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Montreal's Igloofest Warms Up to RFID

This year, the music festival's organizers have added passive HF inlays to its multi-day passes, so employees don't need to use bar-code scanners that can be cumbersome or inoperable in frigid temperatures.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 06, 2013People who visit Montreal's Igloofest for a night of music and dancing come dressed for warmth in heavy coats and mittens. During the outdoor event, which is being held this year during a series of three-day weekends from Jan. 17 through Feb. 9, temperatures regularly plunge to -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-35 degrees Celsius) and winds can whip through the site at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour). To read bar codes printed on reusable passes and paper tickets, or displayed on mobile phones, workers at the entrance gate must clutch a bar-code scanner in a hand wearing a mitten with a heating pad insert. Not surprisingly, this can be a clumsy process—and if the temperatures become cold enough, the bar-code scanners might simply cease to function.

This year, in order to test a solution to these problems, Igloofest and Ticketpro Canada, the festival's ticketing services provider, installed an RFID-based system for use by pass holders (the bar-code system is still in place for attendees with single-day paper or smartphone tickets). The RFID solution is designed to read a high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID tag built into an attendee's weekend or season pass, simply by having that individual place the plastic-coated card next to a reader. The system includes software and an RFID interrogator developed by Premières Loges. The RFID technology—which has been in operation for pass holders at one gate throughout the month-long festival this year—has made the process of admitting and accounting for attendees more reliable and more efficient, reports Sarah Girouard, Igloofest's box office manager.

To enter the Igloofest site, a visitor holds his pass next to the Cerebrus RFID reader, which flashes green to indicate the pass is valid.

The annual outdoor music festival, held at the Old Port of Montreal's Jacques Cartier Quay, was launched in 2007 as a winter rave to bring electronic music to fans who could sample a variety of DJ talent, while dancing to stay warm in the outdoor area during the season of the coldest nights of the year. Initially, the event attracted only a few thousand people, but the event's organizers expect that combined attendance for Igloofest's 12 nights will reach 70,000 this year. Attendees have a choice of buying a ticket onsite for a single evening, or purchasing a pass granting them entrance for multiple nights—either an entire weekend, or for the length of the one-month festival.

Ticketpro Canada has been providing a ticketing solution consisting of plastic-coated multi-day passes and paper single-day tickets that individuals can purchase online and pick up at various sites, single single-day tickets (purchased at Jacques Cartier Quay on the night of a given event, or electronic tickets purchased online that can be displayed on a mobile phone. The management of ticket purchases and access control is provided by Ticketpro, using software created for the company by Premières Loges. At the gate, every ticket or pass must be scanned by the staff via a bar-code scanner, Girouard says, because Igloofest's planners need to know the exact number of people being admitted at any time. The festival, she says, "has important concerns about the capacity of the site."

Igloofest's Sarah Girouard
While most paper tickets are purchased at the gate at the time of the event, some attendees buy passes and paper tickets online or at various retail stores throughout Montreal, making it difficult to know how many people have arrived on any particular night. Scanning every ticket or pass at Jacques Cartier Quay, and managing the collected ticket data using Ticketpro software, helps the festival to ensure that it does not admit more visitors than the site can safely accommodate.

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