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Mandatory fun: App tracks and rewards college students that go to the game — and stay

The University of Alabama has found a hi-tech way to boost student attendance at football games – they track and reward them. Students with the free Tide Loyalty Points app can score points and get easier access to highly coveted championship games – but only if they stay through the final quarter of those humdrum season games. The app does this by tracking the student’s location – registering who goes in and stays at the stadium. The app is not just for fun and games – it also awards students for taking classes. It is not clear from the school website if students are rewarded with extra points for better grades.

Game theory at the university

Alabama football – better known as the Crimson Tide – is one of the top college programs in the USA and can be considered a civic religion due to its devoted following. The drive behind the Alabama app was that students were getting bored with their beloved team’s wipeout of visiting teams – they were leaving the stadium before the game was finished. This left visibly empty bleachers and a demoralized coach. This particular app was structured to meet Alabama’s need keep fans in the stands for the entire game with its rewards scheme and geo-fencing.

It is a product of FanMaker, a US company focused on creating loyalty programs for a variety of schools and sports programs such as Villanova, LSU, and the Arizona Cardinals. While Tide Loyalty Points is focused on keeping fans in the stands, other apps from FanMaker are designed to keep student athletes in class and to guide fan behavior. Not only can apps record when fans arrive and leave, it can push out friendly messages on what they should wear to the event beforehand and other messages while they are there. In addition, app users can win points to get a variety of team swag.

Get an education in tracking

Loyalty programs are nothing new. However, the launch of the Alabama app comes as consumer tracking and the storage of private data is becoming more of a hot issue. The good, bad, and unclear points about this app are as follows. First the good, the app is optional – not required – for students. Second the bad. As a public school, the app is basically government sponsored surveillance — although for a sporty reason. Third, it is just not clear how or if users will turn it off. The Alabama sports website states that users can restrict the app’s access their phone’s location to only “When Using the App.” Sometimes apps collect a lot more private data than they should.

App permissions are always good to look at

App permissions are always good to look at with installing any app — and this is no exception. The Tide Loyalty Points app does want access to a user’s phone — and the permissions are inline with that mission. It wants access to the user’s approximate location via the phone network and a more precise location via GPS and the network. However, it also asks for permission to read, modify, and delete the contents of the device SD card. In addition to wanting to run at startup, it also includes activity recognition.

So if a user is not active enough … they might be getting a message from Big Brother to cheer louder.

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As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.