The digital technology company Siip-group is developing a method for PEC Zwolle to combat excesses such as racism and discrimination in the stadium. This brings the company to the finals of the innovation award Region Zwolle. The winner will be announced on Friday, June 24th.
The new technology is still in the pilot phase and is part of the attack plan ‘Our football belongs to everyone’ from the government and KNVB. This plan was launched after an incident in 2019: Excelsior player Ahmad Mendes Moreira left the pitch in tears during an away game against FC Den Bosch because he was treated racistly from the stands.
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the KNVB issued a challenge in connection with this attack plan, in which three consortia are now participating; Also at the stadiums in PSV and Feyenoord, experiments will be carried out with smart technology to combat racism.
‘Our technology can best be described as a digital assistant,’ says Ramon van Ingen, one of the three founders of the Siip Group. This assistant is a computer model that analyzes sounds and images and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify if there may be unwanted behavior. That way, the security staff know in time that the unrest is imminent in the stadium before it runs out of control.
‘The model actually makes a kind of heat map of the stadium, which shows where something is going on,’ says Van Ingen. It is then up to the security staff themselves to see what is going on and what they can do about it if necessary. Van Ingen: ‘There is always a human being in the loop, we have deliberately chosen that.’
In addition, the developers made a pre-registration app. This is a booking app that records who a person is and what seat he or she gets when they buy a ticket.
The technology has a modular structure. For example, the user may choose to use the algorithm to identify discrimination and racism, and not for other excesses such as firing fireworks.
The system is designed in such a way that it never makes decisions itself nor does it link data together, so it is really nothing more than an assistant. Van Ingen: ‘It is people who ultimately determine the actions and the consequences.’ For example, there is no technical bridge between the modules, they are completely separated from each other. Partly because of this, technology can never even determine who has thrown fireworks or who has racistly sung to a football player.
The organization can use the heat card to intervene early to de-scale, or check on camera images whether people should be arrested. If necessary, for example in case of suspicion of a criminal act, the organization can use the pre-registration app to manually search for the suspects – nor does the system do so automatically.
Privacy is well guaranteed, Van Ingen emphasizes several times during the conversation. For example, the app does not keep track of where a supporter is at what time. It only tells you which people have bought a ticket for a particular seat in a particular compartment.
Prior to the challenge, the public prosecutor, on behalf of the government, conducted research into the question of what privacy rules the technology must comply with. Van Ingen: ‘We also think it’s important’.
The latter is actually stated on the Siip group’s website: The company was founded to give people control over their own data, and mainly makes apps that regulate that people never release more data than is strictly necessary for a specific purpose.
The digital model is initially fed with image and sound material of excesses from the past. Now it must be further developed and learn from unwanted behavior that it will encounter in practice from now on. ‘The biggest bottleneck at the moment is that there is no game now,’ says Van Ingen when asked. ‘But after the summer break, the first pilot of the new season starts.’
Meanwhile, in 2019, Mendes Moreira had her own way of reacting to racist supporters. After returning to the pitch, he scored quickly, allowing Excelsior to take a point home in the end. It became 3-3.
Opening image: Travel Nomades, via Unsplash
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