Cashless leaders Playpass and Weezevent merge
Leading European cashless payments companies Weezevent, based in Dijon, and Playpass, headquartered in Antwerp, have merged.
The new Playpass-Weezevent group comprises six offices with more than 100 employees and 1,200 event clients, including major festivals such as Lollapalooza (Paris, Berlin and Chile), Rock Werchter, Main Square (pictured), Hellfest, Rock en Seine and Austria’s Frequency and Nova Rock. The companies, which have a combined annual turnover of over £400 million (€466m), also provide cashless solutions for sports brands such as Formula 1, Red Bull Air Race, Paris St Germain FC, Lausanne FC and the World Darts Championship.
It is hoped that by joining forces the firms can make NFC (near-field contact) wristbands and cards as ubiquitous for payments at UK festivals as they are in continental Europe.
Post-merger, Steve Jenner of PlayPass and Olly Goddard of Weezevent jointly head up the group’s UK and Republic of Ireland division. The deal will also lead to the expansion of the companies’ offices in Paris, Madrid, Antwerp, Lausanne and Montreal and their in-house development staff.
Paying tribute to Playpass co-founders David De Wever and Dale Hofkens, Weezevent’s CEO, Pierre-Henri Deballon, says: “David, Dale and their teams share the same passion and vision as Weezevent for delivering a world-class cashless experience, and after eight years of healthy competition the time has come to form a new team that is stronger, more ambitious and more confident than ever.”
“The return to a normal post-Covid situation will accelerate the adoption of cashless everywhere. This is about being ready”
De Wever adds: “Our two companies are highly complementary and the consolidation of our expertise and experience now makes it possible to form the leader in cashless event solutions. The return to a normal post-Covid situation will accelerate the adoption of cashless everywhere. This is about being ready for the market while continuing to innovate.”
Last year, says Goddard, “promised a much wider adoption of cashless technology at events before our industry was put into lockdown. Though this natural progression was interrupted, we are looking forward to a productive 2021 and beyond, and our merger with PlayPass will put us in an even stronger position to deliver what consumers want and events need.”
British festivals planning their return this summer using the group’s cashless technology include Standon Calling, 2000 Trees, Black Deer, ArcTanGent, Lakefest, Neverworld and the inaugural UnLocked Festival.
“As a competitor we have always held the utmost respect for Weezevent, in particular the strength of their technology, team and commitment to improving the visitor experience,” adds Jenner. “To join forces with them at this time is a really exciting opportunity for us, our clients and the UK’s live events industry, placing us in a much stronger position to not only help the sector get back on its feet faster, but to emerge stronger than ever.”
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2020 and Beyond: How ticketing will revolutionise the entertainment experience
You are looking to buy a ticket to an interesting event for the upcoming weekend. Instead of navigating to your browser, you ask Siri or Alexa, “What’s happening this weekend in town? What are my friends and family doing?”
Within milliseconds, your AI assistant searches the internet for the events that seem most appealing to your interests and that appear in your family and friend’s social media feeds. Your AI assistant responds asking you follow-up questions on your desired experience and budget.
Once you have found the perfect event, you give your AI assistant the go-ahead to buy the tickets. Almost immediately, your tickets are purchased, verified and readily available in your mobile wallet. This transaction was likely processed through a mobile payments solution and automatically added to your calendar. Your AI assistant asks if you would like to invite friends, because if they also attend the event, the brand offers you an incentive.
The day of the event is here. When you get within a geofenced area of the event location, you receive a notification asking if you would like an augmented-reality tour guide to assist you to your gate of entry and seats. As you approach entry to the event, your face is scanned to verify your identity and your radio-frequency identification (RFID) or mobile phone ticket is checked-in in a near frictionless entry point.
A ticket is not just a piece of paper, but the direct connection between a person and an experience
Once you enter, your phone becomes a second-screen experience, providing your choice of merchandise, food ordering, artist or athlete information, game statistics and live betting experiences. When you arrive at your seat your food and drink order is waiting for you and you settle in for a great time.
This glimpse into the near-future is closer than it might seem. All of the referenced technology already exists. The next step is bridging the gap between the intersection of the experience, technology and human behaviour.
A ticket is not just a piece of paper, but the direct connection between a person and an experience. It is also the core mechanism for how organisations will gather data to better engage with you and provide offers you will find interesting.
The smartest organisations invest not only in technology, but also commit to securing the treasure trove of data on their users. Piecing these together will be the key to continually providing users with great experiences in a world of increasing entertainment options.
