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Populous Adds RFID to Its Playbook

The global sports architectural and events-services firm has started to embed EPC tags into event tickets, passes and credentials, so that its clients can benefit from the use of the technology.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 27, 2010Populous, a global firm that helps design stadiums and execute events, has adopted a game plan to incorporate passive EPC RFID inlays into event tickets, passes and credentials, so that its clients can benefit from the use of radio frequency identification. In its first effort related to that mission, the company provided RFID-enabled credentials to the 2,000 attendees of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) conference in June of this year, at California's Anaheim Convention Center. Populous now plans to incorporate the technology into tickets issued for future sporting events.

"This is something we are trying to advance," says Jeanette Johnson, Populous' event manager and senior associate, explaining why the company opted to initially investigate RFID's use for its ticketing and credentialing operations. "We know RFID is the future, and we're just excited about it," she states. Visibility into the flow of attendee traffic, the ability to authenticate tickets or credentials and the ability to leverage the tags for ancillary applications—such as making purchases—are among the chief benefits that the company hopes RFID will deliver to its clients.

At this year's National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics conference, attendees were provided with RFID-enabled passes, enabling NACDA to analyze the visitors' movements during the event.
A credential, Johnson explains, is something generally issued to a multiday event or meeting, such as a badge, pass or identification card. A ticket, on the other hand, would generally not include the holder's name, and is typically issued for a sports game or other single-day event. Increasingly, RFID technology is being used in both tickets and credentials.

In 2005, for example, RFID was utilized to authenticate tickets carried by spectators at the Tennis Master Cup in Shanghai (see RFID Takes a Swing at Ticket Fraud). A growing number of conference organizers are experimenting with embedding RFID tags into credentials for applications similar to the NACDA conference, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MIT Media Lab is launching a system by which visitors use RFID tags in their credentials to collect information, as well as learn more about projects being carried out by its researchers (see MIT Media Lab Launches Virtual RFID-Powered Blackboard).

What's more, major sports venues, including Dolphin Stadium (now known as Sun Life Stadium), have built RFID technology into their IT infrastructure (see Dolphin Stadium Kicks Off a Technology Revolution). The stadium, which Populous helped to design, was the site of the 2010 Super Bowl, and the NFL organizers of that event also hired the firm to provide a number of services, including stadium remodeling and operations planning and management.

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