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RFID and Cashless Payment: Intellitix Founder Not Interested In Ticketing


Intellitix-logoBy Kat Drucker (@kitkat5656), event consultant and conference programming for and Digital Media Summit.

Sitting down in Quebec City with Serge Grimaux, founder of Intellitix, I intended to discuss ticketing and the social media integration potential of RFID. Knowing about the success of last year's Ford sponsorship at Bonnaroo (See Video) and having heard that the company had migrated into my list.

"We're doing cashless payment at an event tomorrow… they forgot to print one of the two codes on the single day wristbands. We have 24 hours to build a system that will allow people to select a pin code." He explained his silent greeting with his phone still in his hand.

As
Serge later elaborated, cashless payment had been one of his main goals when he
started testing RFID technology.  “You’re
at a festival and you leave money in a tent, or get robbed…”  The cashless technology allows people to
load-up and re-load, or simply connect their credit card with their
wristband. 

Enabling
an event to operate without cash seems like a risk.

“If
all our connections and back-up connections somehow fail, the system still
operates and keeps a log.  Once it goes
back up, it charges the credit card if its connected, or deducts the amount when
the person re-loads.

And
if the person doesn’t re-load?

“I
pay for it; this is the insurance policy I offer.  This is how much I believe in the system”

image from farm7.staticflickr.comExplaining
the full potential of RFID has been a challenge from many aspects. Difficulties
of communicating with festivalgoers to connect their wristbands for
identification and social media integration, and the lack of understanding from
the music industry of the technology have delayed Serge’s original vision.

One example was at a festival where paramedics
couldn’t figure out what was wrong someone who had no wallet, phone, or any
form of identification. 

“The police called us because he was wearing his
wristband.”  Intellitix was able to get
in touch with his parents through the data on the RFID chip.  “It turned out he was in a diabetic coma and
was rushed to the hospital.”

Finally
asking about social media at events, I yet-again uncovered an entirely
different story.

“How
many times can you check-in? It’s boring!” Serge explained.  “Its about connections, connect with people.”

In early 2008, Serge had visited his daughter at college where she spent a significant amount of time on Facebook. Having been intrigued by the live-time technology of RFID early on, something clicked as his daughter used the words people want to“digital community” to explain the social network.

Returning
home to Prague and writing a business plan try RFID technology at events in
Europe, things didn’t quite go as planned.

“I
was promoting exhibitions…Like Bodies the
Exhibition
and Titanic the Exhibition.
 In October, 2008 I asked Daniel Gélinas, (General
Manager, Festival D’ete du Quebec
) to come take a look in Montreal.”

“I exhibited
(at Festival D’ete) in 2009 with Bodies
the Exhibition
and there was something like 11 different colors of paper
wristbands … people would walk through the gates holding their arms up in the
air!”  Serge smiled. 

Thinking
the fans were doing “some kind of silent cheer”, Serge grew to understand that
the festival had access issues getting 100,000 people through the gates in time
for the headliner – in the dark. 

“I
looked at Daniel and said ‘you can fix this with RFID’, and he looked at me and
asked if I would do it…we both have a promoter background, when you say you’re
going to do something and you shake hands, you have to do it. If I could do it
for 155,000 people, I can do it for anyone.”

Going
back to his day-to-day in Prague, Grimaux received an e-mail from Goldenvoice
VP Skip Page asking if he was the person that “did that event in Canada”.  Sitting in LA several days later with Skip,
Paul Tollett, and Bill Fold, Serge proceeded to tell the team behind Coachella all
about the potential of RFID. 

“They
listened very nicely, nodding their heads, and let me finish” he laughed.  “And then told me what they really wanted to
know about was access control”.

image from www.infofestival.comWhile
most Intellitix clients are familiar with the access control solution, and many
are years away from understanding some of the additional possibilities, Louis
Bellevance, the Programming Director for Festival D’ete pointed out another
advantage that is overlooked by even Serge;

“I can see in real time how many people are on
every site and in every venue. As I can’t be everywhere at the same time, this
is the best tool I have to monitor our success in real-time.” 

Reaching
out to several other promoters to understand how they’ve used the technology, I
discovered that there may be some competition with ticketing and event
companies working on their own RFID integrations.

“Look
at the crane down by the stage.” Serge replied to my inquiry about the
situation.  “Does it mean that the
festival should get into the crane business? No it doesn’t. Stick to what
you’re good at.”  As a service provider, Intellitix
has no intention of competing with ticketing companies and isn’t concerned
about potential competition looking far beyond the company’s initial start in
music festivals.

“There
aren’t that many Coachella’s in the world, you have to do more.”

With
success stories from festivals all over the world and the company growing,
Serge Grimaux has his sights set on brands, conventions, and sports. Potential
competition and misconceptions about what Intellitix does doesn’t seem to phase
him as he rushes off to take his next call.

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