2014 was an interesting year for wristbands, with technology again expanding within the market resulting in greater use of barcodes, RFID chips and other high security features. At the same time though, there were considerable cost pressures on many events, meaning that many more expensive identification solutions were not within reach.
After a big year, what do we here at AAC see in store for 2015?
Wristbands and technology
When we talk about technology with wristbands we are really talking about unique barcodes and/or RFID chips. The technology associated with wristbands remains a hot topic amongst the industry. Opinions are divided for many and it can no longer simply be a case of “events should use RFID wristbands”. There are just too many different types of events and different factors to consider. What type of events? Events of what duration? Who is attending the event? What sponsors are involved? More than ever before, the decision to use RFID on wristbands is very dependent on the individual event and their structure, goals and personnel.
Who is Using Technology on their Wristbands?
There was considerable growth from the corporate event industry, with many conferences moving in the direction of RFID. The key uses of RFID at conferences include to monitor movement of attendees; when did they enter and exit the main areas, what breakout sessions did they join, what guest speakers did they visit etc. Events also became very canny in putting together ‘treasure hunts’ and similar to encourage more active participation and engagement of attendees.
Fewer large music festivals used RFID in 2014, with some large events opting out of the technology. A large part of this trend was due to the lack of support and knowledge of system providers here in Australia; while being tech-savvy, they struggled with the logistics of scanning at music festivals. There have also been few system providers willing to offer cashless payment technology due to the risks of downtime etc, further halting the growth of the technology within that particular type of event.
2015 Events and Wristband Technology
So, peering in to our crystal ball, what do we see for 2015? Judging by the calls and emails we’ve had in the first week back after the holidays, business events will remain a core growth market for wristband technology. This is due to a few factors:
1. The cost of RFID vs the budget of many of these events or fairly low, so the technology is very much affordable. Many business events utilise smart phones (NFC compatible) as their scanning equipment, lowering the cost dramatically. Compare this to a music festival that requires 20+ scanning turnstiles to scan patrons, and you can imagine the cost difference.
2. The systems involved in business events are far more accessible and functional, with most running as applications installed on smart phones, with back-end systems easily adjusted and edited by the client themselves.
3. Corporate events generally try to outdo one another, and because they are often showcases for new products, or rare chances for teams and customers from multiple geographical locations to meet and exchange ideas, senior management often opt for something a bit special.
4. Spending the extra money on RFID at these events is often very much justified by the benefits, something larger events and music festivals have struggled to confidently claim.
Venues Using RFID Wristbands
A major growth area in 2015 will be venues using RFID and technology-enhanced wristbands. Aquatic Centres are a leading proponent of these wristbands. These environments involve a constant coming and going of members and visitors which is very hard to monitor for staff. The installation of turnstiles that operate via barcoded or RFID wristbands and cards allows:
a) fast and efficient access for members and visitors
b) lower staff levels to manage access control
c) a wealth of fantastic data for management to review, including demand trends, time cycles for visitors and other factors that can influence decision making with regards marketing, rosters and staff levels.
University Open Days are also a high growth market for RFID products. The challenge of an Open Day for University teams is that there are a great number of visitors (potential students / customers). They desperately need to obtain data from these visitors for future marketing efforts. The traditional method of queuing up at a registration booth is cumbersome. Volunteers with clipboards or those entering data in computers is slow and vulnerable to mistakes.
The use of RFID or barcoded wristbands and ID cards greatly improves the registration process, the centralisation of data collection and the accuracy of data. It is also a far more enjoyable process for the visitor and provides positive branding benefits for the University itself.. “look how modern we are!”.
Making the Choice
So how does an event or venue make the decision to move to RFID or barcoded wristbands? It really comes down to what you are trying to achieve. Too many events and venues begin the process of looking at technology like this without really determining WHY they are looking at it. That may seem strange, but the allure of technology often does this.
Once you have determined the WHY, look at the WHO – who do you need to assist you implement the plan? AAC can provide advice and assistance in this regard, with contacts galore within the RFID industry.
Key Elements of the Decision
Music Festivals – your most important first step is to consider access control; will you utilise staff, or turnstiles, or both? Will you consider a cashless bar? Can you attract technologically minded sponsors to potentially subsidise the cost of the technology by using it to engage with patrons? All of these factors will influence how you proceed.
Business Events – the cost of implementation for business events is fairly low. The key is determining how much value you will add to your event by using RFID wristbands or cards. Treasure hunts, monitoring attendance at breakout sessions etc are valuable, but how valuable are they to your event.
Venues – for venues, the costs can be higher but the long term value is immense, as discussed above. It comes down to committing to a higher expenditure now in the knowledge that there will be a return on the investment over time. This is especially true if you have data-savvy team members who can actually analyse and use the data that is collected.
2015 will see more growth in wristband technology. To discuss this further, talk to AAC ID Solutions, the leading wristband manufacturer and supplier in Australia.