The brave new world of festival technology is upon us. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and contactless payments are leading the charge: over 40 festivals worldwide have used RFID in wristbands or other forms, while Wireless was the first UK festival at which all stallholders accepted cashless payments (also via wristbands). The recent British Summer Time Festival also featured heavy promotion by Barclaycard of its own contactless payment system.
Moving away from cash towards electronic payments suits festival goers worried about petty-theft and the need to withdraw wads of cash before a big weekend. The technologies also have obvious attractions for events organisers, who have traditionally struggled to harness the potential marketing benefits of such a captive audience. A cashless festival brings with it the promise of real-time intelligence on who festival goers are, what they are buying, and perhaps most importantly, what they might buy more of with a well-placed promotion.
RFID wristbands and contactless payments using mobile phones have so far gained the most attention. Yet biometric technology is emerging as a viable alternative in this technology arms race, having been successfully piloted for the first time in the UK at Festival No.6 in Portmeiron
The trial in Portmeiron is the result of a partnership between Sthaler, Hitachi and BT replace festival cards and cash with a simple biometric scan. Patented by Hitachi, finger-vein biometrics work by transmitting near-infrared light through the finger. This light is partially absorbed by the blood to reveal the person’s unique vein imprint and acts as a highly secure form of identification, which linked to a preferred credit or debit card through an e-wallet. Festival goers can pay for drinks, gain entrance to different areas, and take advantage of real-time promotions just by scanning their finger.
From a functional perspective the finger-vein technology delivers much the same benefits as RFID or contactless.There are two key areas however where finger vein has the edge.
Contactless and RFID technologies rely on an external device, which might get broken, or be lost or stolen. As finger-vein technology relies on blood flowing through a living finger, that potential simply isn’t there. This durability also means that once registered, return festival-goers need merely present their finger – something which is very hard to leave at home!
The second advantage is security. All sensitive data is stored inside BT’s military-grade secure PCI-DSS Zone. Using Sthaler’s software, finger data is held inside this secure environment completely separate to card data. The only place they meet is in the military grade ‘safe’ which, unlike the Pentagon, has never been hacked.
This enhanced security is particularly relevant for contactless where there is a great deal of public concern about the fact that it is not difficult to buy a reader, put it on a mobile phone, and swipe someone’s card details without them knowing.
So what’s the catch? There’s no doubt finger-vein has significant advantages over the technologies currently being trialled at big events. The next step is to outperform rival technologies from a logistical perspective.
The issue of getting people scanned and ready at the start of the festival is something we’re looking at closely. Getting the marketing right so people see the benefits is half the battle, and the feedback we had a Festival No.6 was certainly encouraging.
The other challenge is scalability. Getting people to register some of their details online before arriving at an event ensures the set-up process for finger-vein is quick. With the right infrastructure of terminals in place, this technology is scalable to the very largest events.
Of course things would be even easier if people could go register their finger before arriving at the festival at all. We are now in the process of making sure that finger-vein recognition will be available in shops, restaurants and retail outlets, and are in talks with Post Office and a financial retail partner which has 25,000 outlets in newsagents and other vendors across the country.
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Category: Festivals & Outdoor Events