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RFID improves crowd control at Boston Pops fireworks display

07/24/09 | John R. Johnson | email

The annual July 4 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular requires a significant outlay for security in order to pull off the event each year. This year, RFID technology played major role in assuring that the extravaganza went off without a hitch. After a crush of VIPs created a logjam at the entrance to the event’s command center last year, the event producer relied on an RFID credentialing system to track VIP guests this year. RFID made for a smooth flow by validating the credentials of public safety officials staffing the command center before the big concert and fireworks display.

RFID Global Solutions, Inc. partnered with Fenwick Technologies, Inc., and Middlesex Community College to affix RFID devices to badges worn by authorized individuals. RFID Global Solution CEO Diana Hage says her firm produced 500 passive RFID badges. About 300 were distributed in the days leading up to the event. The rest were handed out that day.

“This credentialing solution is ideal for municipal, emergency and safety management organizations located in temporary or permanent facilities at large scale staged events,” says Joseph Leone, president and chief technology officer at RFID Global Solution. “It enables free flow access into and out of command centers, while permitting only those who have authorization to enter the controlled areas.”

RFID Global Solution played a small part in the previous two Boston July Fourth celebrations, but assumed a greater role after the event’s producer, B4 Productions, requested the credential-monitoring system. All 500 tags were produced at nearby Middlesex Community College, which offers courses on RFID technology. RFID Global donated equipment to the school’s lab in 2007. The July 4 celebration is broadcast live to 7 million viewers and is attended by more than half a million people.

Additional sensors working in unison with the RFID technology monitored authorized and attempted unauthorized passage. Indicator lights provided visual confirmation of authorized entry and warning of attempted unauthorized entry.

“I was very pleased with how the new credentials system helped us to improve access control and enhance security for the Boston 4 Celebrations’ Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular,” said Rich MacDonald, co-producer for B4 Productions. ”RFID Global Solution’s technology was the heart of this system.”

RFID technology is gaining momentum with people tracking and event management applications. UPM Raflatac supplied RFID inlays for access control at the European Youth Olympic Festival to be held this month in Tampere, Finland. The RFID-enabled badges will allow competitors access to accommodation, dining and competition venues, as well as free usage of the public transportation system in Tampere.

RFID technology is used at the Boston and Los Angeles marathons to monitor athletes, and the technology has also been used to monitor crowds at sporting events. Some school systems use RFID to monitor school busses and students. And many medical personnel are tracked at healthcare facilities so they can be located quickly in case of emergency.

“There are a lot of players in the access control badge sector, but this is a portable and near-term solution with a small choke point to walk through with readers overhead,” says Hage. “This is a portable access control solution for large scale staged events where you have a command center and control access to individuals and other VIPs and dignitaries.”

RFID Global Solution is also targeting groups like the Federal Emergency Management Association and the U.S. Department of Defense. Both entities stand to gain from the improved operational efficiency, security and public safety provided by managing access to sensitive areas without restricting the flow of key personnel. In addition, the system can reduce the need for access control security staff and eliminate the need to present identity credentials for electronic validation.

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