Wireless

Are RFID wristbands the future of events?

22nd July 2022
Sheryl Miles

RFID (radio frequency identification) is a form of wireless communication. The technology uses electromagnetic frequencies to identify something such as a person, animal, or an object.

It is also used for a vast number of purposes, including vehicle tracking, livestock tracking, and inventory management.

Who uses it?

Numerous industries benefit from using this technology such as healthcare, business, and retail. And because it does not require a direct line of sight to be read, it means that sending and processing information is faster. With the advancement of 5G, RFID speed and real time updates will come to the fore.

RFID systems are comprised of three parts. A scanning antenna – which is a transducer that converts RF (radio frequency) fields into AC (alternating current) or vice versa, a transceiver – which is used in wireless devices to transmit and receive radio waves using an antenna, and a transponder – which is a wireless device that picks up and automatically responds to an incoming signal.

So, what are RFID wristbands?

RFID wristbands, on first observation, are a way of rapidly scanning a device without the need for human interaction, but they can achieve so much more.

The wristbands contain a ‘smart tag’ which is composed of a chip and an antenna that can be encased in any cover, such as silicone, so they are damage- and water-proof, whilst still attracting a signal.

Radio waves sent out by the tags are transmitted to a back-end computer which processes all of the information it receives without the need for physical contact.

The tags are then scanned by a reader which collects the information in a nanosecond and sends back a unique identification number.

There are three types of tags:

  • Passive – the most popular for venues and events – it has no built-in batteries, and uses the energy transmitted by the reader to send information
  • Active – is battery operated, and transmits regular information without the need for a reader
  • Battery-assisted – the battery powers a tag, but only when it’s in close range of a reader

How are they used for events?

When any large-scale event is taking place, organisers will inevitably issue a paper ticket or digital code that will need to be shown to a member of staff. This causes long queues because even if several people are checking tickets or scanning codes, they still need to check the details on a one-to-one basis.

RFID wristbands mean that thousands of people will be able to check-in to a venue within minutes as the bands can be scanned from a distance, negating the need for one-to-one contact.

Venue operators will also be able to track the thoroughfare of people to better understand what areas of an event are the most popular, allowing them to better plan future events.

The information they gather from the radio signals beamed out by the tags would not breach peoples’ privacy, as they cannot see any personal information. Instead, much like a map showing areas of traffic, they would be able to tell where most people go, thus determining the areas that people are drawn to, compared to areas that see little movement.

And it doesn’t end there. The bands can store all types of information and they can also act as a wallet.

Because the bands are encrypted, they are extremely difficult to duplicate which limits the chance of fraud being committed. If a band goes missing the wearer can cancel it, much like a credit card would be cancelled. The wearer would then be reissued a new copy.

What else can they do?

The amount of data the devices can store varies depending on the tag, but they have the potential to store a person’s name, address, credit card authorisation details, access to events, areas, and social media information – with the option of choosing to have photos or activity automatically posted to social media accounts when walking through checkpoints.

The bands can authorise payments so the wearer can go cashless, and they have the option to set spending limits or remove cashless payments altogether.

Because the bands transmit a signal within an area, if someone is lost, they will be able to be tracked using the radio frequency.

The technology is already heading in this direction, and RFID bands are a neat and streamlined way to make everyone’s lives easier.

For more interesting stories on wireless communication devices, visit our Wireless and Communications sections.

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