How Can RFID Locate People at an Event?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsHow Can RFID Locate People at an Event?
RFID Journal Staff asked 11 years ago

I am a student undertaking an entrepreneurship module. I would like to create a festival wristband with an RFID chip in it, so people can find their friends if they become separated. However, I know nothing about the technology or if this is feasible. Can you help?

—Name withheld


It sounds like what you want to do is be able to locate people in real time, so that someone could perhaps walk up to a kiosk, scan his or her wristband and see where others in his or her pre-defined circle of friends was located. This is technically possible, but probably not at a cost that would be feasible for large-scale events. A number of water parks have deployed such a system, enabling parents to allow their children to roam freely within the park. The parents can check a kiosk to locate their children at any given time. Everyone onsite would wear an RFID wristband.

An RFID locating system gives parents visiting Dolly's Splash Country peace of mind, because kids are always tracked. It also gives the park the opportunity to increase revenue by adding such services as cashless payments (see RFID Makes a Splash at Water Park).

The challenge is that wristbands that allow long-range reading required for real-time location are expensive—probably $50 or so each. If you have 10,000 people at an event, that comes out to $500,000 worth of wristbands. Plus, you would need to set up readers around the location, have software to map each person's wristband to a specific location, and add kiosks to allow visitors to find their friends. People might not return their wristbands, which would be costly.

Another option would be to use high-frequency (HF) or ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) wristbands, and then place kiosks at strategic locations, such as entrances, exits and other points around a facility. People could scan their passive UHF wristband to check in at a location. Friends could sign up to receive updates, such as "Josh just checked in at the concession stand." Passive RFID wristbands would cost a few dollars apiece. Then you would also have the cost of installing the kiosks and writing some software and a smartphone application.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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