Cashless festivals

A guest blog post by Kasia Lubwiecka, Eagle Eye Technology.

Summer is the season of festivals. In the UK, one of the most exciting ones is Glastonbury, the largest Greenfield music festival in the world.

Looking back at this year’s festival we can’t help but think what could have been done better. The line-up this year was pretty impressive and rainy weather is somewhat of a tradition now, so is there nothing to improve? What about the technology?

The question

There was portable phone charging, 4G and Wi-Fi. Contactless credit and debit cards and NFC Phone payments were accepted at the bars. All of these conveniences improved the user experience.

It can be argued that this year’s festival biggest step forward was towards a cashless festival. However the solutions mentioned above were not available to everyone. They were limited to those who already had the technology, for example a contactless card, or were contracted with a certain mobile network provider.

So did we actually make a step forward? Is this a viable solution or a marketing gimmick from a network operator?

Everyone says that they want cashless festivals, and these would certainly benefit the consumer and organizer immensely. So the question is:

”Is making a festival, like Glastonbury, cashless for everyone even possible?”

The solution

A few years ago a concept emerged to take full advantage of the NFC technology and run entirely cashless festivals in New Zealand.
The idea was that every participant would be provided with an NFC wristband when they enter the festival gates. That was it. They wouldn’t need anything else; there was no mobile network restriction and no limitation to a particular phone make or model. The consumers would be able to top-up the balance on the wristband and then spend it during the festival at the bars, food stands or merchandising stalls.

Cashless festivals brought to you by #NFC technology & Eagle Eye Technologies

NFC wristbands – entirely cashless festival experience in New Zealand.

Eagle Eye Technology worked to provide a cashless festival solution and then delivered it into a field in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand.

Usually network and connectivity issues can be a nightmare during festivals, but NFC technology completely eliminated these concerns. The consumer’s balance was encrypted and stored both on a central server and on each wristband. The bars and outlets within the festival were provided with wireless NFC tag reader/writers and only these readers had to periodically connect to a network.

When a consumer made a purchase, the balance stored on the wristband was read by the retailer, the transaction was carried out and the consumer’s new balance was written back to the wristband. This meant that the transactions could be performed even when a network connection wasn’t available.
If a connection between the readers and central server became available, the centrally stored wristband balance would be updated straight away. If not, then all the reader/writers were eventually returned to a central location for charging and at that point the information would be synchronized.

At the end of the festivals, the back-end server provided reporting services and analytics which allowed organizers to easily view revenue by day and event, in order to make payments to each of the vendors.
The festivals were a huge success and were entirely cashless. No cash or card payments were supported at any of the retailers. This meant that the time required to make a purchase was reduced, as well as the cost for handling the payments. The experience offered security and convenience to the consumers who didn’t have to carry a wallet or stand in endless queues at cash points.

The answer

So the answer to the question is yes, providing an entirely cashless festival is definitely possible and it has been done already. However, the full benefits of a cashless experience provided with the NFC technology can only be felt if the solution is available to everyone.

About our guest blogger:

Kasia Lubowiecka is an Account Manager for MasterCard at Eagle Eye Technology, based in Guildford, UK. Eagle Eye Technology is a strategic software systems company providing cutting edge technology and bespoke solutions to their clients.

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