Fancy wav­ing good­bye to queues and hello to has­sle-free fes­ti­vals?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

IF YOU’RE AT Elec­tric Pic­nic you’re prob­a­bly in a queue at the mo­ment. Queue to get in, queue at the beer tent, queue for the ATM, queue for the toi­lets. There might even (shud­der) be a queue for the “VIP” area.

Con­sole your­self with the knowl­edge that we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the last of ye olde cash-and-queue sys­tems. This sum­mer, mu­sic fes­ti­vals in the UK and US have been us­ing mi­crochipped en­trance wrist­bands – the “wave and pay” cash­less mu­sic-fes­ti­val sys­tem, us­ing the same tech­nol­ogy as the Leap pub­lic-trans­port cards in Dublin – and the re­ports are very en­cour­ag­ing.

The wrist­bands use ra­dio-fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion so peo­ple can find you eas­ily in a big crowd, and the bands can be up­loaded with money, so you don’t have to carry cash or cards. And, if you’re the sort of per­son who can’t be away from a so­cial-net­work­ing site for more than a few min­utes, you can also use them to check in.

There was a full run-out of the tech­nol­ogy at the Wake­stock fes­ti­val, in Wales, last month with all 15,000 at­ten­dees us­ing the wrist­bands. With fewer wor­ries about pun­ters los­ing valu­ables, and queu­ing times for ev­ery­thing cut right down, the fes­ti­val’s or­gan­iser pro­claimed them to be the fu­ture of fes­ti­vals.

From next year, if the tech­nol­ogy is rolled out as fore­cast, you will be waved into your fes­ti­val with a hand-held de­vice, and you’ll have to queue less, as peo­ple just point and pay in­stead of faffing around with cash.

The wrist­bands also keep the health-and-safety zealots on­side, as or­gan­is­ers will know ex­actly how many peo­ple are on site and can ad­just their hour-by-hour plan­ning ac­cord­ingly.

Many big movers on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit are im­pressed. Melvin Benn of Fes­ti­val Repub­lic, which or­gan­ises Elec­tric Pic­nic and nu­mer­ous other events, has said: “I’m cer­tainly go­ing to look at the elec­tronic wrist­band, there is no doubt about that at all. It’s the way for­ward, that’s for sure. I’ve got a cash­less fes­ti­val in Nor­way, and peo­ple don’t bat an eye­lid there: they think it’s nor­mal.”

Glas­ton­bury’s Michael Eavis is con­sid­er­ing in­tro­duc­ing the wrist­bands for next year’s Wor­thy Farm hop. “It does look as though it’s some­thing bet­ter than what we’re do­ing at the mo­ment”, he says, re­fer­ring to the cur­rent photo-ID sys­tem.

As the new wrist­bands could re­duce ticket fraud and crime and im­prove crowd safety, there should be some ur­gency in get­ting the tech­nol­ogy off the ground for next year’s fes­ti­val sea­son. If you were to lose your wrist­band a sim­ple phone call would can­cel it, and if any­one but you tried to use it to pay for some­thing they would be caught.

Eavis, though, has con­cerns about the Big Brother im­pli­ca­tions of the wrist­bands, and some peo­ple don’t like think­ing that they would be tracked around a fes­ti­val site all week­end. “ID har­vest­ing” could also be a prob­lem, with com­pa­nies want­ing to get their hands on as many de­tails about po­ten­tial clients as pos­si­ble.

Steve Jen­ner of In­tel­li­tix, which pro­vides the soft­ware for the wrist­bands, is up­beat about the re­ac­tion so far, telling eFes­ti­vals that the tech­nol­ogy is “game-chang­ing and is al­ready rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the way fes­ti­vals are ex­pe­ri­enced, pro­duced and shared on­line . . . The praise from fans and or­gan­is­ers this sum­mer backs up our claim that there are no dis­ad­van­tages. This is win-win for fans, or­gan­is­ers, traders, artists, se­cu­rity and other sup­pli­ers. In the US ev­ery or­gan­iser who used the ser­vice has since signed up to mul­ti­year agree­ments.”

Let’s hope that this is the last sum­mer we have to fid­dle around with pa­per tick­ets and cash and put up with never-mov­ing queues for ev­ery­thing. This, though, is pow­er­ful tech­nol­ogy we’re talk­ing about, and its sup­pli­ers must en­sure it’s not used overly com­mer­cially or in any way that in­fringes on fes­ti­val­go­ers’ pri­vacy.

Say hello to Wave and Pay and good­bye to Wait to Pay.

So­cial niceties: a Face­book check-in point at this year’s Coachella fes­ti­val in Cal­i­for­nia

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