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In Minnesota, RFID Helped Zombies Get Treats and Stop Tricks

The passive EPC tags and readers allowed managers of the Twin Cities' Zombie Pub Crawl to count the event's undead participants, as well as control access more efficiently and prevent gate-crashing.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 31, 2012No zombie likes to wait in line, which is why more than 30,000 Twin Cities members of the undead wore radio frequency identification tags on a Saturday night earlier this month. Etix, the ticketing service provider of Zombie Pub Crawl VIII, held in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., employed an RFID-based solution to provide access control to a music venue known as Zombie Island, as well as to track crowd movements through pubs and bars, and help participating "zombies" post details regarding their evening on Facebook. After the event, the number of attendees counted by the system was forwarded to Guinness World Records, which will determine whether a new world record was reached regarding the number of zombies gathered within a single place. The previous record was 4,093, set on Oct. 30, 2010, in Asbury Park, N.J. Until Guinness releases its decision, the solution's provider, Stark RFID, says it cannot reveal the exact number of attendees counted.

To participate in the event, each zombie purchased a ticket for about $20, and was issued a wristband containing an Alien Technology EPC Gen 2 passive RFID inlay. The wristband tags were read as the zombies staggered through RFID reader portals while entering the main venue (St. Paul's Midway Stadium). Employees of bars and pubs throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul were equipped with handheld RFID readers, which they used to capture the unique ID number of each zombie's wristband tag as he or she entered the premises or ordered drinks.

As the readers interrogated the unique ID number encoded to each wristband, that ID number was compared to the IDs on file in the Stark RFID software, and if there was a match, that zombie was approved for entrance.

This year's event marked the eighth annual Zombie Pub Crawl in the Twin Cities. The number of visitors has grown every year since the first Zombie Pub Crawel, in 2005, which attracted approximately 100 participants. This year's event included more than 25 musical bands, along with at least a dozen participating pubs in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

This was the first time that the event included RFID tags, however. Without them, entrance into Midway Stadium would have required that individuals queue up and present a paper ticket before entering. If paper tickets had been used, staff members would have been required to manually check the tickets, even via bar-code scanners, to verify their validity. That manual process would have interfered with the free flow necessary to create an atmosphere of swarming (and partying) zombies. In addition, the sheer volume of attendees would have made it impossible to thwart some gatecrashers who might take advantage of the crowded confusion and sneak in without paying.

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