A large crowd dancing and jumping at a concert.

RFID for Live Events: Crowd Management Benefits & Use Cases

Live events are big business, and attendees’ spending on travel and hospitality can even influence national economies. Sweden’s higher inflation rate was attributed to Beyonce’s Stockholm concert last May, because hotels and restaurants pushed up prices to profit from the influx of overseas fans.

The Paris 2024 Olympics is expected to attract 3 million extra visitors to Paris and 15 million visitors to France, bringing in an extra 4 billion Euros in tourist spending.

As well as attracting billions of tourist dollars, sponsorships and infrastructure investment, flagship sporting and music events are a source of national pride and form a key part of cultural identity. The Super Bowl event attracted 61,629 fans to the Allegiant stadium, Las Vegas, in 2024, and 123.4 million TV viewers.

Britain’s Glastonbury festival is estimated to contribute £100 million to its local economy. In fact, the 160-year-old Wellington boot brand, Hunter, cited the 2020 cancellation of the notoriously muddy outdoor music festival when it filed for administration in June 2023.

It’s no surprise then that the global events industry is forecasted to reach $1,552.9 billion by 2028 and $2,972.4 billion by 2031, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.7%. 

However, staging such large-scale live events is a huge undertaking. The first and foremost concern is always public safety. Organizers are increasingly turning to technology to maintain the balance between providing a safe event and one that meets rising expectations for a great customer experience.

Crowd Management and Safety

Overcrowding poses a major risk to event safety, so it is vital that organizers are able to control the number of people entering their venue.

Big-ticket events can attract counterfeiters. Combating ticket fraud helps to prevent overcrowding and keep genuine ticket holders safe.

Emergency response and evacuation procedures must be firmly established ahead of time. Having clear visibility of the number and location of event-goers within the venue aids efficient mustering, saving vital seconds.

How RFID Supports Crowd Management 

In 1989, 97 Liverpool soccer club supporters died from crush injuries after a main gate was opened and the crowd surged into the stands at Hillsborough stadium. This harrowing incident underlines how vital it is for event organizers to ensure that only valid ticket holders are permitted to enter limited capacity venues.

Ensuring the safe entry and exit of hundreds of thousands of people to a venue is the primary responsibility of any event organizer. Electronic turnstiles — containing high-performing ticket scanners that are versatile enough to read barcodes, RFID, mobile NFC or cEMV tickets and wristbands — enable high volumes of people to be scanned through swiftly and efficiently. This combats ticket fraud and prevents dangerous overcrowding by only allowing genuine ticket holders through, in a safely-controlled manner.

These systems instantly “bank” used tickets to prevent people gaining access with duplicates. This combats the dangerous overcrowding that can occur when tickets are manually checked, gate staff become overwhelmed and multiple counterfeits slip through. 

Accurate Attendee Numbers Aid Emergency Response

In the event of an emergency, such as a fire in the venue, it is critical that evacuation is smooth and swift and that everyone can be accounted for at the designated muster points. Access control data, wearable RFID tags and Bluetooth® Low Energy beacons offer an accurate real-time location system for event attendees and venue staff, allowing emergency responders to rapidly gauge whether anyone is still inside the venue and in need of assistance.

Using RFID to Boost Revenue

In addition to the safety benefits, RFID readers at entry points enable smooth and efficient access control for hundreds of thousands of attendees. This allows eager fans to enter the venue more quickly, allowing them more time to make additional purchases of food, drink and merchandise before the show begins.

With the right supporting systems, fans can also use RFID wristbands and tickets to make electronic payments for merchandise, drinks and food simply by tapping their wristband, ticket or mobile device against a reader at the service counter.

While making transactions more convenient for event-goers, contactless payments, enabled by Bluetooth, NFC and RFID solutions, allow organizers to gain visibility of sales by third-party caterers and drink vendors so that they can accurately forecast catering requirements for subsequent events.

Chester racecourse is the oldest horseracing venue in the world, yet it has implemented one of the most modern access control and events management platforms. The smart access control management and e-ticketing system combines handheld RFID readers, mobile barcode scanners and electronic food and beverage tokens, which can be redeemed by staff and guests. The system has made ticket checking more efficient, enhanced the customer experience, improved engagement and increased revenues at the racecourse.

Benefits of having an integrated events management platform include:

  • Access control management that supports a variety of contactless technologies
  • Improved safety
  • Less ticket fraud
  • Real-time visibility of crowd numbers
  • Contactless payment support (more convenient for fans and boosts spending in-venue)
  • Improved customer experience
  • Increased revenue
  • Higher customer engagement
  • Customized tickets that become souvenirs post-event
  • Event analytics to aid future event planning

RFID and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) — Tapping into Social Media to Boost Future Sales

Leading event organizers allow fans to use their ticket, mobile device NFC or RFID-enabled wristband to check-in at various points at a festival or exhibition, and share their experience with their friends on social media. This user-generated publicity creates additional buzz around the event to attract future attendees. 

To make the experience more fun and interactive, some art installations use RFID to trigger additional effects such as light, sound, music, video or background information on the artist, whenever attendees tap their RFID ticket on a reader.

Applying RFID to Enhance Viewer Engagement

RFID offers numerous applications to enhance safety, sales and engagement for event attendees.

Traditionally used for industrial asset tracking, RFID is now being applied to allow indoor golf fans to measure the location and speed of each ball, so that they can automatically keep score of their game as they battle it out with their friends.

For armchair sports fans, RFID offers live-tracking capabilities that enable exciting in-game analytics. Adding value to live coverage of events can boost live-stream subscription revenues.

As an example, Quuppa technology supports highly-accurate real-time location systems (RTLS) within many industrial applications. This location-tracking accuracy has also been applied by sports event organizers to enhance live coverage of ice hockey matches. Quuppa, combined with RFID technology, is extremely effective for tracking ice hockey pucks as they zip across the surface at lightning speeds, allowing viewers at home to see exactly where the puck is. 

RFID and Quuppa-enabled tags in the puck and players’ shirts, are tracked by readers in the arena ceiling. This allows broadcasters to deliver live analysis of the players who have made the most passes, the speed and current position of the puck, and which team is controlling the game.

Conclusion

A robust events management platform that supports multiple RTLS technologies improves safety by boosting access control efficiency, avoiding bottlenecks at turnstiles and preventing overcrowding within the venue. 

Smooth and efficient access control also supports profitability by allowing fans sufficient time to make additional purchases within the venue before the show begins. 

Equally, by supporting contactless payments via near field communications (NFC) on mobile devices or prepaid wristbands, fans can spend less time in lines and more time enjoying the action and sharing the experience with fellow fans on social media.

By seamlessly combining RFID, barcode, cEMV and NFC technologies for access control, e-ticketing and electronic payments, event organizers can navigate the fine line between keeping fans safe and keeping things fun, which is what people are paying for.

Take a deeper dive into how RFID tags and readers, Bluetooth Low Energy beacons and Quuppa real-time location system technologies can support the safety, security and profitability of your event:

Sports & Event Management >>  
BLE Beacons & Gateways >> 

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