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PGA Tour Tests RFID

The organization is working with Avery Dennison to explore ways in which EPC tags could help it automate a number of processes at its golf events.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 18, 2011Last September, at the Tour Championship, the final event of the PGA Tour playoffs, at Atlanta's East Lake Gulf Club, the PGA Tour, the organization that runs the majority of events comprising the tournament series that bears its name, launched a pilot to test the use of radio frequency identification. The technology is currently making a second stop, at the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club, in Pacific Palisades, Calif.—where RFID tag manufacturer Avery Dennison is issuing RFID-enabled badges to guests of its private hospitality tent. The pilot program's goal is to ascertain how RFID might provide PGA Tour and its corporate sponsors with increased visibility into the management of its specialty hospitality services.

At last year's Northern Trust Open, representatives from Avery Dennison approached the golfing organization and suggested that it could benefit from employing RFID to help it automate a number of processes at its events, says Jack Tyson, PGA Tour's director of ticketing operations. The company suggested that Stark RFID, an RFID tag converter and a provider of RFID software customized for event management, would be a great partner to test the technology as well. Soon thereafter, Tyson says, Lance Burnett, Stark RFID's CEO, traveled to the Players Championship, a PGA Tour event held in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., to observe the outing and suggest where RFID might be of most use.

At this week's Northern Trust Open event, Avery Dennison provided RFID-enabled badges to guests at its private hospitality tent.
The verdict: RFID could help PGA Tour and its corporate sponsors keep tabs on attendance to the various corporate-sponsored hospitality tents at its golf events. There are three types of hospitality tents at events, Tyson explains: private, reserved and shared. Single corporate sponsors pay for, and have access to, private tents, whereas reserved tents are the domain of a few different sponsors, and shared tents are paid for and utilized by a larger number of sponsors. At all three types of tents, guests are generally issued wristbands, color-coded to signify the tent to which they have access, as they initially enter a tent and check in with a host, who confirms their names are on the guest list. After that, they are free to exit and reenter that particular tent throughout the event.

This system works, Tyson says, but it does not provide PGA Tour with any visibility into the flow of guests into and out of the tents throughout an event. So for the first phase of the pilot project, conducted at last year's Tour Championship, Stark RFID created wristbands with embedded Avery Dennison AD-843 EPC Gen 2 tags, and one hospitality tent was selected as a test area. Each guest entering that tent was issued an RFID wristband encoded with a unique ID number upon check-in. As that individual entered and exited the tent, he or she would walk through a read zone that Stark RFID set up using an Alien Technology ALR-9900 reader with antennas from Motorola Solutions. (The tent had two entry/exit points, and thus two read zones.)

After the event, Burnett says, the number of unique IDs collected at the read points was found to match the quantity of guests who'd checked into that tent, indicating a 100 percent read rate. The water within a human body can absorb radio signals, which sometimes interfere with passive tag reads, but the large antenna used in the AD-843 helps ensure readability by capturing more of the reader's signal.

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