Hosting Safe Events in the Post-Pandemic World

Event managers and campus public safety officials can improve the safety of their events by leveraging RFID to make transactions touchless, limit interactions and track attendee locations for contact tracing.

Hosting Safe Events in the Post-Pandemic World

Concert venues, athletic event stadiums and festival managers are imagining how their audiences of thousands, or tens of thousands, will be able to congregate safely after the COVID-19 pandemic. To bring people together for concerts or other events, while safeguarding against disease transmission, organizations are turning to technology to offer a solution. Event Genius, acquired by festival-booking company  Festicket in 2019 is in the planning stages of deploying RFID-enabled systems for events in Europe and North America, either this summer or later.

As part of the reopening effort, Event Genius has released several features built around safety during the COVID-19 era, including its egpay cashless-payments system, which enables customers to make purchasing transactions without having to touch money or cards, according to Reshad Hossenally, Event Genius’s founder and managing director. Two new features specific to COVID-19 management are egticketing for self-service scanning terminals, as well as contact-tracing functionality to help event managers trace an individual’s locations at a concert or festival, and to then alert those who were in proximity with that person.

Event Genius provides ticketing, access control and cashless payments for events. Companies have used its solutions to provide ticket-holders with a means of gaining access to events, making payments by tapping HF RFID-enabled wristbands against point-of-sale (POS) terminals, and accessing restricted areas when authorized to do so, such as behind the stage.

“More recently, we’ve unified our solution for a single platform,” Hossenally says. After the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined concerts worldwide, the company began offering the new functionalities to help its customers resume their events.

For contact tracing, the Event Genius software will enable events to trace the known locations of each attendee based on his or her access and payment activities. For instance, when an individual makes a purchase at a concession stand, enters a specific concert or zone, or accesses restricted areas, all of that data is stored and managed in Event Genius’s cloud-based software. If the individual then tests positive for COVID-19 or another disease, the collected data could be retrieved.

Those who attended the concert at the same time and were in the same general areas as the infected person (while making a purchase from the same snack vendor, for example, or in a similar timeframe), as well as those within the vicinity of that person, could be alerted that they may have been exposed. They could then quarantine or be tested, as appropriate. The company also plans to offer a proactive feature to ensure those who attend events are more likely to be healthy.

Event Genius is currently in discussions with several event managers and rapid test kit providers about linking COVID-19 test result data with tickets. If a venue requires virus tests, individuals can take a test before an event, upload the negative result to the Event Genius website to be stored with their ticket IDs, and thereby provide proof of non-infection. Depending on the venue’s requirements, individuals would be instructed to be tested on their own by local authorities, at a test center or with a home test kit, and to provide a picture of the results. The individual’s ticket would activate only after the test result was provided, at which time he or she would be authorized to attend the program.

Additionally, Event Genius is providing a new self-scanning station to be installed at venues, in order to prevent the need for visitors to interact closely with onsite personnel, as well as to reduce crowding. Typically, a user would purchase a ticket digitally and link his or her payment information to that ticket. The Event Genius software would store that data and provide the purchaser with a barcode to be scanned at the event. Upon arrival, the guest would scan the barcode at the Event Genius self-scanning station.

If the barcode-based data was approved, the staff member working at that station would hand the individual a wristband. That person’s data would be automatically linked with the unique ID number encoded on the  NXP Mifare 13.56 MHz RFID chip (compliant with the ISO 15693 standard) built into the wristband. Each gated or restricted location within the venue would require the tap of the wristband for the user to gain access, and the software would store that data. By the end of the event, the software would have collected a history about that individual’s movements for contact-tracing purposes.

Since the initial shutdown when quarantines began, event managers have more recently been planning for the eventual end (or at least greater control) of the pandemic. “We have a lot of festivals and events going back on scale for next year,” Hossenally says. Most are being planned for May or later, he notes, with new safety precautions being put in place. Some venues will need to adapt to changes, including cashless payments and automated access control, in order to ensure guest safety.

The cashless-payment solutions will benefit both venues and their visitors, Hossenally says, since 80% of all payments are already cashless. Event Genius’s holistic solution, he adds, will make it easier for venues or festivals to return to offering live events.

“It’s hard enough to plan a festival with access control for that number of people,” he states. “Safety during and after the pandemic adds another layer of cost and complexity” that companies must now consider.

The solution’s features offer benefits beyond contact tracing and reducing disease transmission risks, Hossenally reports. For instance, the POS system for cashless payments is intended to make transactions faster, reduce queues and provide venues with greater visibility into individuals’ buying habits. That data can be used to provide offers, create incentives and discounts, or offer extra credit for high spenders.

Additionally, it helps venues identify where crowds congregate, as well as any bottlenecks that might occur.

“They can use the data to plan flow for future events,” he says.

According to Hossenally, Event Genius has 2,500 festivals in its portfolio. “We have had a lot of inquiries about our solution and how it can help their event,” he says. Many of those using the safety features have deployed the firm’s ticketing and payment solution, while others may be new to the technology.

“It’s been a tough time for everyone [in the events industry],” he states. “What everyone has learned is to be more efficient, work on reducing overheads, and fully realize they can do certain things they thought they couldn’t do.”

Event Genius provides a single solution that enables organizations to reduce the number of suppliers they utilize. “They’re not buying multiple solutions and trying to stitch them together,” Hossenally explains. The company offers its cloud-based software, along with hardware for access control and cashless payments, throughout Europe and North America. Some organizations are already planning to reopen with tens of thousands of attendees in the coming year, while smaller clubs and festivals expect just a few thousand visitors.

This article originally appeared in CS sister publication RFID Journal and has been edited. Claire Swedberg is RFID’s senior editor.

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