By Kat Drucker (@kitkat5656), event consultant and conference programming for and Digital Media Summit.
Sitting down in Quebec City with Serge Grimaux, founder of Intellitix, I intended to discuss ticketing and the social media integration potential of RFID. Knowing about the success of last year's Ford sponsorship at Bonnaroo (See Video
) and having heard that the company had migrated into my list.
We're doing cashless payment at an event tomorrow... they forgot to print one of the two codes on the single day wristbands. We have 24 hours to build a system that will allow people to select a pin code." He explained his silent greeting with his phone still in his hand.
As Serge later elaborated, cashless payment had been one of his main goals when he started testing RFID technology. You're at a festival and you leave money in a tent, or get robbed..." The cashless technology allows people to load-up and re-load, or simply connect their credit card with their wristband.
Enabling an event to operate without cash seems like a risk.
If all our connections and back-up connections somehow fail, the system still operates and keeps a log. Once it goes back up, it charges the credit card if its connected, or deducts the amount when the person re-loads.
And if the person doesn't re-load?
I pay for it; this is the insurance policy I offer. This is how much I believe in the system"
Explaining the full potential of RFID has been a challenge from many aspects. Difficulties of communicating with festivalgoers to connect their wristbands for identification and social media integration, and the lack of understanding from the music industry of the technology have delayed Serge's original vision.
One example was at a festival where paramedics couldn't figure out what was wrong someone who had no wallet, phone, or any form of identification.
The police called us because he was wearing his wristband." Intellitix was able to get in touch with his parents through the data on the RFID chip. It turned out he was in a diabetic coma and was rushed to the hospital."
Finally asking about social media at events, I yet-again uncovered an entirely different story.
How many times can you check-in? It's boring!" Serge explained. Its about connections, connect with people."
In early 2008, Serge had visited his daughter at college where she spent a significant amount of time on Facebook. Having been intrigued by the live-time technology of RFID early on, something clicked as his daughter used the words people want to"digital community" to explain the social network.
Returning home to Prague and writing a business plan try RFID technology at events in Europe, things didn't quite go as planned.
I was promoting exhibitions...Like Bodies the Exhibition
and Titanic the Exhibition
. In October, 2008 I asked Daniel Gélinas, (General Manager, Festival D'ete du Quebec
) to come take a look in Montreal."
I exhibited (at Festival D'ete) in 2009 with Bodies the Exhibition
and there was something like 11 different colors of paper wristbands ... people would walk through the gates holding their arms up in the air!" Serge smiled.
Thinking the fans were doing some kind of silent cheer", Serge grew to understand that the festival had access issues getting 100,000 people through the gates in time for the headliner - in the dark.
I looked at Daniel and said 'you can fix this with RFID', and he looked at me and asked if I would do it...we both have a promoter background, when you say you're going to do something and you shake hands, you have to do it. If I could do it for 155,000 people, I can do it for anyone."
Going back to his day-to-day in Prague, Grimaux received an e-mail from Goldenvoice VP Skip Page asking if he was the person that did that event in Canada". Sitting in LA several days later with Skip, Paul Tollett, and Bill Fold, Serge proceeded to tell the team behind Coachella all about the potential of RFID.
They listened very nicely, nodding their heads, and let me finish" he laughed. And then told me what they really wanted to know about was access control".
While most Intellitix clients are familiar with the access control solution, and many are years away from understanding some of the additional possibilities, Louis Bellevance, the Programming Director for Festival D'ete pointed out another advantage that is overlooked by even Serge;
I can see in real time how many people are on every site and in every venue. As I can't be everywhere at the same time, this is the best tool I have to monitor our success in real-time."
Reaching out to several other promoters to understand how they've used the technology, I discovered that there may be some competition with ticketing and event companies working on their own RFID integrations.
Look at the crane down by the stage." Serge replied to my inquiry about the situation. Does it mean that the festival should get into the crane business? No it doesn't. Stick to what you're good at." As a service provider, Intellitix has no intention of competing with ticketing companies and isn't concerned about potential competition looking far beyond the company's initial start in music festivals.
There aren't that many Coachella's in the world, you have to do more."
With success stories from festivals all over the world and the company growing, Serge Grimaux has his sights set on brands, conventions, and sports. Potential competition and misconceptions about what Intellitix does doesn't seem to phase him as he rushes off to take his next call.