Mark Miller is the co-founder and chief executive of TicketSocket, a white-label ticketing and registration service for venues and events.
Nordic introduces sustainable Eco wristbands
Nordic Wristbands has launched Eco, a new range of sustainable wristbands for festival and event organisers who want to cut out single-use plastics.
Using responsibly sourced bamboo, hemp and cotton, the range offers wristbands made out of natural, biodegradable fibres. A selection of recycled PET wristbands, bamboo RFID smart tags and cards to completes the collection.
Nordic Wristbands founder Jone Nuutinen comments: “We have thoroughly researched the sourcing of the materials, which are plant based, and manufacturing process to create biodegradable, comfortable, robust wristbands that can be branded in line with events’ own colours.
“We offer bamboo or aluminium clasps for a fully plastic free option, or recyclable plastic options to give organisers choices on their journey towards reducing their carbon footprint.”
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PlayPass hails record summer for cashless & RFID at UK festivals
Cashless and NFC specialist PlayPass has enjoyed a record-breaking summer, operating at over 250 events across 22 countries over five continents and processing 12.82 million cashless transactions, worth €78 million euros. Globally, 2019 has seen the company grow its event roster by 40%.
The UK has seen the sharp end of this growth curve, with a 400% increase in events embracing the company’s solutions to improve their visitor experience, increase spend per head, operate more efficiently and eliminate fraud.
This year saw PlayPass deliver more than 80% of all commercial UK cashless and RFID festival activations, reinforcing its position as the market leader and building on a solid four-year track record for reliability in festival fields. While many implementations focused on going fully cashless, some events used the technology to combat accreditation fraud, while others wanted to create a more immersive visitor experience. One even used it to help people climb up walls!
Here, Steve Jenner, PlayPass’s UK managing director, relays his ten proudest deployments from the UK’s biggest summer of RFID yet, in order of delivery date…
Some events used the tech to combat accreditation fraud, while others wanted to create a more immersive visitor experience. One even used it to help people climb up walls
1. We Are FSTVL, 24–26 May, became the UK’s first major festival to successfully go fully cashless. A flawless RFID operation provided a fast, queue-free experience inside the event, attended by 70,000.
Steve Durham, director of We Are FSTVL, says: “We were delighted to partner with PlayPass – they gave us the confidence to say ‘we can do this’, and the feedback we’ve had from the public is that it was super-easy and super-smooth.”
2. Black Deer, 21–23 June, contracted PlayPass to take the festival fully cashless as well as using the staff accreditation system. As well as giving visitors a hassle-free experience, the country and americana festival went on to smash previous UK records for online pre-event top-ups and reported a significant spend-per-head uplift. The increase in service speed took some traders by surprise, including Pizza of Dreams, who sold out of stock during the event.
Chris Russell-Fish, Black Deer’s operations director, says: “I’m delighted to say that it’s worked brilliantly. We’ve had no queues, the system has been easy to use – far better and more secure than dealing with cash – and our spend per head has been significantly higher than last year. We’ve had great feedback from the audience, traders and bar managers and I’m sure we’ll look to enhance it further next year.”
3. Smoked & Uncut, 15 June, 6 July, 27 July. With capacities ranging from 3,000 to 5,000, this trio of sold-out one-day shows with an older audience demographic experienced a solid uplift in spend per head, going fully cashless for the first time.
Lotti Eagles, head of marketing for Smoked & Uncut: “Using PlayPass’s system benefited both the customer experience and our experience as organisers. Queues at bars and food stalls were reduced and it has allowed us to far more accurately track spends, which meant we could be far more prepared ahead of the next event, as well as use this data to guide our plans for 2020.”
“The data mine that we’ve got, that will enable us to run the event more efficiently from an accreditation point of view, is mind-blowing”
4. British Summer Time, 5–7 July, 12–14 July. We rolled out our crew management and access control systems to eliminate the risk of accreditation fraud on all six Hyde Park shows. Several thousand crew working onsite were issued with secure RFID wristbands encoded with their professional credentials, which were scanned at back-of-house checkpoints, where security was paramount.
5. 2000trees, 11–13 July. After a highly successful leap to cashless last year, yielding a reported 24% increase in bar spend, the award-winning 10,000-capacity Cotswolds punk-rock fest added our crew accreditation system for year two. Through fine-tuning the cashless operation, they were also able to achieve another sizeable uplift in spend per head.
