How can technology improve festival safety?

Jason Thomas, CEO of Tappit looks at the increasing need for more advanced technologies to make 2020 festivals the safest yet

The value of the UK’s live music scene is booming, with new figures revealing the industry is worth £1.1billion, an increase of 10% from 2017. Britain’s love for live music is so great that a staggering 57% of festivalgoers would prioritise going to a festival instead of a European summer holiday. 

The number of people attending festivals is on the up, so in 2020 there will be more pressure than ever before for festival organisers to provide a seamless experience for these attendees. Every event must also be innovative, memorable and safe to guarantee sustainability for the next decade. Whilst countless elements contribute to the overall success of a festival, for a festival to run smoothly, fan safety is imperative.

5G will transform live events

Big events like festivals put a huge amount of stress on mobile networks, meaning people are unable to message friends to meet up and post to social media. This is largely due to the concentration of people trying to use the standard 4G signal. 

The long-awaited 5G will provide a solution to this problem, boosting fan engagement and enhancing festival experience. Last summer Glastonbury successfully trialled EE’s 5G network, enabling thousands to connect to 5G and allowing attendees to enjoy immersive technologies like augmented and virtual reality and 360-degree video. Next summer, the intention is to improve these technologies further, not only encouraging attendance but also giving festivalgoers a unique and captivating experience. 

Being able to connect to 5G will make it easier for fans to share their experiences over social media. It will also give visibility to organisers to understand their attendees and locate any issues that may arise and rectify them where necessary. 

Festivals could introduce facial recognition in 2020
Could facial recognition play a bigger part in this year’s festival programme?

Taking RFID technology to the next level

Employing RFID is one of the simplest ways to improve customer experience and has many benefits including cashless payment solutions, seamless entry and multiple safety benefits. With family-friendly festivals also set to grow in popularity in 2020, child safety will be a major focus. Safe kids mean happy parents and an improved experience, so how do we ensure that these festival-going children and families stay safe in the crowds? 

With safety being a top priority at festivals, we will undoubtedly see a rise in RFID technology this year. These technologies have the power to retain emergency contact information of a parent, guardian or friend and store it digitally on the RFID chip, minimising the potentially dangerous effects of a child getting lost. This functionality isn’t just restricted to children, as it can contain emergency contact details of a person who is unresponsive.

RFID can also support responsible alcohol consumption, as cashless payments made on RFID systems can incorporate technology which enables vendors to block further age-restricted purchases from wristbands if they feel it isn’t safe for an attendee to buy alcoholic drinks. This ensures the safety of festivalgoers and festival staff alike. 


READ MORE: Are we heading towards an AI winter?


Facial recognition 

Facial recognition has huge potential when it comes to establishing safe festivals, but it is not without its drawbacks. Biometric surveillance companies have identified music festivals to market facial scanning technology, to reduce queue time and control potential illegal behaviour. Face scanning software was first implemented in the UK at Download festival in 2015, where attendees were checked against a criminal database of wanted individuals. However, it has since proven to be a topic of huge debate.


“Resistance towards facial recognition is spreading as quickly as the tech itself. Artists and activists alike have voiced their concerns regarding inaccurate bias and lack of privacy.”


Resistance towards facial recognition is spreading as quickly as the tech itself. Artists and activists alike have voiced their concerns regarding inaccurate bias and lack of privacy. 40 of the world’s largest music festivals including Coachella have pledged against the use of facial recognition at their events. Ticketmaster themselves have also recently taken a step back from a surveillance technology company that it invested in last year.

However, with a focus towards understanding and harnessing the unrealised positive outcomes of facial scanning – and limiting the negatives – 2020 could be the year to prove that this technology has the potential to change festival safety for the better.   

It’s not just festivals that can benefit from such technologies, the wider hospitality sector, retail and sport, for example, can take note of these advances. In large areas prone to congestion, integrating such technologies such as RFID will enable people to enjoy their experience as much as possible thanks to the reassurance it provides. 

When it comes to festivals of the future, 2020 is set to be the year that technology revolutionises the way we approach safety. Ultimately, the safer the festival the better and by harnessing new technologies and developing pre-existing ones, 2020 festivals will be more memorable for all the right reasons. 

Jason Thomas

Jason Thomas is the CEO of Tappit, the global payment ecosystem for events, sports stadia and venues.

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