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RFID Performs a Bigger Role at Bonnaroo Festival

During the 12th annual Tennessee music festival, about 80,000 visitors used RFID wristbands to access various sections of the site, as well as post photos, updates and music playlists on Facebook, Twitter and Spotify.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 15, 2013

Attendees at this summer's Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival employed radio frequency identification to not only gain admission to the event, but also share "likes" and pictures of themselves on Facebook, upload music playlists to commercial music-streaming service provider Spotify, and post tweets on Twitter.

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is an annual four-day event held in Manchester, Tenn., and produced by Superfly Productions and AC Entertainment. This year, approximately 80,000 visitors attended the festival, which began on June 13, to see such performers as Jack Johnson, Paul McCartney and Of Monsters and Men. Many attendees stayed at an onsite campground. The festival issued no paper tickets, instead depending on passive high-frequency (HF) RFID wristbands to provide access control at the campgrounds and music festival, as well as at a host of social-networking functions. Last year, Bonnaroo utilized ID&C's RFID-enabled wristbands, along with Intellitix's software and readers, to provide visitors with ticketless entry, as well as backstage passes and access to Facebook friends. But as the technology has evolved, it opted to add additional features for this year's festival.

Upon buying tickets for the festival, individuals signed in online and made their purchase according to their plans, such as camping or accessing the backstage area. Wristbands containing the appropriate access were then mailed to each ticket buyer. Once the wristband arrived, the recipient logged onto the Bonnaroo site and entered a 16-digit user ID number, printed on the wristband, to link that number with his or her registration information. Part of the process included filling out a form indicating details such as Facebook, Twitter and Spotify accounts, if applicable. Users could then choose to simply employ the wristband for entrance and exit only, or opt to add the social-networking functions.

Each ID&C wristband comes with a built-in 13.56 MHz tag compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, says Steve Daly, ID&C's head of RFID, as well as a locking enclosure to ensure that it remains on the individual's wrist throughout the event. A watertight case protects the tag from moisture.

After arriving onsite, festival-goers could use the wristband to access the concert area and campgrounds, based on the type of ticket purchased. RFID reader portals, manufactured by Intellitix, were installed at entrance gates, while employees equipped with handheld readers managed smaller gates. At the main gates, visitors simply tapped their wristband near the reader, as indicated on signage and by Bonnaroo's staff, and then continued walking. This, explains, Greg Parmley, Intellitix's chief information officer, thereby limited the size of queues at the concert area or campground.

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