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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
Each portal, consisting of a Motorola AR400 reader and two antennas, was designed to read the tags of ticket-holders within a range of 3 feet or less. The readers were cabled to a Linksys router that was then cabled to a laptop computer that ran InstaTrax software. The software interpreted the ID number read by the interrogators, then determined whether the read was valid. If the portal read anything other than a Class 0 tag, or if there was no read at all, the software then enabled the screen to display a red light indicating the individual lacked a valid ticket. If the ticket was read properly, a green light was illuminated. Of the 14,000 tickets sold, Can says, only six or seven did not read properly because their tags were defective and had to be visually examined to verify their validity.

Concert-goers first passed through a security checkpoint to have their bags checked for glass bottles and other forbidden items. However, Jones says, they then approached the entrance gate and moved through quickly because they were using the RFID-enabled tickets, thereby keeping the traffic flow steady.

What the organizers and InstaTrax had not expected was the amount of rain that soaked the concert area that day. The interrogators and computer were under a canvas tent, but because of the heavy rain and their proximity near the edge of the tent, the hardware got wet. What's more, the interrogator antennas and gate were uncovered and open to the rain. As the rain continued, concert employees moved the readers and computer farther from the edge of the tent to keep them dry. By this time, however, the interrogators were very wet, Can says, as were many of the tickets, though the system still functioned properly. In many cases, he notes, concert-goers—having just passed through the security line in which their bags were searched—began rummaging through their belongings, trying to find their tickets as they approached the gate. "I told them 'Don't search—just walk,'" Can says. They then passed through the portal, and their tickets were read despite the fact that they weren't in their hands.

Before the concert was held, organizers made a point of disclosing that the tickets were RFID-enabled. It was that effort, by posting information regarding the RFID tags on the event's Web site, for instance, that may have discouraged counterfeiters from attempting to create their own tickets. For future events, however, Jones says Fest's organizers intend to enter and store the unique ID numbers for all of the tickets on a database (there not insufficient time to accomplish that for this year's concert, Can explains). In that way, no one could try to create a counterfeit ticket using different RFID tags.

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