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Ohio Music Festival Sings RFID's Praises

Organizers of Six Fest added tags to their tickets, thereby improving traffic flow for 14,000 concert-goers and saving thousands of dollars by discouraging counterfeiters.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 18, 2009Audience members at Six Fest music festival held this spring in Athens, Ohio, may have gotten soaked in a rainstorm, but their RFID-enabled tickets got them in the door, often without being taken out of their owners' bags or pockets. The system, installed by supply chain technology startup InstaTrax Solutions, moved nearly 14,000 ticket holders through the gate, with no instances of counterfeit tickets. That feature alone, says Ryan Jones, the event's co-organizer, was worth the cost of the technology. In fact, he adds, by eliminating counterfeit tickets, as well as the practice of reusing legitimate tickets, Jones estimates the group saved approximately $10,000. The system cost $12,000, while the elimination of fraud saved the company an estimated $22,000 or more.

Since 2004, the annual Fest concert has been a local event similar to a smaller version of Woodstock, with numerous bands performing in an open outdoor field from 11 a.m. into the night. Teenagers and college students primarily attend the event, paying $15 for a ticket or $25 at the door. But in previous years, Jones says, the concert lost thousands of dollars to counterfeit tickets—as many as 10 to 12 percent of the tickets were, in fact, fakes. In addition, some of those holding legitimate tickets would enter the concert, collect a handful of tickets from friends, carry them out of the gate and hand them off to others waiting outside, enabling them to enter without paying. To thwart such activities, Six Fest's organizers employed a fleet of staff members—college students, for the most part—who examined tickets carefully and tried to keep a watch out for ticket theft, which was time-consuming and only partially effective.

Six Fest's Ryan Jones
This year, however, each ticket included a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag encoded with a unique ID number. Each tag was read by interrogators at the concert gate, verifying that the ticket was not counterfeit or being reused. The tags were supplied by InstaTrax, an Ohio company that provides RFID, data-management and e-commerce technology solutions. InstaTrax's president, Neco Can, knew someone who worked for the industrial engineering department at Ohio University's Athens campus, and that person volunteered to supply a six-foot-wide metal gate and a 17-inch computer screen for the application. InstaTrax then designed the system that was used this year.

The RFID tag was attached to the back of the ticket in a sticker format. InstaTrax chose to use the X-1030 dual dipole RFID tag, an EPC Gen 0 inlay made several years ago by Matrics (now part of Motorola's RFID division). According to Can, these 2-by-2-inch EPC Class 0 tags were utilized instead of EPC Gen 2 tags because the size fit well on the ticket, and because InstaTrax had a number of the tags in its inventory. The team tested the tags in-house, Can says, to ensure they could be read properly by two RFID portals that would be installed on the metal entrance gate. The tags were found to have a read range of 7 feet or more, even when carried in a purse, wallet or pocket.

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