Music Festivals Need An IoT Tune-Up
Sean McGowanJune 23rd, 20174 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
I don’t mean to make you feel old, but we’ve reached a point where there are people alive right now that do not remember a time without smartphones. There are children, teenyboppers, and even some of the younger millennials, who don’t know why the iPhone’s phone icon looks like that, why Microsoft Word’s save icon is shaped so weird (floppy disk? What’s a floppy disk?), and how in the world people got around without Google Maps.
It’s easy to poke fun, but there’s nothing especially problematic about growing up in a tech-driven time. Still though, it would be an interesting experiment to take our smartphone-obsessed youth and place them in a situation where that tech doesn’t exist, or where it’s obsolete.
We don’t have to imagine this, because this experiment already exists, disguised as another pillar of youth culture: the music festival.
Often held in cramped city venues (Ultra, Rolling Loud), or rural towns (Glastonbury, Bonnaroo), millennials flock to these multi-day bacchanals of music, food, and drink only to find their phones don’t get service in Nowhereville, or that the place is simply too packed to even send a single text message.
The result is chaos. You may has well have dropped young Hayden or Jayden or Kayden in the middle of the 1950’s. Teens get separated from their friends, and aimlessly wander the venue for the rest of the fest. Maybe they find themselves tethered to a charging station, missing their favorite acts.
The music festival needs a tech upgrade, and the Internet of Things is just the catalyst to do it. Here’s just a few IoT applications to make the concert experience more manageable.
Already multi-day affairs, an increasing number of festivals are expanding their lengths to pack more artists, more events, and more people (Coachella is now three-weekends long!). As a result, the festival attendees are forced to inhabit the festival’s campgrounds, usually a woefully uncomfortable environment.
While camping in general can be a fun, relaxing activity, music festivals aren’t exactly renowned for featuring the most accommodating campgrounds. Some however, like Glastonbury, are trying to change that.
Glastonbury is the United Kingdom’s largest and most popular music festival, held in the sleepy village of Pilton (just 40 miles from Bristol!). This year Glastonbury debuted the world’s first “smart tent”.
Glastonbury & EE’s “Smart-Tent” (complete with VR capability!) (Source)
Featuring 4G connectivity, a smart fridge, voice-controlled lighting, live streaming of all festival performances, and solar-powered foot warmers, it’s a completely excessive, self-indulgent display. But it does herald an era where festival camping doesn’t have to be the unpleasant or uncomfortable experience it’s known for.
Mat Sears, the director of communications at the company behind this super-tent, acknowledged this, saying “While camping is a massive part of any music festival, it's not always the most comfortable experience, so we wanted to create a 4GEE Smart Tent that tested the latest tech-inspired comforts.”
While this clearly won’t be implemented on a larger scale anytime soon, if even just a few of the features— WiFi for instance, or remote charging—were integrated with the greater campground, it would seriously change the game for festivalgoers.
"The on-site 4G network we're providing to Glastonbury revellers this year is the most powerful we've ever put in” Sears continued. “And [it] will help create the ultimate connected camping experience.”
One Wristband To Rule Them All
First rule of festivals: pack light.
With attendees constantly migrating between stages and food trucks and tents, it’s a nightmare to lug around a backpack or purse, especially in the hot summer months these festivals are held in. Nobody wants to dance with a Jansport full of your friend’s wallets strapped to their back.
Tech companies are looking to alleviate this problem by integrating the necessary items on a festival checklist (i.e. ticket, debit card, ID) into a simple piece of wearable tech that’s already commonplace for most music fests: the wristband.
Smart wristbands from Austin City Limits (Source)
Using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, festival attendees can link their credit or debit cards to a band securely fastened around their wrist. That means seamlessly paying for food, drink, or merch without a wallet, allowing you to grab your goods and get back to the concert.
This sort of swipeless payment system isn’t just beneficial for the festival attendees—Tom Russell, who helped integrate this technology at NYC’s Governer’s Ball festival, said:
“Early data shows that consumers are spending more when cashless technology is available… My prediction is that every major festival in the US in 2016 will offer some sort of cashless program or technology to attendees.”
In addition to this cashless payment system, the wristband could double as a ticket, eliminating the nightmare of forgetting your festival passes at home. In fact, an RFID chip is just the tip of the iceberg for wearable concert tech.
While we’re modernizing the festival wristband, why not inject some technology to provide concertgoers with a more engaging experience? That’s the question Lightwave asked, then answered by offering audiences a wristband at the SXSW music festival.
This was no ordinary bracelet—Lightwave’s bands contained biometric sensors that measured audience interaction in real time, tracking stats like motion, temperature, and the volume of the sound reaching them.
Lightwave then linked these bands to specific users, and ranked their level of interaction on a screen in the venue—certain levels of dance interaction scored you rewards from Pepsi, and other companies that partnered with Lightwave.
This is just one example of using tech to further engage audiences with the festival experience. In time, companies will be sure to devise new and innovative ways to go beyond a simple concert.
If there’s a single sector the needs an IoT upgrade, it’s the music festival. We’ve blurred the line separating the physical from the digital in almost every other industry, yet when millennials pay a pretty penny to see their favorite bands, they find themselves in a strange land that renders their trusty tech useless.
The Internet of Things offers real, tangible extensions of the digital realm. From tents and wristbands, to subways and kitchens, app development agencies that can leverage these technologies are going to pave the path forward for IoT.