Technology Trends

2014 Summer Festival Tech

Summer is coming to an end and with it the summer festival season – it was a good run… In this age of the mobile device and the “Internet of Things” we’ve noticed a marked increase in technology at these festivals from magnetic ID bracelets to GPS enabled social apps. Is the future finally here?

Wearable Festival Technology

For anybody that has been to a Korean Spa the concept of magnetic ID bracelets will seem very familiar. These handy devices are tied to your user identity and, importantly, your credit card. They can be used to pay for anything in the spa, from food to a foot rub, by simply passing your wrist over a scanner and waiting for the gratifying confirmation “BEEP.”

This year Bonnaroo employed similar, though less enabled, wristbands. The added kicker was that there was a distinct caste system defined by the color of your functional fashion accessory. Artist’s passes had a much sought after green or light blue color. Wearing the correct wristband gave you access to the areas of the festival grounds where you were allowed to be. This proved to be a very easy to manage system and I’m sure cut down on the amount of oversight and gate-crashing that occured during the 4 days we were in Tennessee.

However, the wristbands were not enabled for purchasing food and drink from the countless awesome vendors on the grounds. This seemed like an obvious miss, but maybe there were security concerns. Tens of thousands of multi-colored exposed wallets floating around on peoples wrists might have been too tempting for those less scrupulous attendees among us (not that there were many there…that we saw). Lollapalooza tested credit card enable wristbands this year with a personal pin entry system at the vendors point of sale – seems like they may have solved the security concerns.

Festival Apps pulling it all together

There are a few obvious difficulties when it comes to navigating any festival as large as Bonnaroo: schedule, location, and where the hell are my FRIENDS!!! The Bonnaroo Mobile App did a nice job of providing solutions to all these things. On top of displaying the full schedule in both list and calendar view the app allowed you to add shows to your personal schedule and set notifications to alert you when your shows are about to begin. When you’re deep in the fray at one of these events, the notifications come in very handy…

The interactive map plotted your exact GPS location on the festival map through the power of Google Maps and allowed you to filter waypoints to display food and beverage vendors, music locations, and more. On top of that you could add your friends to your map if they granted you permission. This last one is better in theory than it is in practice since it relies on your friends either opening their Bonnaroo App at regular intervals or physically checking in at venues with their magnetic IDs. This once again proves the maxim that nobody (including myself) wants to actually DO anything, but they want the technology to magically work anyway.

The App had a couple other nice features that we used a bit like a Bonnaroo Radio Station for instance, but the big three were the schedule reminders, location services, and friend finder.

In Conclusion

While there have been some bold strides forward the future is still just over the horizon. Maybe next year…