Reading and Leeds 2014 Tickets

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RFID Wristbands – Friend or Foe?

So with everyone jumping on the bandwagon we started a while back on Strictly Sonisphere we thought we’d see what the fuss is about, put some myths to bed and laugh at touts. We spoke to Steve Jenner, UK & European Operations Director for Intellitix

Could you give us a brief intro of who you are and what you do at Intellitix?

I am the UK & European Operations Director for Intellitix, the world’s leading provider of RFID technology to festivals and live events. Last year we installed RFID systems at all of the biggest American festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, activating over 1 million wristbands in the process. This summer we are bringing it to the festivals of the UK and Europe.

What is RFID for the newbie festival goer?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a generic term that is used to describe a system that transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object or person wirelessly, using radio waves, to a computer system. In a festival, the serial number is transmitted from a chip in the owner’s wristband, to a reader in an entry gate or handheld device.

The system allows festival-goers to break down the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds and interact in new and amazing ways with the festivals they attend and the artists performing. Right now they can post automated Facebook Likes and status updates by interacting with artists and other attractions, but this is just scratching the surface of possibilities. The system also allows people to make ‘cashless’ payments meaning that they no longer have to worry about carrying cash or tokens around or queuing at ATM’s.

Why do you think the uptake has been slow in the UK?

I wouldn’t say it’s been slow. We are the first company to have successfully packaged this technology into a format that can be readily applied to any music festival. We only opened our UK office last November and already have plenty of major events signed up for this summer. There’s a cultural reserve around being the first to jump into bed with new technology on this side of the Atlantic, so we expect the floodgates to truly open once the first few events take place successfully.

How can a festival such as Reading and Leeds take advantage of RFID whether it be from a promoters viewpoint, customers, artists or vendors?

The best thing about RFID is that everyone benefits. The promoter enjoys much greater efficiencies, the ability to gain deeper relationships with their customers, vast cost savings and new sources of revenue (particularly from sponsors who can gain great marketing value through RFID without the need to plaster their logos over the event). Ultimately, they can deliver a far better customer experience.

The fans can spend much less time queueing and more on enjoying themselves. They don’t have to worry about having cash on them. They can connect their wristbands to Facebook and broadcast their experiences (if they want to). They can connect to new bands they discover. The creative possibilities are limited only by the imagination.

By allowing people to ‘Live Click’ their wristbands at touch points situated near stages, artists can now generate a tangible new following – gaining Facebook followers who could, for example, automatically receive free tracks. We’ve all discovered a great new band on the first day of a festival, only to have forgotten their name by the time we get home on Monday morning. No longer.

Vendors wouldn’t have to carry cash, which is expensive to do, and because it’s so quick, people are served faster so they’re happier.

A lot of people are worried about the “Big Brother” aspect. Is there anything to actually worry about?

Absolutely not; this is pure media sensationalism. The reality is that any data sharing is completely optional. No data about an audience member is shared with a third party without their opt-in permission and knowledge. Should someone choose to share their data with a band or sponsor, it would be entirely up to them. The heart of the festival experience remains unaffected by RFID unless a patron wants to benefit from some of the many benefits that it offers – such as connecting to new bands, checking-in or Facebook, participating in on-site treasure hunts and other games or entering competitions. The experience is nonetheless optional. Using a mobile phone, buying anything online (including a ticket), travelling by plane, owning a car, watching Cable TV and owning a debit card involves sharing far more data than having fun at a festival while wearing an RFID wristband..

But surely knowing their whereabouts can be tracked will freak some people out?

Yup that would freak me out, but the fact is you cannot track the location of someone wearing an RFID wristband. The RFID tags that Intellitix use at live events are passive and have a read range of approximately two inches (four centimetres). Consequently, unless the wristband wearer actively places their band close to a reader (such as at a festival entrance when they come in, or to connect directly with a new band or on social media) their location is completely unknown. Cider drinkers can still get happily drunk and wake up in a hedge with no one being any the wiser.

Will it help reduce touting at all?

The chips are heavily encrypted to prevent them being cloned, which kills ticket fraud. The fact that people have to scan out when leaving the event also prevents ‘pass-back’ scenarios. Plus it’s possible for the event organiser to introduce other measures to help combat resale if they wanted to.

What if the system breaks, what fallbacks are there?

Our system has served more than 1 million wristbands and processed over 6 million cashless payments to date, without a single problem. Redundancy is the keyword here. Neither the event, nor our company, can afford for the system to ever break so we put every measure in place to ensure that it does and cannot. You could drive a truck into one of our portal gates and the system won’t go down. These things can function when submerged in over a foot of water. The system’s completely waterproof, heat-proof, freeze-proof and idiot-proof. Even in the event that a festival loses both power and internet for hours, our RFID system would still be standing. With Keith Richards and the cock-roaches.

Is there a risk of identity theft if my data is held on these wristbands?

No personal information is held on the RFID wristband. Each RFID wristband contains a unique identification number that is effectively a ‘key’ to unlock a specific user profile, which is held securely on a heavily secured event database. You probably have more chance of receiving a billion dollars from a rich Nigerian widow via email than having your identity stolen at an RFID-enabled festival.

Strictly Our Opinion

So hopefully that covers everything. If not then please comment below. Lastly, here’s a nice video. There’s literally no downside to having it considering you don’t have to opt-in. Simple.

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