Festival director Brendan Herbert on the accreditation system: “Through this, we’ve learned so much about our event and all the crew, press, VIP guests and artists that come here. The data mine that we’ve got that will enable us to run the event more efficiently from an accreditation point of view is mind-blowing, so we’re already very excited about using it next year to put new ideas into practice.”
6. Bluedot, 18–21 July. One of the proudest, most exciting projects in my career, this was our biggest UK operation of the summer, with over 500 devices in the field and a team of 14 on site. It was also a huge year for Bluedot, having sold out its expanded capacity of 21,000 and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. It was the perfect moment to go fully cashless, and – as a festival themed on space-age technology – it was important that the tech was used for more than just cashless convenience.
Enter the ‘Mission Log’. Conceived by Bluedot’s creative team, this used our new gamification services for the first time in the UK to give visitors a more immersive festival experience. RFID scanners mounted in upright podiums around the site enabled visitors to check in at over 400 attractions, including live performances, talks, exhibits and sponsor activations. After the event, they could log in to the Bluedot website using their wristband ID to view their ‘Mission Log’, reliving their personal experience of the event with links for deeper content. It was a big leap for Bluedot and undoubtedly a giant one for festival-kind.
“Through rain and shine, wi-fi and power outages, even a gate stampede, our technology and operational crew have proven to be highly resilient, flexible and reliable this summer”
Bar operator Marc Daly, of Field Vision, says: “Working with PlayPass at Bluedot saw our transaction speed increase, queues reduce and ancillary costs reduce. We had less security on site as no physical money needed to be transported or counted. Our risk of theft reduced to almost zero, and our build and de-rig times reduced as less equipment needed to be set up and distributed. The PlayPass team were always efficient and easy to deal with and I look forward to working with them next year.”
7. Neverworld, 1–3 August. The festival formerly known as Leefest levelled -up this year with an attendance boost to 6,000 and a fully cashless site. Every ticket came pre-loaded with £26 of cashless credit, meaning that 100% of the audience had money on their wristbands as soon as they were through the gates. The result was a queue-free experience from start to finish and a highly successful transition to cashless.
Brian Meredith, from Neverworld’s board, credited PlayPass’ onsite team who, he says, were “just great and could not have been more helpful”.
8. These Walls Are Meant for Climbing, 10–11 August. We went from green fields to London’s Westfield shopping centre for ‘It’s Bigger’ agency, adapting our tech for this action-sports fest hosted by outdoor clothing label the North Face. Interactive climbing experiences, alongside live music and DJs, saw our handheld scanners built into the top of ten climbing walls.
A thousand participants each day were issued removable RFID wristbands so they could log their climb by checking-in when they reached the top. Using our new gamification services, this triggered an automated email containing a special offer voucher from the North Face they could redeem in the high street.
“We look forward to continued success with our existing UK clients and introducing many more events to the benefits they can attain with our solutions”
9. Lakefest, 8–11 August. A major onsite cash theft in 2018 prompted Lakefest’s organisers to make the jump to cashless. Coinciding with a sizeable increase in attendance to 12,000, it proved a highly successful endeavour that was well-received by the family heavy audience.
10. London Dessert Festival, 16–17 August. The capital’s sweetest new food festival, in London’s Old Truman Brewery, went fully cashless with us for its first edition to give customers and vendors a smoother experience and avoid the costs and complexities of cash management. Six thousand visitors were issued RFID cards which they could top up with funds online (in advance) or on site to spend on delicious puddings at 50 stands.
Steve Jenner, pictured with the PlayPass team at Bluedot, comments: “Through rain and shine, wi-fi and power outages, even a gate stampede, our technology and operational crew have proven to be highly resilient, flexible and reliable this summer. I’m particularly proud of the positive feedback from our clients, praising the results we’ve achieved on their behalf – for giving their visitors a better experience alongside consistent commercial uplift and improved security across all sites.
“We look forward to continued success with our existing UK clients and introducing many more events to the benefits they can attain with our solutions.”
Weezevent: Celebrating Standon Calling success
A team of eight Weezevent staff were on hand to provide practical advice, guidance and support at Standon Calling in July, as the cashless payments provider marked a successful first year of its partnership with the boutique UK event.
Paris-based Weezevent, which provides cashless solutions for some of the biggest events in France, including Rock en Seine, Hellfest, Lollapalooza Paris and Les Vieilles Charrues, opened a London office in 2017 and signed the 15,000-capacity Standon Calling earlier this year.
