If you’re an events manager, you’ve most likely heard the term ‘RFID’ thrown around and found yourself wondering whether this could be relevant for your events. Or maybe you haven’t, and that’s fine too – because either way, this guide is here to demystify RFID technology for events by answering all your most pressing questions.

After reading, you should have the background you need to consider whether you want to implement RFID at your next event. If you decide that you do, maybe consider Token, which is a really cool RFID events platform we’ve recently launched. Just sayin’.

  1. What is RFID?
  2. How is RFID used?
  3. How can it help my events?
  4. RFID wristbands
  5. Using RFID for cashless events
  6. RFID and social media
  7. Equipment
  8. Benefits to event attendees
  9. Benefits to event organisers
  10. Summary

What is RFID?

Without getting too technical, RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, which means the use of radio waves to track tags containing electronic information. If you want to go deeper into the details, Wikipedia can help. Otherwise you can suffice by understanding that RFID tags, which might not be much larger than than a grain of rice, are typically attached to objects and serve as a unique identifier; and that these tags can be scanned electronically, using dedicated scanners or modern smartphones (in some cases).

So it’s like a barcode?

In a sense, yes – RFID is similar to a barcode or the magnetic strip at the back of your credit card. However, RFID-based systems have much better range and usability; and unlike barcodes, they’ll still work even if the scanner and the scanned device are not positioned exactly one on top of the other.

How is RFID typically used?

Simply put, RFID is usually used to track stuff. Said ‘stuff’ might be inventory in a warehouse, animals with tiny unique identifiers implanted under their skin, or cars going through toll gates on the highway. In all these cases the principal is similar, and builds on the fact that RFID devices are tiny and can be scanned from a relatively far distance. RFID technology has many applications in retail, healthcare, the internet of things, sheep herding…

I don’t care about tracking cattle. What does any of this have to do with my events?

We were just getting to that! RFID technology has several applications when running events, and all of them start with an RFID token that attendees carry around the event with them – usually through the use of RFID wristbands or a plastic card attached to a lanyard. They then use these wristbands to perform various activities at the event, such as validate their tickets, pay vendors or connect with brands on-site. You can check out how a major Australian music festival implemented RFID at their event here! 

What are RFID wristbands?

They’re just regular wristbands with tiny RFID tokens embedded into them. You distribute them to event-goers either before or at the start of an event. During the event, these wristbands serve as a replacement for paper tickets, wallets and more.

How is this any different from paper tickets?

The main advantage RFID systems have over tickets with barcodes printed on them is in the scanning range and flexibility, as well as additional functionality that can be tied into the token – cashless payments, social media, etc. Additionally, the ability to ‘wear’ the RFID token in a form of a wristband means less hassle for attendees’ and decreased risk of lost tickets or theft.

I’m still not sure this will help improve my event…

That’s understandable – you’ve been doing paper ticketing for ages, why switch to some newfangled technology? However, there are a few really great reasons to consider setting up an RFID system at your events. For example, you can:

  • Speed up entry and reduce queuing times, which creates a better experience for your attendees
  • Go cashless, which tends to encourage patrons to spend more (up to 30%!)
  • Create new types of social activations, which can help you score larger sponsorship deals

Okay, I’m listening. How does RFID help me reduce line-ups?

 As we’ve mentioned, RFID tags differ from barcodes in that there can be some distance between the scanner and the scanned object, and some flexibility in the way these two elements are positioned. This enables faster, more streamlined and contactless access control at events by removing the need to individually handle tickets.

What about going cashless? How would that work?

RFID tags can be used as ‘digital wallets’ that attendees use to pay for food, drinks and merchandise. Attendees simply present their wristband to the vendor, who would then use his Token device or smartphone to charge them for whatever they’re buying. This can be used alongside traditional payment methods or as a means go running completely cashless events.

Can RFID help me promote my event on social media?

It sure can! An attendee’s social media profile can be connected to their wristband, enabling visitors to easily check-in or participate in various social activations at the event (e.g. a photobooth that immediately posts the photos to Facebook or Instagram).

What is an RFID token?

It’s just another word for tag – a tiny RFID device usually embedded in another object, such as a wristband. Also, Token is the name of an awesome platform for managing cashless events using RFID technology. Go check it out!

Will I need an RFID reader or can I use my smartphone?

Most modern smartphones, especially Android models, come with NFC – near-field communications – which allows them to read RFID tags at certain frequencies. However, using a proprietary RFID reader gives you better range and battery life.

Why would my patrons go along with this?

From our experience, patrons are actually really thrilled to experience shorter wait times at gates and vendors. It also means they they no longer need to handle paper tickets and cash. While different audiences might be more receptive to cashless and paperless events than others, overall we’ve seen RFID ticketing produce overwhelmingly positive responses among event-goers.

How secure is RFID?

Very secure. Token builds on-top of the default un-hackable NXP encryption and applies our own bank grade encryption to keep your customers minds at ease.

Will RFID help me collect more data at my event?

Yes – robust RFID software platforms can capture attendee behavior and transaction data in real-time, and do so more accurately than traditional methods. This provides a wealth of new data that you can use to improve future events.

Sounds great, but how will this affect my bottom line?

Our data shows that RFID-enabled events produce about 20% higher ROI than traditional events – both due to increased customer spend, and by eliminating the need to handle cash money, which is always a liability for both vendors and event organizers

Does RFID have privacy implications?

As we’ve mentioned above, RFID makes it much easier to collect data automatically, and certain concerns have been raised over this. From an event organiser’s perspective, it’s important to keep everything over the board, give patrons the tools to understand what they is being collected and how it is being used, and to opt out if they wish to do so. You should also make sure you’re not posting anything on social media without the patron’s consent.

Learn More

We hope this guide has given you a good idea of what RFID is and how it’s used at events. If you’d like to dive deeper into the specifics and see how it can apply at your events, schedule a free consultation with one of our experts; or read about the 5 reasons to go cashless.

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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