Is RFID Really the Future of Event Identification?

Oh RFID, you are a tantalizing prospect. For years the event industry has been falling over themselves to utilise RFID, with the main hurdle simply being the cost. Until very recently, RFID wristbands, RFID wristband event access control systems and hardware have just been too pricey to consider.

This is beginning to change. Costs have plummeted thanks to more streamlined manufacturing processes for the chips/inlays themselves, but most importantly, because developers have come up with cost effective programs through which RFID solutions can run. Added to this the new generation of smartphones (with the Samsung Galaxy 3 leading the way) which are NFC-enabled, and this leads to a whole new situation where events can realistically begin to consider RFID as a viable solution.

This all sounds great, but is RFID really the future of event identification?

First, some basics

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. Used within the logistics industry to track stock, each RFID chip has a unique ID number that can be assigned, in the event world, to an individual patron (via a non transferrable wristband) and, in theory, allow an event organiser to track the activities of that patron.

NFC refers to Near Field Communications. Within the event environment, an NFC enabled phone can actually encode AND scan an RFID wristband, therefore removing the need for expensive hardware and dedicated RFID scanners that cannot be used for anything else.

Why RFID is the way to go

  1. It’s cool

Really, it is. You scan it, it remembers you, it can link to systems that does things like enter you in competitions, offer you a discount on your next drink, updates your Facebook status. It means easier access at events, potentially cashless transactions. People love wireless technology – bluetooth, internet, 3G, 4G, we can’t get enough of being ‘unplugged’ and ‘free’.

  1. Easy access control

Event organisers can take the ‘human’ element out of gate control and access, and I mean that in a good way. Security personnel make mistakes. They may not notice a replica wristband. Bar staff make mistakes. They might give incorrect change. RFID takes this off the table.

  1. Security in general

It’s difficult to copy an RFID wristband. Unlike other wristbands where forgeries are possible (with the difficulty in achieving this subject to the type of wristband utilised), RFID is hard to copy.

  1. Cashless transactions

Just as Visa Paywave and similar technologies are proving to be popular, the opportunity to run a completely cashless event is an attractive proposition to both patrons and organisers. For patrons this can mean less risk of theft, less items to worry about, while for event organisers it can mean increased spending – we all spend more when our transactions are less tangible i.e. swiping cards rather than paying cash.

  1. Social media integration

Now this is where RFID really opens up possibilities, and is where some of the most exciting uses may lie. At a University Open Day to be held at an Australian University in August 2012, visitors will be photographed, have their wristband scanned and the photo will automatically load to the University Facebook page, tagging those in the photo. This provides great exposure for the University as friends of those at the event will also see imagery from the event in real time.

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