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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
The 2011 Super Bowl will be held in Cowboys Stadium, which opened in 2009. Populous declines to reveal whether it has been hired to work on that event as well, though a recent news article in SportsBusiness Journal reported that the NFL plans to test Populous' RFID-enabled credentials in December 2010, at a Super Bowl planning meeting, to be held in Dallas, with 250 attendees expected.

To develop its RFID offering, Populous partnered with Plastic Printing Professionals (P3), a manufacturer of plastic biometric ID cards, RFID inlays, plastic watermarks and patented optical features that deter counterfeiters. P3 is based in San Francisco, where it produces plastic cards with embedded RFID tags using an in-house assembly and laminating process. This sets the firm apart from plastic-card providers that outsource the RFID inlay layer and then merely laminate that layer between a top and bottom sheet, says Jaeson Caulley, P3's senior sales associate. "One benefit of creating our own cards in-house," he explains, "is lower cost—it's cheaper and faster for us to turn around orders after we receive them."

According to Caulley, P3 makes only plastic media—but if, in the future, Populous opts to issue paper tickets with embedded RFID inlays, P3's parent company, Document Security Systems, could accommodate such a job. P3 and Populous have joined into an exclusive manufacturing and distribution agreement, through which P3 will supply Populous with plastic cards of various shapes and sizes that it has embedded with RFID inlays.

Alien Technology partnered with P3 to develop the RFID-enabled cards for the NACDA conference, Caulley says. In 2006, P3 first began working with Quatrotec, an Alien subsidiary, to conduct early research and development on an RFID-enabled version of P3 plastic credential products. More recently, P3 and Alien have worked closely together to design and test the finished RFID-enabled card products that P3 manufactures.

P3 embedded Alien's Gen 2 RFID inlay with its Higgs-3 integrated circuit into the passes that Populous issued to attendees at the NACDA conference. Each visitor was provided with his or her pre-printed show pass upon arriving at the event—or, if the attendee registered on-site, a pass was printed and encoded on the spot, and presented to that individual.

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