“Standon are the festival experts when it comes to RFID and cashless technology,” said Weezevent’s UK country manager, Olly Goddard. “Their decision to become our first festival partner in the UK is an endorsement of our solution and reflects our intention to expand here in the UK, as we have done so in France.”
Standon, this year headlined by Rag’n’Bone Man, Nile Rodgers’ Chic, and Wolf Alice, in 2013 became one of the first UK festivals to introduce a cashless system. After working with two different RFID providers, it moved over to Weezevent for 2019 to take advantage of the company’s cashless and access-control solutions, which work offline avoiding the risks posed by an unstable Internet connection. (As Weezevent co-founder and CEO, Pierre-Henri Deballon, told IQ earlier this year, “If a festival can’t process payments, that’s like a normal business being closed for weeks…”)
All 180 festival staff at bars and restaurants, and 50 independent traders used Weezevent’s cashless payment system, while mobile partner Greencopper allowed festivalgoers who downloaded the Standon Calling app to create and top-up their cashless account online in seconds.
Andrew Snell, founder and director of One Circle Events, which runs Standon’s bars, described the new payment process as “slick, quick and fast.” Snell is no stranger to cashless – he also runs a cash-free pub in London – but is still impressed by the Weezevent system: “It’s seamless,” he commented. “The device is really nice to use – it’s about the size of your iPhone in your hand – and the staff are absolutely loving it.”
“Standon Calling’s decision to become our first festival partner in the UK is an endorsement of our solution and reflects our intention to expand here in the UK”
Despite Weezevent’s growing British footprint, Goddard said the company is committed to providing white-label services for its clients, rather than building awareness of its own brand among consumers. “Our brand is not important,” he commented. “What is important is the technology and the reliability of that technology.”
As an event that welcomes festivalgoers of all ages, Standon Calling also wanted to give families more control over their cashless accounts. Using Weezevent’s technology, access and buying rights were set depending on the age of the attendees, through RFID microchips attached to cashless wristbands.
“It’s the same account on multiple chips,” explained Goddard. “A parent will be able to control how much goes on the children’s wristbands from their phone. So rather than go over and give their kids a tenner, they have them as a subcategory of the their own account and give them a budget to spend.”
Goddard added that Weezevent had its ‘under-18’ mode activated at Standon Calling, which prevents those under legal drinking age from spending money on alcohol.
Standon Calling founder Alex Trenchard was impressed by Weezevent’s festival debut. “The Greencopper app integration reduced the need for as many on-site top-up stations,” he explains, “auto top-up working offline allowed us to increase spend while reducing costs, and the family accounts helped our family audience plan their festival spending better.
“I’m looking forward to continuing our successful partnership with Weezevent as we continue to make the cashless experience as seamless as possible for our attendees at Standon Calling.”
Event Genius Pay to make African debut
UK event technology company Event Genius has announced a new cashless payment deal with the inaugural Ghanian edition of Afro Nation festival this December.
Event Genius has partnered with festivals and events across Europe and Asia including Portugal’s BPM Festival, Jika Jika! in Northern Ireland, Parklife in Manchester, UK and Annie Mac’s Lost and Found festival in Malta
Under the new deal, the company will take its cashless payment technology to Africa for the first time.
The Ghanian edition of Afro Nation festival is scheduled from the 27 to 30 December, with an expected attendance of 15,000. Alkaline, Burna Boy and J Hus are among acts to appear on the line-up.
Festivalgoers will be able to pre-purchase credit to pay for food, drink and merchandise at the event using RFID-enabled wristbands.
“We’re delighted to partner with a ticketing and technology company capable of providing a true end-to-end event platform for the inception of Afro Nation”
Event Genius is powering the ticketing for Afro Nation Ghana through the Ticket Arena website and a white label box office. Using the Entry Genius app, organisers will be able to manage entry points, track attendance and reduce ticket fraud.
“We’re delighted to partner with a ticketing and technology company capable of providing a true end-to-end event platform for the inception of Afro Nation,” says Obi Asika, chief executive of Afro Nation.
“Through our partnership with Ticket Arena and Event Genius, fans are assured the best possible experience from buying tickets, to entering the festival safely and ultimately enjoying their time dancing on the beach, without the need to worry about money or queues for drinks.”
The first-ever Afro Nation festival took place in Portimão, Portugal this year from 1 to 4 August, with performances from Wizkid, Davido, Ms Dynamite and Stefflon Don.
