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RFID Goes to the Races

Chelmsford City Racecourse aims to be the first in its market to adopt an NFC RFID-based cashless payment solution from Event Genius to enable post-race concert-goers to pay for food, beverages and merchandise with the tap of a wrist.
By Claire Swedberg

Upon arrival, a ticket holder can proceed to a kiosk with the voucher and present it to a worker at the gate. The bar code is scanned via an Android-based handheld reader and bar-code scanner, provided by Famoco. The credit-card information and the amount of money authorized for spending are written to the wristband's NFC tag, and the bracelet becomes the individual's wallet. Upon visiting a merchant to buy food or a drink, he or she can simply tap the wristband against the reader installed at the point of sale. The amount of that purchase will then be automatically deducted from the band's balance.

If the individual wants to add funds to the account, he or she can go to a kiosk with a built-in NFC reader and input credit-card information to "top off" the balance. The data is stored on the wristband rather than on the server, Lytle says, in part because it enables the solution to work even when Internet access is spotty. "Most clients use our system because it can operate entirely offline," she states. Then, once the Wi-Fi or other Internet connection resumes, the information can be uploaded to the software.

Because the balance is written directly to the wristband, however, the system requires that users ensure they don't lose the bracelet. Typically, the company reports, when money is involved, users tend to keep a close eye on the wristbands, with few losses reported. At the end of the event, if an individual still has money remaining in the wristband balance, he or she can request online that it be transferred back to the credit-card account.

The race course intends to use approximately 300 readers at its facility, most of which will be in the hands of employees working directly with fans, while other readers will be connected to POS systems or built into kiosks. By equipping most workers with the readers, Lytle notes, Chelmsford can enable mobile-based sales. "They want every staff member to be a point of sale," she says.

The Event Genius software stores all transactional data for the site, Lytle reports, enabling Chelmsford to build a history of transactions that could help the race track to better predict crowd sizes, as well as monitor when individuals go to the concessions area and when queues might build up. In general, however, the solution is expected to reduce queue times significantly, based on other contactless payment installations. That, Lytle says, is the key goal for Chelmsford, which sought to make the experience faster and more convenient for race fans. "It reduces queues onsite," she explains, "as well as the inconvenience of fumbling for a card or cash when making a purchase."

No two deployments for Event Genius are the same, Lytle says, but the Chelmsford event is especially unique because of the market. Those who visit the race course are a different demographic than those who buy tickets for music festivals. "It's a new crowd to introduce to cashless payments," she states. Individuals may be older than the music festival attendees, as well as less familiar with technology, but she expects that they will be quick to appreciate the benefits of not having to carry around cash. In fact, Lytle adds, the race fan demographic tends to spend more money than many of the younger concert- or festival-goers.

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