On Business: SDCC RFID

By | Monday, February 22, 2016 Leave a Comment
I haven't seen much discussion about Comic-Con International starting to use RFID tags on their badges. There's basic info on their site here. The claim, which I'm sure is a genuine one, is that they're instituting this to combat counterfeiting. Especially now that they'll be shipping badges prior to the show, I can completely understand where they're coming from with this.

RFID has been likened to electronic bar codes. Where a bar code scanner can identify and track each item via a backend database, the behind-the-scenes of RFID works the same way. The primary difference is that bar codes need to be scanned visually, whereas RFID can be scanned remotely. (The "RF" does stand for "radio frequency" after all!)

Now, I haven't seen any technical specifications on the RFID tags Comic-Con will be using, but I strongly suspect they'll be what are called passive tags. That means that they'll only "activate" (for lack of a better word) when a scanner is looking for them. They're mostly just an antenna, and can only be detected from less than 20 feet away. That's why you have to pass through those security stands as you exit many stores -- those are RFID scanners checking to see if you have anything with a tag that wasn't deactivated at the checkout counter.

But here's an interesting potential benefit for the folks at Comic-Con. If they set up those scanners at the entrance of every panel room, not only would they be able to alert security of someone trying to sneak in without a badge, but they could track the actual population of each panel. Exactly how many people went to see this movie screening, or hear that celebrity, or attend that other panel. They wouldn't be able to act on this information immediately, but they could certainly use it for planning the 2017 convention as they would have more accurate and reliable data on which events were most popular and when. I don't know if they'll be actually be doing this or not, but if you do see those gates at room entrances, that's likely why.

If they further installed those security scanners at all entrances and exits, maybe through narrower hallways, they could potentially track any individual con-goer's movements throughout the day. Not to the extent of pinpointing exactly where they're standing at any point, but they might see when/where they entered a building or when they left for lunch or that kind of thing. The benefit of doing that for a single individual seems absurdly minimal at best, but if someone were to analyze everybody's movements in the aggregate, you could see broad traffic patterns with much greater granularity than the scenario I mentioned in the previous paragraph. This could be used to streamline overall traffic and, in theory, could help cut down on the congestion issues that we hear about every year. That would require setting up a TON of those security scanners throughout the entire facility, though, and would then require a boatload of data-crunching after the fact. It would be a fascinating experiment, but I doubt Comic-Con is going to roll out their first year with RFID tags and try to run with this option.

But I'll be interested to see exactly how Comic-Con ends up utilizing these new RFID-enabled badges. If you're going, keep an eye out for those scanners. Whether and how many you see will point to how much data they're looking to get out this and how much they'll try to utilize it.
Newer Post Older Post Home