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Why technology needs teamwork for festival success
Festivals pride themselves on the all-encompassing experience they provide fans, transporting attendees into an entirely new world over the course of a few days. The widespread integration of technology at festivals in recent years has been revolutionary in transforming the festival experience for fans and allowing them to become more immersed than ever before, while also making it a more seamless experience from start to finish.
For organisers, new technologies have also opened the door to data-based insights that have never been actionable before. Whether it’s via chatbots or RFID wristbands, technology is making it possible for organisers to analyse the habits of attendees in order to personalise and curate an experience around their needs and desires.
These unique insights have never been more important for event organisers. Competition is higher than ever due to the ease of access to festivals all over the world and tans’ expectations are higher than ever. Organisers can’t afford to fall at any hurdles or be left trailing behind the rest of the industry.
It’s easy for eager event organisers to get lured into implementing complex technologies on the promise that they will catapult festivals into another realm. However, there is often a misconception that implementing new technologies will remove the necessity for human resource. This is rarely the case: technology is only truly successful with the guidance of human expertise. New technologies can only be implemented effectively with good training, support and a strong relationship between organisers and their technology partners.
When a piece of vital technology fails to function properly, the reputational damage it can cause events can take years to put right
Select your partners carefully
Before choosing a technology partner, you first need to understand what you want to achieve and how it’ll benefit your short and long-term goals as a festival. There are countless innovations that can help elevate festivals and improve the overall experience for attendees, but it’s important to consider who will be there to support you during the integration of the technology. Take the time to look at their credentials, expertise and how much guidance they can provide – don’t just go for the cheapest option, go for the option that best aligns with your vision.
When enhancing the festival experience with new technologies, adequate support must be there to support and guide implementation. Take the time to choose a vendor that provides holistic support as well as industry leading expertise and guidance to ensure seamless integration of new technologies. Inevitably, there will be hiccups to overcome; however, with the support and foresight of the right partner, it will cause minor repercussions for attendees.
Adequate support must be there to support and guide implementation
The importance of education
Education is an incredibly important element of the planning, and the implementation process needs to extend well beyond the immediate festival team to include safety and security staff, external food suppliers and even customers themselves.
If integrating RFID technology, for example, organisers must align with all external vendors to make sure they have enough time to familiarise themselves with the new devices and payment process. A pitfall of many organisers is sacrificing a thorough education process, thinking that it’ll take up too much time or be too costly. The reality is that for most, it can be integrated and rolled out with minimal friction. Sharing a step-by-step guide and providing hands-on training sessions on how the technology functions are fundamental, but teaching operators about what to do if the technology should fail is also imperative.
When a piece of vital technology fails to function properly, the reputational damage it can cause events can take years to put right. By putting clear processes in place, outlining how to continue serving the attendees the best they can, the impact on the customer will be minimised. When forming a new relationship with providers, event organisers need to ensure that a crisis plan is in place and ready to implement if something were to go wrong. Communication is vital, so having this in place beforehand will ensure a unified and seamless response.
technology is only truly successful with the guidance of human expertise
Use your insights to learn and review
The attraction of having access to data insights is being able to tailor future events to the demands and behaviours of real attendees. It’s important to closely examine these insights to make strategic decisions based on data, not gut feel. Previously, organisers would have had to predict what the demands on capacity will be at specific times and dates. However, new technologies, such as cashless systems, can collect and provide data on queuing times at particular food and drink stands. This can help organisers with future location planning and also help vendors analyse which food and drink items are most popular so they can ensure that supplies don’t run low.
In addition, data provides a great opportunity for organisers to learn about their fans’ behaviour and as such, market relevant offers personalised to each attendee. The long-term benefits of this behaviour are huge, both in cost effectiveness and in retaining long term customer relationships.
Technology can help support festivals, match fans’ evolving expectations and provide a more seamless and enjoyable experience for both organisers and attendees. By working together closely with experienced technology vendors, educating festival staff on new systems, and utilising existing technology available effectively, organisers can provide memorable experiences (for all the right reasons) to their customers throughout the festival period and beyond.
Jason Thomas is CEO of cashless payment specialist Tappit.
MONICA: the project soundproofing festivals
MONICA, a European Commission-funded project, is working to repair the often tense relationship between inner city festivals and the communities that surround them, demonstrating how technology can reduce sound levels and enhance safety at large, outdoor events.
