Manchester City smart scarf wraps data-collecting sensors around fans’ necks

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England’s Manchester City soccer club wants to know how its fans really feel, and it has gone so far as to pilot The Connected Scarf, a “smart scarf” stuffed with sensors that the organization says enables it to gauge fan emotions.

According to Manchester City’s page for the scarf, the club has been piloting the accessory with six fans thus far and has recorded “over 120 moments of interest across the 90 minutes of a match.”

“The scarf records a range of physiological measures, including heart rate, body temperature, and emotional arousal—giving us concrete information to analyze how fans are feeling at different moments in the match,” the page says.

The club eventually plans to use the collected data to make “curated, customized experiences,” though it didn’t specify what those experiences would be.

Manchester City’s scarf uses an EmotiBit wearable sensor module and has many of the same sensors found in fitness trackers, as noted by The Verge today. There’s a temperature sensor, PPG (photoplethysmography) sensor to help track heart rate, and an accelerometer. There’s also an EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor that is supposed to detect stress by measuring changes in sweat levels (it’s the same technology that the FitBit Sense smartwatch introduced to consumer wearables).

Oh, the scarf has blue and white stripes, too.
Enlarge / Oh, the scarf has blue and white stripes, too.

Despite using some of the same technologies as more common wearables, The Connected Scarf feels different because the data isn’t meant for the wearer. Instead, the only apparent beneficiaries are your favorite soccer club and Cisco, which partnered to make the scarf. Sports marketing agency Octagon UK and technology and production company Unit9 are also wrapped up in the scarf project, according to Reuters. Manchester City has yet to detail how it will handle privacy concerns when the smart scarf moves out of its pilot phase and how much data might be shared with its partners.

“We seek to better understand and measure the ups and downs of football fandom and how the game impacts supporters not only emotionally, but physically as well,” Ashley Marusak, Cisco’s global sports marketing manager, told Reuters.

According to Reuters, Manchester City plans to make The Connected Scarf available to “a select number” of fans of Manchester City FC and sister club New York City FC next season.

Manchester City hasn’t shared other specifics around the product, including how the scarves will be distributed or powered. Because the scarf is still being tested, plans may change before we see it released.

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