RFID-Enabled Events: The Hype Cycle
15th January, 2019 • By Siebe Gerbranda
As the events industry reaches a tipping point in RFID adoption, technology innovators like Glownet await dramatic acceleration. For many, this feels like a long time coming…
It’s an exciting time for Glownet, and we have dedicated the past six years to preparing for this surge in growth. The prediction of an RFID revolution is something that has been put forward many times before, so why is this time any different?
Let’s be clear, the revolution has already begun, with 2018 proving our busiest and most successful year on record. But in the grand scheme of industry-wide standardisation, we are still not quite there. However, the European Festival Report recently conducted by IQ magazine found that a staggering 30% of promoters have used RFID in the past year.
With a back-catalogue of bold predictions, it’s fair to say that RFID has already long-suffered from “over-hyping”. Using Gartner’s Hype-Cycle model, we realise the stages of RFID adoption in events, and look to understand where the industry sits today…
The 5 Stages of Gartner’s Hype Cycle:
1. The Technology Trigger
Believe it or not, we can trace RFID all the way back to World War Two, where early UHF systems were used to help identify planes in combat. But it would be some six decades before its story at events began. Early implementations of RFID in the events industry focussed on access control features, before turning to cashless payment methods. It was in 2003 that the world’s first fully RFID cashless solution for festivals was commissioned by our Founder Scott (who was at that time running Rhythm and Vines, in New Zealand).
2. Peak of Inflated Expectations
From those early roots, the hype snowballed and reached new levels in the early 2010s. Although many could see the huge potential of RFID, adoption drivers in the event industry still weren’t fully defined. For many, the focus was still ticketing and access control. For others, cashless benefits were the drivers. But many pitched it as a miracle cure that could do everything any promoter needed, and that it could even predict which artists a guest would watch based on their preferred beer.
3. Trough of Disillusionment
To be clear, RFID can be used to harvest data and draw patterns in spending and consumer behaviour. But in those early days these levels of conversations were premature, and threatened to intimidate a market that was still confused by what RFID even was.
Few were willing to spend money on a technology that was largely unproven and seemingly confusing. Whilst the benefits seemed appealing, several pilots and early implementations simply under-delivered. It all just seemed to be happening too quickly, and adoption rates never “took-off” as predicted by many.
At a consumer-level, people still weren’t convinced about RFID. Security concerns and issues were a perceived barrier, as were issues surrounding whether payment culture was ready for something new, and whether the events industry was the appropriate place to launch this.
Much of the early optimism faded, and many early providers seemed to disappear. A few key players remained, and collaborations with a few early adopters became a breeding ground for innovation. Reliable products that delivered were developed, and proof of concept was achieved in various applications across the market.
4. Slope of Enlightenment
Glownet’s main advantage during it’s early challenging years was that our team weren’t just targeting event organisers, they were organisers, with market understanding and vision that many would be jealous of.
We are able to bridge the gap between inflated promises and functional realism to create solutions that deliver. We have a heritage and a strong product-focus based on these principles. Leading from the front, we have been able to innovate and design a trend-setting product that inspires.
Today, RFID technology across the industry is back on track to lead technological innovation. Several external factors have contributed to this; such as the rise of contactless payments via bank cards and smartphones, driving a wider acceptance of RFID processes amongst consumers.
Early adopters have proven the RFID case for events, and the market now races to catch-up with them. Confidence seems to have been restored in those promises made almost a decade ago.
5. Plateau of Productivity
And so RFID is becoming more and more normalised for event organisers. It has proven its potential to increase revenue, streamline operations, combat everyday challenges and sustain a growing business. Whether 2019 is the year of the “plateau” remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, we are certainly on our way.
Technology adoption is cyclical. The adoption of barcodes is a great comparison with RFID. It is almost impossible to imagine an event ticket without some form of barcode on it, and yet there was a time that this strange technology baffled, confused and excited the world in the same way as RFID.
Those who once dismissed barcodes were converted to ambassadors after technological improvements in barcode-scanning were made, and early adopters proved the ROI was undeniable.
With RFID in the events industry some 15-or-so years into its own journey, perhaps we can all take some comfort that barcode technology took some 30 years to become embedded into how we live and work…
Siebe Gerbranda is CEO of Glownet, and an experienced business leader. Before Glownet, Siebe managed Google’s commercial expansion in sub-Saharan Africa, before moving to Shanghai to establish Asia operations for global marketing network The George.