Cashless Payments Will Make 2016’s Festivals Better Than Ever

music festivals

Intellitix CEO Serge Grimaux explains how RFID and payment technology could transform music festivals as we know them

How did Intellitix get involved in music festivals?

I co-founded Intellitix back in 2011 after a 35-year career as a seasoned concert promoter and live event professional, promoting events across the globe. With a strong background in festivals, I recognised the benefits that RFID could bring to this market. Since 2011, Intellitix has worked with some of the biggest festivals and live events in the world including Tomorrowland, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Stagecoach, Outside Lands, and Rock in Rio. Our proprietary IntelliPay Cashless Payment platform has processed over $250 million of cashless on-site revenue, 17.5 million cashless transactions and has expanded into 15 countries worldwide.

What kind of response have you seen already from clients?

The response from clients has been hugely positive and many have been quick to see the benefits that RFID can bring to their event and ultimately their customers. In 2015, the number of events we partnered up with nearly doubled compared to 2014 as we worked with a series of great new festivals including Snowbombing, Garorock, Electrobeach, Hellfest and Summerdays Festival.

music festival rfid payment wristbandsNot only have we bolstered our client roster with a host of new festivals, but we have also carved strong relationships with our existing clients, as we continue to improve their operational efficiencies and enhance their guest experiences year after year. Many tested out RFID technology, initially adopting it for Access Control to eliminate ticket fraud, and have since taken it one step further to become fully cashless, which is great to see!

As expected, we’re seeing a significant shift in attitudes towards Cashless Payments at live events, reflecting the trend across our daily lives. Europe has been fundamental to our growth this year, with more live events getting on board and embracing the benefits a cashless environment can bring to organisers and their customers.

What other event areas does this technology benefit?

Our RFID platform delivers Access Control, interactive Brand Amplification and Cashless Payment solutions, all of which enhance the guest experience, increase revenues, decrease costs for event organizers and opens commercial opportunities with closer ties with target audiences. The increased revenue streams far outweigh the investment to deploy the new technology.

Access Control: This allows event organisers to secure ticket gross, eliminate fraud and passbacks and dramatically cut queues into events. With real-time capacity counts, organisers can best allocate their staff resources to peak areas immediately to manage patron flow. Access Control also provides insightful post-event analysis, enabling organisers to optimise site planning and entry processes for future events.

Cashless Payments: RFID technology enables festivals and other live events to benefit from a Cashless Payment system that is accessible to 100 percent of the audience. Patrons no longer have to carry around cash or risk losing their wallets on the dance floor or in mosh pits, which brings added convenience and security benefits. Festivals that have gone 100 percent cashless have also increased on-site spending by an average of 15-30 percent compared to traditional forms of payment. Organisers and vendors also benefit from real-time sales reporting down to the transactional level, delivering unparalleled audience insight and increasing transparency. There is huge potential in leveraging the Big Data obtained in our reporting capabilities to grow future revenue streams, which the live event industry will see more of this year, stay tuned!

Brand Amplification: RFID technology is enabling organisers to creatively bring interactive sponsorship activations and targeted brand content to the live event space with measurable sponsorship ROI and audience insight. Through the introduction of Brand Amplification opportunities on-site, sponsors are able to elevate their brand experience and generate strong connections with attendees and their social media networks. Brand activation deployments such as social media ‘check in zones’, gamification, custom playlists, exclusive content and photo booth stations encourage patrons to engage with your brand in a fun, creative and meaningful way.

You mention eliminating fraud as a positive for RFID, but are there any other security issues surrounding the technology?

Intellitix Tomorrowland music festival rfid payment wristbandsThe IntelliPay Cashless system is account-based, meaning top-up funds are pre-loaded into the user’s account and not on the actual RFID device, card or wristband. The RFID device simply acts like a key to access the account it is linked to. Unlike systems such as the Oyster Card, no cash is ever held on the actual card or wristband itself. If the access device is lost or stolen, no money is at risk and the access device is easily replaced without losing any credit if it’s been registered.

Intellitix has invested significantly in developing a secure system with bank level security. Our robust network architecture has proven to be 100% secure and reliable and is the only system of its kind to achieve the EAL3+ Common Criteria Certification, an international standard for computer security with rigorous software and hardware testing.  This standard also certifies that the data reported are valid and complete, ensuring 100% accuracy.