The project works with 28 partners throughout Europe, developing internet of things (IoT) technologies to provide event organisers with services to monitor crowd and capacity, detect security incidents and reduce sound levels outside the festival site. The EU Commission funds most of the project, with partners financing the rest.
Italian electronic music festival Kappa FuturFestival is one of the six pilot sites for the research project, implementing technological solutions and indicating their application within a live event situation. Other pilot sites are found in Copenhagen, Lyon, Bonn, Hamburg and Leeds.
IQ talks to Kappa FuturFestival’s Gabriella Botte about the scheme, the technology behind it and the bright future for inner city festivals around Europe.
Can you tell me about MONICA?
The MONICA project is about managing large-scale, open air events using internet of things (IoT) technologies to help organisers to secure events and manage the impact they have on nearby communities.
The idea came from the experience of the +20 Friday Rock evening event held in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The city has grown around the park, with concerts held there from spring to autumn, and there have been problems due to the impact of sound on neighbouring houses and security issues relating to crowd control and management.
“In Italy, Kappa FuturFestival seemed like an obvious candidate for the project”
This became a point of discussion and different events started to collaborate, talking about common problems for several large-scale, open air events in Europe.
In Italy, Kappa FuturFestival seemed like an obvious candidate for the project. The festival takes place in a public park in densely populated area in the city of Turin. The event is only for two days but the neighbouring area was suffering significant problems due to noise levels.
Our city represents a best practice within the project as it is the only case in the consortium in which the local authorities, event organisers and scientific institutes are all involved.
How is Kappa FuturFestival involved in the project?
The festival was chosen by the city of Turin and the Links Foundation to become the Italian platform to test the solutions developed by the technical partners.
There are two main axes to the project – security control and sound control. Not every participant is experimenting with venue technologies, but we are, so that encompasses sound monitoring and control, and crowd and capacity monitoring.
The crowd management at Kappa FuturFestival is handled by the local Turin police, but we also work with Kingston University in London.
Kingston University is developing an algorithm to create a sound heat map to detect the flow of people and identify security threats such as overcrowding, fast moving crowds or fights. The idea is for the information to reach the organiser via the fans’ wristbands, signalling where there is a dangerous situation or a fight. We can also give people security information such as the location of exits and direct festivalgoers to them, all through radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
It is worth noting that we started on this path in 2015, introducing the cashless system as the only payment method allowed at our festival, replacing cash with a RFID device.
“The objective is to balance the optimal outdoor concert sound and the reduction of unwanted noise in the surrounding environment”
However, most of the work we do relates to sound control. Our Futur stage has been used to test a new sound control system from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). This system is based on a set-up of sound level meters and additional loudspeakers “contrasting” with the stage audio system before it gets to neighbouring houses. The objective is to balance the optimal outdoor concert sound and the reduction of unwanted noise in the surrounding environment.
We do this using two control desks – one classic desk directed by a technician and another one at the end of concert area. This acts as a buffer at the concert area perimeter and sends out the same sound as the one at the front, so when two sound systems meet, they should neutralise each other.
It appears that the DTU sound system has resulted in a reduction in sound of six decibels.
Last year, we also adopted an amplifier system to diminish the impact of sound from the back of the loudspeaker, as noise was a big issue backstage.
We have learned a lot since beginning, such as the futility of barriers. Sound moves in waves, so barriers are not useful as it’s always possible that the sound will reach it at its peak. We share knowledge within the project in order to adapt these solutions. Going forward, we want to equip all stages with the two lines of loudspeakers.
“For the general public, the main thing is knowing that the organisers are not just there to benefit from the area but that they want to give something back”
Why are such initiatives important for festival organisers, festivalgoers and the general public?
From an organisers point of view, the project makes an event important and credible as a partner. With this kind of initiative, an event can become a major actor in the scene.
For festivalgoers, what’s important here is not so much learning about the project but knowing that organisers want to introduce technology and innovations to improve the experience, to make sure everything is safe and runs smoothly.
Then there’s the question of sound quality. Not everyone is able to recognise if sound is good or not. Organisers often choose the cheapest loud speaker, but MONICA partner events have to get the best material on the market. This is a good assurance to our audience, showing that we are the best and can work with the best technology.
For the general public, the main thing is knowing that the organisers are not just there to benefit from the area but that they want to give something back. Events bring a positive economic impact to a community, but also a lot of negative impacts for those living around and we want to minimise this so everyone can benefit.
