Manchester City is making a smart scarf

The sports world has generally embraced wearable technology with open arms — although it’s usually for the athletes themselves. However, English soccer club Manchester City is hoping to keep track of its fans’ biometrics, too. The club has partnered with Cisco to create a connected scarf embedded with a biosensor to “get a better understanding of the emotion at the heart of the world’s beautiful game.”

The Connected Scarf features an EmotiBit sensor that basically sits on a fan’s neck. According to Manchester City’s product site, it includes a PPG sensor, accelerometer, temperature sensor, and an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. All of these are typical sensors you’d find in a fitness tracker, and the EDA sensor was one of the marquee additions to the Fitbit Sense. It works by measuring tiny changes in your skin sweat to determine your stress levels, which can, in turn, help you track your emotional state. So essentially, Manchester City is hoping to gain quantified data on its fans’ movements, heart rate, and emotional response to a match.

The EmotiBit sensor is meant to sit discreetly on a fan’s neck.
Screenshot: Cisco, Manchester City

Does a soccer club really need a wearable to tell how fans are feeling? One would think it’s fairly evident just by looking at footage of fans facepalming during a missed penalty kick or the emotional despair triggered whenever Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola makes an unpopular substitution. (Or perusing the r/MCFC subreddit or reading replies to the official team Twitter.) That said, sports teams love quantifiable data. The scarf might be both hilarious and a tad ridiculous, but it’s pretty par for the course given recent trends in sports technology. The club’s official line says it’s meant to “shape more curated, customized experiences in the future” and “serve as a study in shared passion.”

Right now, the scarf is part of a limited pilot program, where select fans have been chosen to wear the scarf. According to two Reuters, the scarf will also be distributed to some fans of New York City FC, the club’s sister team. The club says it’ll be available to Manchester City fans globally starting next season.

As bonkers as the idea might be, introducing this kind of wearable fan merchandise also raises several questions. Will it have to be charged? How much will it cost? (Probably, and likely more than is sensible.) Can it survive the wash, or will you have to deal with an incredibly stinky scarf after a few games? But also, how will Manchester City protect users’ privacy, considering the fact that the scarves will collect biometric data? We likely won’t know those details until the scarf actually becomes available to the public — if it ever truly does.

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