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RFID Tickets Sped Visitors Through Belgium's F1 Grand Prix

The race organizer used tickets embedded with 13.56 MHz RFID tags and handheld readers to scan tickets as visitors entered the stadium, thereby reducing queues and curtailing fraud.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 15, 2008Early this month, 200,000 visitors at Belgium's Formula 1 Grand Prix used tickets with RFID-embedded tags that granted them entrance to specific parts of the Spa-Francorchamps stadium in southeastern Brussels, where the event was held.

The ticketing system, provided by RFIDEA for Spa GP, the ticket-selling division of the race's organizer, F1 Belgium, allowed visitors faster entrance to the stadium and their seats, while also reducing the risk of ticket fraud for F1 Belgium. RFIDEA furnished Spa GP with a link for Spa GP's database to access new ticket purchases, as well as software to enable printing of tickets and access control data to enable handheld interrogators used by stadium personnel to interpret whether a ticket holder could enter a specific section of the stadium. The tickets were printed by RFIDEA on Toshiba TEC printers.

François Detraux
In the past, Spa GP had used paper tickets, which had to be visually checked by stadium employees as ticket-holders arrived. This process often led to long queues as visitors entered the stadium. Spa GP had also struggled with a number of security issues. Some individuals were counterfeiting tickets, for instance, while others utilized a method known as "pass-back," in which a group of visitors purchased a large number of less expensive bronze tickets, in addition to a few high-priced gold tickets providing access to the best grandstand. During the event, two visitors would enter the more expensive seating area—the grandstand—then one would exit that area with two gold tickets to pick up another individual waiting in the bronze ticket section and re-enter the grandstand together. They would then repeat the operation until all of their friends were seated in the grandstand.

In September 2007, Spa GP approached RFIDEA and asked the company to supply an RFID solution for access to a fenced-in area where athletes, media and VIPs were permitted. All VIP tickets, as well as badges worn by staff members and players, were equipped with 13.56 MHz high-frequency (HF) RFID tags complying with the ISO 15693 standard, explains François Detraux, RFIDEA's project engineer. Altogether, RFIDEA printed 20,000 tickets, which it utilized in specific portions of the stadium to which the VIP visitors had access. The pilot's success convinced Spa GP to launch a full deployment.

This year, Spa GP provided the RFID-enabled tickets to all visitors for its Sept. 5-7 event—a total of 200,000 tickets. Visitors ordered the tickets online, choosing from as many as 50 options, including date and seating location, then paid based on those choices.

The Spa GP database shared that data with RFIDEA, which then printed the tickets on Toshiba TEC's B-SX4 label RFID printer-encoder. The printer provides three functions—printing information on the front of the tag, such as seating level (whether it is bronze- or gold-level, for instance), and the section of the stadium the seating was for. The printer could also encode the 13.56 MHz chip, says Tom Geerinck, channel manager for Toshiba TEC Europe's Auto ID division, though in this case, RFIDEA wanted to encode only a unique ID number to the chip.

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