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RFID Makes We Day's Day

NFC bracelets increase attendee engagement at youth-empowerment festivals.
By Michael Belfiore
Feb 08, 2015

At each We Day event, some 20,000 students come together to share resources, hear talks by movers and shakers in the worlds of philanthropy, entertainment and business, and become inspired to continue helping to make the world a better place. You can't buy a ticket to a We Day event. Students earn an invitation because they contributed selflessly to their home communities, and they are admitted for free, thanks to support from the event's major sponsors. In fall 2014, seven We Day events were held in Canada and another in the United States. This spring, We Day will host three Canadian events, three in the United States and one in the United Kingdom.

For the 2014-2015 We Day tour, event organizers deployed an RFID-powered social-media solution from Montreal-based vendor Connect&Go. The system links attendees and their e-mail and social-media accounts with event organizers and sponsors via bracelets containing passive Near Field Communication (NFC) chips that can be read at RFID-enabled kiosks and with handheld devices.

The RFID system was launched in conjunction with a Web-based registration process designed to improve efficiencies. Since We Day began in 2007, managers have relied on paper schedules and forms, known as ballots, sent to participants at their schools, to gather registration information and students' input on what they'd like to see at future events. But manually filling out paper ballots was a cumbersome process, resulting in a large number of attendees failing to complete the registration process.

"The RFID system engaged sponsors in a new way," says Carly Bedini, We Day's associate director for event logistics. In addition, moving the registrations online increased the amount of information that We Day organizers receive from participants, while also eliminating paperwork. "We found that... registrations were higher [this year] than any other year," she says.

The Road to RFID
In early 2014, We Day managers—Lina Beaudin, executive producer, and Leah Ruinsky, director of operations and quality assurance—began thinking about RFID technology as a possible solution to the problems caused by paper registration. They began researching potential vendors and, as part of that process, came across Connect&Go.

That summer, while conducting research to evaluate Connect&Go, Beaudin attended Montreal's annual three-day Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, which distributed RFID-enabled wristbands to the 40,000 daily attendees. Beaudin liked how the wristbands enabled guests to share their experiences via social networks (see Osheaga Music Festival to Include New NFC-enabled Features). She was further inclined to believe that Connect&Go, which provided the system used at Osheaga, could build an RFID solution for We Day that would encourage social engagement between students and the sponsors whose donations pay for the events.

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