The Scoop on RFID Wristbands and Cashless Ticketing

Ticket retailers and festival organizers have thrown around terms like “RFID” and “cashless ticketing” for the last few years, but exactly what these are and how they can be useful to you is not always clear.

Big festivals like Coachella and Tomorrowland have now successfully switched over to RFID, and to mark the onset of this game changing technology, we decided to find out exactly how it works. So, read on to find out everything you’ve always wanted to know about RFID and cashless ticketing.

What is RFID?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, though that doesn’t tell us very much. Basically, RFID products use electromagnetic fields to transfer data and track information. Like barcodes, RFID allows specific tracking data to be transferred quickly and accurately. But unlike a barcode, a RFID chip doesn’t need to be visible or aligned with a scanner, which makes it much faster and more efficient to use.

RFID was originally created to track products, but the high cost hampered the system’s growth. It has had much more success in recent years with event planners, and especially for larger scale events that need to track and manage tens of thousands of guests.

In the last few years, innovative entrepreneurs have also found ways to link a user’s RFID tracking code with an online account that guests can create ahead of time and update during an event. In addition, users can link their account to their credit card and various social media platforms, which literally eliminates the need for them to bring their wallets to a festival (hence the term “cashless ticketing”).



What Are the Advantages of Cashless Ticketing?

Many large festivals have switched over to RFID technology in the last few years, including Coachella, Tomorrowland and Rock in Rio, as well as several large conferences and sports events. But what exactly is it about this new technology that has lead it to take the entertainment world by storm, and revolutionized the way events are managed?


There are a few straightforward advantages to RFID systems:

  • High Security: RFID wristbands are entirely impossible to duplicate, which eliminates the risk of fraud. Because each wristband has an embedded microchip and is linked to an online account, issues that arose in the past with less secure event wristbands are completely eliminated.

  • Cashless Ticketing: Pickpocketing and losing your valuables can be an issue for guests at festivals, especially in large crowds. RFID systems allow guests to create an account online before the festival and either link it to their credit card or load it with a set amount of cash. They can then pay for drinks or merchandise simply by tapping their wristband. This is also advantageous for event organizers, because guests tend to spend more using an automatic system as they don’t actually see the money leaving their pockets.

  • Social Media Opportunities: RFID wristbands also create marketing and social media opportunities for event organizers. In 2013, Bonnaroo allowed guests to link their wristband to their Facebook page, take photos at booths in the festival and upload them online. Guests could also upload playlists through Spotify or Tweet about the festival on Twitter. In addition to providing a fun social experience for guests, these social media possibilities also give organizers a ton of real-time feedback to work with, both about what’s working now and valuable insights for the future.

  • Fast Processing: RFID portals can scan thousands of wristbands per hour. Security guards no longer need to check individual wristbands or tickets, and lines move significantly faster with an automatic system. The automatized entrance also eliminates the margin of error for rushed staff.

  • Less Staff: Because RFID ticketing is a mostly automated process, it also cuts down the cost of hiring staff to check tickets and manage entrances. This frees up additional manpower for other tasks and cuts down on the organizer’s overall costs.

  • Area-specific Control: Each RFID wristband is associated with its own account, so the wristbands can also control access to restricted areas within the festival grounds such as VIP areas, backstage, and even staff-only areas. In the past, Coachella has used RFID ticketing for everyone from the guests to the performers with great success.

  • Health Advantages: In the future, RFID wristbands could also help keep event attendees safe. If a guest collapses or needs to be taken to a hospital, a quick scan of their wristband could allow paramedics to find out who that person is within seconds. People rarely carry ID at festivals or large events, so being able to identify people quickly in a health emergency could make a big difference.



Final Thoughts on RFID Technology

RFID technology offers elegant and efficient solutions to many of the problems event organizers face every day.

RFID wristbands are not currently cost effective for smaller events, but their price is going down every year as technology progresses and demand increases, making them a valuable tool for thousands of events worldwide.

If you’re interested in finding out more about RFID wristbands and cashless ticketing, contact us today!

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