All communications and data in our system is encrypted with a minimum of 256 bit, and our encryption is changed between every event. Because no personal or payment information is stored on the RFID wristbands, if one is lost or stolen, it is simply deactivated and immediately replaced. The wristband is only the key to accessing the cashless account, which is synced with the event database on our private local server and cloud server.

From the users point of view, registered guests receive an email after every transaction so there is complete transparency on their account, allowing them to track and monitor spend.

Do you see RFID as being a long-term replacement for cash and physical tickets at festivals?

There is no doubt that RFID is reshaping the live event landscape and our technology is at the forefront. Event organisers are always looking at ways to improve their events and this means gathering Big Data so they can understand their audience better and apply new technologies to enhance visitor experience. The advantages of a fully cashless event experience are numerous, and there’s no doubt that Cashless Payments are the future… cash is definitely no longer king.

What are some of the challenges in setting up the system?

We have to establish trust in this new technology from both the event organiser and consumers, that their money is safe and the system won’t fail and stop them from buying that all important beer. Our proven track record is a clear indication that our IntelliPay Cashless Payment solution is the most advanced and secure market-tested system in the world, having worked seamlessly at the largest festivals on the planet.

There is also the concern – particularly in the UK market – that it is a bit ‘Big Brother’ and that wearables let people spy on you. That’s not true; but transparency in terms of what the data is being used for is vital.  In our market one of the main challenges is ensuring that clients educate their audience far enough in advance on what it means to go cashless and what they should be doing (such as pre-registering accounts online etc). Patron, vendor and staff communication is key and we have an expanded operations team to help coach our partnered events through the advancing process.

What kind of network infrastructure is needed to support the technology? As getting phone signal at almost any festival can be a nightmare!

IntelliPay is a closed-loop, server-connected system that ensures 100 percent uptime throughout an event. All point-of-sale (POS) terminals are connected to a secure, private local server ‘closed off’ from the outside world of public Internet to process transactions. In the event that the local connection with the server is down, our POS terminals can still operate in offline mode and guests can still make on-site purchases as usual without any payment interruptions. Vendor locations will always be able to take Cashless Payments.

If a guest makes a transaction at an offline terminal, the transaction will still process successfully. Once the offline terminal re-connects to the server, it will automatically sync and update the status of the transaction with the server and reconcile the pending transactions.

We’ve recently launched our IntelliPad, a point of sale unit functioning without the need of cabled electrical power and cabled network connectivity, which offers the possibility of deploying hundreds of them on an event site within one hour.

A great example of this was at Snowbombing 2015, which was held at Mayrhofen, in the heart of the Austrian Alps. Typically our system would use cables, but this wasn’t possible for Snowbombing as it isn’t your usual greenfield festival site; it takes place across various venues in a busy working town, so we needed to take a completely different approach to setting up our system. Instead, to ensure 100 percent signal coverage across the entire site the team positioned an RFID antenna 1,250m above Mayrhofen, which gave a faultless signal reach spanning a massive 15k and 125⁰ radius, which powered the Cashless and Access systems below. We’re currently planning out deployment for Snowbombing this April 2016, which will incorporate our software upgrades and the new features introduced this year.

Serge_Grimaux_Intellitix_March_15_1How big do you think this technology can be in the future?

Cashless Payment is certainly one of the most exciting technologies within the live events industry and we know we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with how this technology is used. With benefits to be had within Brand Amplification and leveraging the comprehensive data available to event organisers, we can’t wait to deliver new innovative services later this year.

In the future, we envisage more event sponsors and vendors using RFID to connect with their audiences; be it the vendor wanting to offer event goers a one-off special offer, or large sponsors wanting to integrate the technology into their physical activations, like we did with brands such as Standard Life, BMW and Ford.

In a nutshell, the benefits of RFID are huge, and we’ve only just scratched the surface.

Are there any areas you would like to expand into soon?

We don’t just work with music events; we have also supplied our RFID technology to a number of sporting events, including the 2014 Ryder Cup and the UEFA Champions League, and have partnered with a number of food and wine events like Taste Festivals.

Intellitix is all about connecting the digital world with real life experiences and the platform can be custom-tailored to meet the needs of all types of events and live entertainment spaces. With permanent venues – think theme parks, nightclubs, sports arenas, stadiums – we developed the Instaband with these businesses in mind whereby box office operations can print RFID wristbands on-demand at the time of purchase and can be integrated into these environments with reserved seating, standing or VIP options.

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