the specific event you’re attending.”

This kind of use-case clearly opens Lisnr’s technology to applications far beyond live events and into the broader consumer realm, with shopping malls able to send proximity-based alerts and offers to shoppers in real time.

Specific to Ticketmaster’s live event aspirations, we’re told that future plans for Lisnr’s technology include allowing attendees to buy items in venues using their smart tone tickets rather than a credit card or NFC. And yes, the technology will also enable venues to send proximity-based messaging to attendees, which could mean artists engaging with fans or venues striving to drive up their revenues through upselling goods, such as merchandise.

Data-over-audio is still a fledgling technology in terms of day-to-day practical use-cases. But startups like London-based Chirp have been pushing to enable easy data-transfers using sound, and Google’s Nearby uses near-ultrasonic audio as part of its proximity-based messaging protocol. And Ticketmaster tapping Lisnr’s smart tones in venues around the world will go some way toward opening the technology up to the masses.

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