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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

Inside the concert area were 22 Intellitix Live Click stations that served a variety of purposes. At some stations, visitors could snap pictures of themselves, tap their wristbands against a reader and post the photographs on their Facebook pages. At other stations, they could share a music playlist on Spotify with their social-network contacts, send a Tweet or indicate they "liked" a particular program. Some readers also provided access to special areas for which attendees had purchased tickets, such as backstage.

In 2012, festival-goers made 250,000 "Live Clicks" (or reads) at one of the Live Click stations, and posted 20,000 photos. It's unclear whether this year's visitors matched or exceeded that usage, as Bonnaroo's organizers did not respond to a request for details regarding the 2013 event.

All data related to RFID reads, at both access-control and Live Click stations, was managed by Intellitix software residing on a local server that Intellitix installed for that purpose, as well as on a back-end server hosted by Intellitix. That software received each RFID tag's unique ID number and linked that data to the individual's social-network information or admission details. At the entrance gates, the software prompted the illumination of either a green light to indicate "access approved" or a red light signifying "access denied." For social-networking data, it routed pictures, "likes" and Spotify playlists according to the information provided during that wristband's registration.

The system included safeguards, Parmley says, in order to ensure that a wristband would only be used by its authorized ticket holder. For example, attendees looking to leave the festival site and later re-enter had to "tap out" at an exit. Thus, if someone were to pass a wristband to another individual (by throwing it over the fence, for example), the Intellitix software would deny re-entry access since the wristband had previously been tapped out. Bonnaroo staff members were located throughout the festival grounds, equipped with more than 100 handheld RFID readers (also manufactured by Intellitix) that could be used to solve problems, such as a visitor having a non-working tag. They could, for instance, order a new wristband by entering that individual's name—or part of the non-working wristband's 16-digit serial number—into a handheld reader, and then sending a Wi-Fi-based message to the ticketing staff.

"Intellitix has activated four million RFID wristbands over the last three years," Parmley states, adding that sales have been increasing annually. "On the festival front, we've tripled the number of European festivals using our technology this year and launched a range of new products." One example is Intellipay, which allows attendees to establish an account and then load money that could be used to pay for purchases, by using an RFID wristband or badge at an event. That feature is now available and is in use by some customers.

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