5 ways NFC technology is improving the sports world

Last updated: 24 October 2017

When you mention ‘NFC’ to the average American sports fan, they might not immediately think of Near Field Communication technology, a short-range wireless connectivity standard that uses magnetic field induction to enable communication between devices… Instead, they might think of the National Football Conference, which makes up one half of the NFL; the other half is the American Football Conference, known as the AFC).

The NFC is full of some very famous and iconic teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, so don’t be surprised if that’s what is thought of first. But can NFC help the NFC? Can contactless technology improve sports in general? The answer is yes. See below for our list of the top five ways this is happening.

  1. Improving running shoes


Running is incredibly popular and a great way to keep fit. For example, in the UK alone, there are an estimated 10.5million+ runners (and possibly six times as many in the US) – that’s a lot of running shoes in regular use! But how can NFC improve them? Adidas has found a way – they’ve recently put NFC chips in many of their shoe models that reveal original content when used with the Adidas app…

But there are much more advanced and ambitious plans for the technology on the way. Adidas is planning to give users the ability to send feedback directly to the company with details on how the shoes fit and perform in various conditions. These chips will give Adidas an incredible wealth of data to help develop the best possible products for the future. The more chipped shoes they sell, and the more data they receive, the more they can improve their performance running shoes.

Adidas is already using this type of data to build specific shoes for runners in different cities – it turns out runners in London are different to those in New York City. As a result, Adidas has just launched a new shoe call the AM4LDN— “Adidas made for London” – and a shoe for Parisian runners will launch next week.

  1. Helping basketball fans engage with the game

The NBA (National Basketball Association) is taking big steps to upgrade fan experiences in 2017 by effectively bringing fans to the courtside thanks to the release of new official Nike uniforms.

The new jerseys incorporate technological innovations may change the sports apparel industry forever. They come complete with an NFC chip that connects to your phone, offering exclusive gameday information and content such as highlight reels, real-time stats, exclusive offers, and even favorite music playlists of the players!

These ‘smart jerseys’ will help fans achieve a more in-depth and interactive experience when watching the game, and help them connect to the players they cheer for. They’re already available, perfect timing as the season is just beginning.

  1. Speeding up baseball stadium entry for MLB

We’ve all been there; standing in line, near the back, waiting for an eternity to get into the stadium so you can watch your favorite team play. You just want to get inside and find your seat and get ready for the action. If only there were some way we could speed up the entry process… if you’re an MLB (Major League Baseball) fan, specifically a fan of the Oakland Athletics, you’re in luck!

The team is piloting an NFC ticketing solution allowing fans to enter the stadium by tapping their iPhone (or Apple Watch) on a ticket scanner – the same way you’d use Apple Pay. This method uses the NFC technology you find in contactless rewards cards (such as a Walgreens Balance Rewards) via Apple Pay.

However, this is the first time the technology is being used outside of reward cards or stored balance gift cards, so it’s a great move forward and use of NFC that will save baseball fans plenty of time.

  1. Preventing fraudulent sales of sports memorabilia

Unfortunately, fraud and sports memorabilia are regularly linked to each other. Fake sports memorabilia is impossible to avoid – all too often you see stories of someone paying hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars for a piece of iconic sports memorabilia, only to then discover it’s fake later down the line.

Fortunately, NFC tags are here to help! NFL legend and former Dallas Cowboys star, Emmitt Smith (who played in the NFC his entire career), has founded a startup that creates stamp-sized NFC chips that track when an item is worn or used in a game. The smart tags from PROVA do more than just track items; they also identify stolen goods – ultimately making it very difficult for anyone trying to sell property owned by the NFL.

It’s a win-win for fans and the NFL and a considerable blow for anyone trying to steel or sell stolen sporting goods. Hopefully, this will help prevent any more fiascos such as Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jersey earlier this year.

  1. Speeding up sales in NFL stadiums

Buying food and drinks in a large sports stadium (particularly a busy NFL stadium) can be time-consuming. There are long queues, mainly due to arduous payment processes with fans fiddling around with loose change or forgetting their PIN codes… Once again, it’s NFC to the rescue! Last year, Visa partnered with the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers to provide Levi’s Stadium, the site of Super Bowl 50 with approximately 700 NFC-enabled, point-of-sale terminals, enabling cardholders at the game to swipe, tap or click-to-pay using a smartphone when purchasing food, drinks or merchandise. And over in England, Gemalto has introduced NFC bands at Saracens, the superstar rugby team, to help improve the fan experience on matchday.

The move in San Francisco was a big success and was one of the many reasons why Super Bowl 50 was a great experience for all the fans in attendance (apart from Carolina Panther’s fans who had to witness their team suffer at the hands of Von Miller).

So, there you have it – five ways NFC technology is helping improve the sporting world. What do you think? Are there more use cases for NFC in sports on the way? Let us know by tweeting to us @Gemalto, or leave a comment below.

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