Wristbands On The Run: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wristbands from this year's Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza festivals.
Mile-long access queues, ticket fraud and the secondary ticket business could well become a thing of the past if technology solution company Intellitix achieves its goal of revolutionizing the festival and wider live market.
The Canada-based company claims to be the leading global provider of RFID (radio frequency identification) technology for live music events and says that it activated over 1 million RFID wristbands at North American festivals in 2011. Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Austin City Limits, Electric Zoo, Moogfest and Le Festival d'été de Québec were among the U.S. and Canadian festivals that successfully trialed Intellitix's innovative access control systems in the past year.
The technology involves festival patrons and staff all wearing a personalized RFID wristband that allows access to a securely sealed area - in this case the festival site - via Intellitix entrance portals. The wristbands, which utilize the same passive chip technology as the Oyster card ticketing system used on London's Underground travel network, can also be used as a cashless payment method on merch, food and drinks within the festival site, although the company has yet to run cashless payment stalls at a live event. With the exception of Outside Lands, where Intellitix controlled just the VIP area, all events saw RFID technology utilized across the entire festival site.
"The U.S. is a market that everybody wants to get in and is very hard to get in," Intellitix co-founder and chairman Serge Grimaux tells Billboard.biz. "For us it came very pleasantly easily because of the trust of the organizers and the spotless results that we deliver."
EZ-Pass: Intellitix claims one of its portals can process 2,500 patrons an hour.
Intellitix is now targeting the U.K., European and Australasian festival market as the company expands globally, says Grimaux, who aims to activate approximately 2.5 million wristbands across all markets in 2012. To facilitate the growth, Intellitix recently opened a U.K. office, located in London, in November, and a Las Vegas office opened this week.
"I think pretty much all festivals will be RFID enabled over the three years, so our ambition is simply to be the market leader in that space and to be helping festivals to make much more money than they do currently, give the users a much better experience and generally make the festival scene a better place," Steve Jenner, recently appointed VP Director of Operations, U.K. and Europe, tells Billboard.biz.
Negotiations are currently taking place with a number of U.K. and European festivals to utilize Intellitix's tech offering for next year's festival season, adds Jenner, who says that the reaction from festival organizers has been "hugely positive." Eurosonic Noorderslag, the European Music Conference and Showcase Festival, held in the Netherlands, January 11-14, is the first European event to partner with Intellitix.
"As a festival organizer, the Intellitix system will allow us to reduce queuing times, gauge exactly how popular each band is, and to provide a range of interactive services for our delegates," says Ruud Berends, head of international marketing and PR at Eurosonic Noorderslag.
"The wristband has simply been your ticket to date and it's about evolving that so it becomes your wallet as well," says Jenner, who credits RFID's application as a cashless payment method as one of the system's main benefits.
"Cash is just a nightmare for anyone who runs an event of any scale," he goes on to say. "It slows everything down. You need more people to work behind bars when you are handling cash. Transportation of it is a big logistical problem and from a punter's point of view it's a big inconvenience to have cash on you. To relieve the user of carrying cash is of great customer service benefit for the fan, as well as for the festival promoter and for the vender. It's a win-win situation for everyone."
Reducing queues at festival entrance points and removing the possibility of ticket fraud are additional benefits of adopting RFID tech, says Jenner, who anticipates U.K. festivals to adopt a "gradual fade-in" of RFID enabled cashless payment systems alongside traditional cash payment points. According to Intellitix, just one of their RFID enabled entrance portals can process 2,500 people per hour.
The system also contains numerous possibilities within the realm of social media by allowing users to personalize and link their wristband to their Facebook or Twitter profiles. One knock-on effect is that festival sponsors can directly engage with its audience. Jenner identifies the scenario of audience members choosing to 'check in' at sponsor tents within a festival site as one method in which a brand can gain a "very tangible return on their investment."
"Previously, brands don't really know if they are getting value for their money. This provides quite an effective solution to that," says Jenner, who also credits RFID tech with "providing festivals with a way of controlling secondary ticketing, if they want to" due to each wristband being uniquely registered to the purchaser.
"RFID [access] brings something that was very much needed in the festival industry because it brings a tool to help manage and it also provides a fantastic experience to the user," adds Grimaux, who is also looking to introduce the technology to indoor venues and says its "possibilities are limitless."
Intellitix will, however, resist from turning the application into an aggressive marketing tool, says the company founder. "We do not want to use this technology on a push basis and use it to push something on patrons. Everything we do is on the pull basis," Grimaux says. "It's our job to be appealing. If we are appealing then we will be successful. People will come to us and pick what they need. It's more than the technology itself. It's the way that we use it."