Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has revolutionized the way festival operations are handled. Adding this technology to guests wristbands or name badges has allowed for more efficient processes to be implemented. Check in has been sped up, cashless payments have allowed for quicker purchases, exchanging contact information has been made effortless, determining ROI for sponsors has become easier, fan engagement has been increased, and collecting data to make improvements has been streamlined. Utilizing RFID technology has many benefits but there is one major risk that not many consider when choosing a supplier, they do not verify that the system is compliant with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Since the technology uses radio frequencies, the FCC requires that all devices comply with their testing and authorization rules.
RFID wristbands work through the use of a tag, the physical piece on a wristband, and a reader/scanner that reads the information on the tag and transmits it to a back end computer. There are three types of tags, passive, active, and battery assisted. Passive tags are what is most popularly used at music festivals. They do not require a battery and use the energy emitted from the scanner for power. Active tags have a built in battery that helps it to transmit information regularly without a reader. Battery assisted tags also have a battery but it only powers when it is in proximity of a scanner. The system can be used to collect information from attendees, track their habits, or control access to certain parts of the event. By having guests register their tags then those devices can hold information such as name, email, demographics, social media accounts, and can even store credit card information for cashless payments. The technology can also track the whereabouts of guests to determine if improvements are needed. For example, are the bathroom lines too long, are too many people at the smaller stages, and other adjustments. RFID and beacon systems can help determine what changes need to be made. Utilizing the scanners for access management is useful too. The tags can be loaded with credential information and scanners can be placed at various entry points. For example, VIP guests can scan their band at the entrance to special areas and the reader with show green or yes to grant them access.
Radio frequencies can move through solid materials and can interfere with devices such as phones, smart watches, and other devices. More severely, they can affect emergency communication systems and render them ineffective if a true emergency occurs. If you are hosting a live event like a concert or even a sporting event it can also interfere with the wireless microphones, wireless lighting, bluetooth, or other systems. Not only can it affect devices but it can also be unsafe for people as well. In extreme cases if the frequencies are too high, it can adversely affect human tissue. This why the FCC has constructed a set of regulations, so that RFID devices that are in use are safe for both people and devices. RFID regulations can also vary from country to country that is why it is also important to ensure that the system you choose it compliant to the FCC rules for the United States.
Rules and Regulations
Most of the rules surrounding RFID are in regards to the amount that it can emit. Manufacturers are required to provide certain disclosures and ensure that their systems are within the emission limits. If you choose a manufacturer that operates in the United States then they should be following all FCC rules. However, if you are choosing a supplier that imports devices from outside the US then you may want to be extra cautious. Regardless there are a few things you can look for when choosing what RFID system to use at your next event to ensure that it is FCC compliant.
Frequencies must be within the range of 902 to 928 MHz band of the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) spectrum, the maximum wattage allowed for RFID is 4 W EIRP (Equivalent Isotropic Radiated Power), and the Reader to Tag Communication Technique is FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) (Full listing of global regulations here).
Ask the supplier if their products have been tested and verified in an authorized lab. The products should have an FCC ID on them. If they don’t then they are not certified. You can also request a copy of their lab results demonstrating FCC compliance.
One easy way to determine if the device you are using is compliant is if it contains a sticker stating the follow: “This device complies with part 15 of the FCC Rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) This device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.” While this sticker is not a guarantee, the lack of it will definitely be an indicator of non compliance.
RFID wristbands have many advantages when it comes to hosting a large event. Having your attendees equipped with these tags on their wrist and having scanners placed at the right spots can really help your event run smoothly. RFID systems can allow cashless payments, expedited check in, access controls, sponsor ROI tracking, and many other benefits. However, choosing a supplier that is not in compliance with the FCC can be a costly mistake. Before selecting who to purchase from, ensure that they are compliant by checking that the products are tested in an authorized labs, within the frequency and power ranges, and have all proper stickers and disclosures. If you are hosting an event in multiple countries it is also important to ensure that the RFID system you use is compliant in that country since each region has different regulations. The key is to maintain open communication with who you purchase from and to not be afraid to ask questions.
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