Access control might not be the sexiest part of running an event, but its importance cannot be overstated. Neglecting this issue can lead to attendees suffering a bad experience right out the gate (literally), significantly increase your staffing costs, or even create security issues at your event.

Let’s take a quick look at what access control is all about, the challenges it poses, and how RFID technology can help.

A definition

In the event industry, access control refers to the systems and procedures determining who can enter your event, or specific areas at your event; and the various systems, staff and technology you employ in order to assure that the people who are allowed to enter the area are doing so easily, and to keep everyone else out of that area.

The most basic example for an access control system is one that you might see in a movie cinema:

  1. Guests buy tickets at the box office or online.
  2. A ticket taker stands at the entrance and only admits people who have valid tickets.
  3. After guests are admitted, they are directed to the relevant theatre based on their tickets.

While this very simple access control system works well enough for a cinema, which is a controlled environment with limited capacity and known peak hours, the same cannot be said for all venues or events. An outdoor music festival that attracts tens of thousands of patrons, or a club where a massive line has formed even before the gates have opened, tend to be much more chaotic and require more sophisticated access control systems.

Common types of access control systems

  • Paper tickets – as in the above example, this is the most basic and simple access control system and can be a good fit for tidy, organised venues such as theaters and movie cinemas. In other situations relying on paper tickets could create serious issues as they tend to get lost, destroyed by weather or just crumpled, cannot be easily associated to a specific patron, and are not tracked automatically.
  • Barcodes – these can be printed on paper tickets or badges that attendees carry. They are more secure than regular tickets and since they are digitally scanned they can enable organisers to track capacity and attendance stats in real-time. However, barcodes can easily fade or wrinkle, especially in bad weather, and need to be scanned at short distances.
  • RFID – tiny chips embedded into badges or wristbands that attendees carry at the event (read more about how RFID works). RFID has a higher scanning range compared to barcodes, and high-quality RFID devices will work under all weather conditions, including heavy rain. Offer similar capabilities in terms to barcodes in terms of real-time data collection.

6 Things to Consider in an Access Control System

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about why you should start thinking about ways to improve access control at your events. When considering what type of system you should have in place, there are 5 main points you should address:

Security concerns: plainly put, you do not want people who have not purchased tickets to enter your event. This goes beyond the financial aspect and can actually affect patron security, both in terms of overcrowding and in the fact that people who have not purchased tickets will not go through security.

Paper tickets are notoriously problematic in this regard, since they often don’t carry the attendee’s name, and even when they do it’s not always possible for staff to pore over every ticket and check them against paper IDs. If you’re running an event where you’re going to be dealing with large amounts of people and security might be an issue, this is definitely something to take into consideration.

Queue times: We have yet to meet the eventgoer who exclaims that they love waiting for an hour or two in line before entering the event. Long lines are always frustrating, and when they become exceedingly long they can completely ruin the experience for attendees.

If lines are a concern, you should consider either increasing the number of entry points and staff onsite, or using an RFID access control system. The latter has the advantage of fast ticket scanning at longer ranges, as well as capturing real-time attendance and crowd flow data that can help you identify bottlenecks in real-time.

Capacity control: If overcrowding is a concern, you want to be able to see the number of attendees who have already been admitted to a certain area in order to stop admitting additional patrons to that area or take other necessary precautions. This is less of an issue in a concert hall where the audience is seated, and much more for a jam-packed nightclub or outdoor festival.

In these cases you should consider the limitations of paper tickets, which are not scanned and thus make collecting capacity data extremely difficult, and instead opt for an RFID or barcode based system.

Restricted areas: Does your event contain areas that only a certain sub-group of attendees can access, such as a VIP area? If so, you might need a more robust access control solution. Working with several types of printed tickets can be a hassle for staff, especially in poor lighting conditions, as well as for attendees who will need to hold on to fragile paper stubs for the duration of the event. In this case, barcodes or (preferably) RFID would be a safer bet.

Data collection: With paper tickets you can know how many tickets you sold, and that’s pretty much it. Barcodes offer some better capabilities as they are scanned in real-time, and RFID devices – as long as they are accompanied by an RFID software platform – can provide the most granular insights regarding the flow of attendees throughout your event, and potentially can also be used to collect various information about your audience such as demographics (as RFID devices can be linked to social media profiles).

Event accreditation: Do you have a large amount of people working on the event? In this case you might need your access control system to allow you to easily identify event staff and ensure they can easily access to the areas and equipment they need. Like everything else on this list, this also depends on the type and complexity of the event – for some a plain badge will suffice, and for others you might want to consider more advanced RFID-based solutions.

Want to improve access control at your event?

Token provides access control solutions for events, built on the world’s most advanced RFID technology. Get in touch today to schedule a demo and learn how Token can take your event to the next level.

Token Team

Author Token Team

Token is a global leader in RFID technology for events. With over 20 years of event experience, we provide cashless payments, access control and experiential activations to organisers all around the world.

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