Another thing is that we have the possibility to collaborate with important institutions, and it is not often that such events get the chance to do this. For example, this summer, functionaries from the EU Commission will be our guests at the festival to come and see the project. This is significant as these people may not have come to Turin otherwise. This is a way of bringing attention to our city and to the local area.
“The aim is ultimately to find innovative solutions to make large open air events more secure and less invasive to urban environments”
What other pressing issues do music festivals and events face?
Apart from security and sound, I think the environmental impact is a major issue. Our festival takes place in a public park in a green area. 20,000 people amounts to a lot of rubbish. What we are aiming to do is use more sustainable materials.
For this year’s event, we are eliminating straws. We already use biodegradable plates and forks for food and we are running recycling points with the US-based Global Inheritance Foundation as an incentive for people to collect rubbish.
Another thing that we have started doing is using biodegradable elastic bands for production barriers. This is a significant investment as we use a lot of them and the eco-friendly ones cost three to four times more than normal ones. The idea, of course, is to collect everything up after the festival, but this is not always possible so we need to think of additional ways to avoid polluting park.
What does the future hold for MONICA?
The idea in the future is to be able to develop the technology to be sold by partners to the wider events market. We hope that the most accessible technologies will be available soon.
Inner city festivals are still subject to so many restrictions – just think of the difficulties London festivals have, like Wireless Festival which every year faces more restrictions and obstructions from local residents, or Citadel, which moved last year to Gunnersbury Park, and had a nightmare when it came to people leaving the festival. Hyde Park’s British Summer Time strict curfews which has seen previous headliners fined are all due to sound levels and local residents.
Such issues are what this project hopes to eliminate. The aim is ultimately to find innovative solutions to make large open air events more secure and less invasive to urban environments.
Why Africa could be leading the way in event tech
When it comes to events, there’s nothing deep nor dark about Africa – not anymore. Indeed, it is possible that there are more cashless events in South Africa than in the rest of the world combined.
How? Well, one of the advantages of a comparatively small market in a developing region is that, when event technology platform Howler began trading, and wanted to introduce ticketing, access control, and cashless solutions to the industry, there were no clumsy legacy systems to dismantle.
The tech simply didn’t exist. Looking overseas for inspiration, Howler found that its global competitors operated largely “with their headlights on and in silos”, explains Shai Evian, founding partner of Howler, “which is why there was no company that could provide for all our needs in one solution.”
So Howler started from the problem – a widespread need for better, safer, quicker, more reliable event technology – and then built the answer: a scalable, consumer-geared, end-to-end, best-of-breed solution that could be used for both large and small events. All events. Anywhere. The platform is combination of its proprietary technology built on top of leading global technology solutions.
The system manages ticketing, customer registration, vendor onboarding, reporting and cash collection on site; reduces payment time to just 3 seconds; is network- and weather- independent; and, critically for Africa, enhances security by reducing cash on site and mitigating risks of theft and fraud.
Its all-in-one event management solution covers ticket sales, guest lists, registration, and event promotion – using rich data to boost event-goers’ experiences and organisers’ decision-making.
“In Africa we’ve been able to leapfrog other countries’ tech innovations, because our needs are so different and our response to tech is so fresh”
‘The Howler way’ means a seamless experience with crucial customer data being collected at every touch point. In a market that is so heavily competitive, this data is what will help companies to differentiate themselves into the future. Indeed, the Howler believes that, the longer event organisers take to adopt a data focus, the more they could be putting their businesses at risk.
Howler is focused on the continued growth of its platform in Africa, using the region as a pilot market en route to internationalising the product.
For instance, over a single recent weekend, Howler ran cashless events in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, and Zambia – countries that collectively span 3.3 million square kilometres.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, Howler ran 55 simultaneous events across southern Africa, with over 600 staff using over 1400 devices.
Says Evian: “In Africa we’ve been able to leapfrog other countries’ tech innovations, because our needs are so different and our response to tech is so fresh. Our circumstances require us to act quickly, be agile, think fast, and think smart.”
As a result of working with the likes of Ultra South Africa, Rage festival and Afro Punk, Howler’s approach is starting to be adopted in global markets. Furthermore, the Howler founders were part of the prestigious international Techstars Accelerator programme during 2017 which, says Evian, “really changed the way we see our business as a player on the global stage”.
‘The Howler way’ means a seamless experience with crucial customer data being collected at every touch point
It turned out, in Africa, that event organisers and customers weren’t that wedded to tills and cash, so adoption was quicker. “Nothing like this had been done before. There was no precedent for taking full responsibility for everything: vendors, cash, refunds, door, devices, etc.” The only challenge,” says Evian, “was going to be people and perceptions, and people are enthusiastic.”
Unlike in Europe, where cashless solutions tend to be implemented for massive events only, the eccentricities of the African market mean that a sustainable product must work for small and large events; for what Evian calls “everyday eventing”. Further, it must be geared to serve the consumer as much as the event organiser, because the same consumers repeatedly attend many events.
Howler, which employs 56 people and over 500 casual staff, has processed over US$80 million in transactions in the three and a half years since inception and over a million tickets in the past year.
Its stats show a 150–200% increase in event-goers pre-loading cashless cards online – resulting in up to 50% of people now going to events without cards or wallets; ie fully cashless. Not bad for a country on the tip of Africa, where the market size is a mere 1/20 of the developed world’s.
Who is Howler?
Howler is a data driven event payment platform. The consolidation of several powerful events-and-entertainment platforms, Howler helps consumers and event organisers to “make moments that matter” – via cashless transactions and ticket handling, distribution, and access. Howler recently rolled out cashless technology in SA sports stadiums, beginning with PPC Newlands Cricket Stadium, which is now Africa’s first cashless stadium.
PlayPass confirms more cashless UK festivals and new capabilities
Brexit uncertainty has not inhibited the independent festival sector’s appetite for investing in NFC technology this year, as PlayPass prepares to deliver its busiest cashless festival season to date. Armed with a powerhouse of new innovations built to enhance sustainability, improve the festival experience for families with children and for integration with mobile apps the company has expanded its festival roster.
Joining the award-winning provider’s rapidly expanding client list, and going cashless for the first time, are the 10,000-capacity Lakefest in the Cotswolds, the trio of one-day festivals Smoked & Uncut, the inaugural London Dessert Festival at the Truman Brewery, and a large, high-profile music festival in the north of England that will be announced shortly.
Others already confirmed to make their cashless debut with PlayPass this year include We Are Fstvl, Black Deer, Merthyr Rising and last month’s triumphant Beat Hotel, which burst out of its original home at Glastonbury to become its own globe-trotting festival – first stop: Marrakesh.
2000Trees, which introduced PlayPass’s NFC cashless and access-control system last year and reported an instant 24% increase in spend-per-head, will be adding PlayPass’ accreditation and crew management solution to the mix this year. Having also been specified by AEG Presents’ British Summer Time in Hyde Park, We Are Fstvl and Black Deer, this system will streamline the registration and onsite management of non-customers and eliminate crew fraud across multiple festivals this summer.
Following a venture-capital fund investment last year and investing in a self-sufficient UK operation, PlayPass has underpinned its advances in the UK festival market with a set of game-changing enhancements to its cashless platform in line with clients’ requests.
New family accounts will enable parents to quickly and easily set up and then manage separate cashless wallets for their whole family group under a single user login.
“2019 is shaping up to be a truly exciting year for PlayPass”
Gamification is a fun application of the technology, allowing events to set on-site challenges for visitors to earn instant rewards that are automatically loaded to their wristband as credits or vouchers, to be redeemed on-site. This could be as simple as encouraging people to enter the gates early, or turned into a Pokémon Go-type game, incentivising visitors to visit multiple locations around the site.
A new click-and-collect system gives improved customer experience when on site and has proven to increase revenue by allowing visitors to purchase up-sells (products and access to premium facilities) before the event, in the same transaction as their cashless credits. These up-sell items can be loaded on to their wristbands and redeemed at an on-site collection point.
PlayPass technology is also helping events enhance their sustainability. At the simplest level the company can provide recycled wristbands, but more complex tech solutions for onsite cup and plate recycling are now available, as well as carbon travel cost offsetting and instantly rewarding visitors for being more green.
PlayPass’s technology is now seamlessly integrated into the leading festival mobile apps, including Aloompa, Greencopper and Buzznog, allowing event-goers to manage their cashless accounts, top-up funds, take part in gamified challenges and earn rewards for being more green, all in-app.
Steve Jenner, PlayPass’s recently promoted managing director for the UK and Ireland, comments: “2019 is shaping up to be a truly exciting year for PlayPass. We’ve grown significantly, been appointed by many renowned UK festivals and introduced new services that will increase both the financial profitability and ecological sustainability of our client events, whilst giving their visitors a much better experience.
“We look forward to a summer of ground-breaking case studies, working with many of the UK’s most progressive and visionary event producers.”