Festival fans take a swipe at the 'Big Brother' wristband

Privacy fears over microchip that would replace tickets – and cash

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The Independent Culture

British festivals are to be dragged into the digital age this summer with the arrival of wristbands that will allow fans to enter music events and even buy drinks with a swipe of their arm.

Microchipped wristbands have been used in North America for several years and this summer will see them arrive on these shores. The manufacturers believe they will cut queuing, clamp down on fraud and even allow users to update their Facebook pages. Yet, regular festival goers have raised concerns over use of the “Big Brother” technology.

The organisers are remaining tight lipped about which festivals are set to pioneer the use of the technology in Britain, although it is understood one major event will announce on Tuesday as the first “fully contactless” festival in the UK.

Michael Eavis, the founder of Glastonbury, is considering using the technology at the festival next year, saying it seemed like “an incredible system”.

The wristband will include a microchip that will know the identity of the wearer and where they are on the festival site at all times as they move between “checkpoint zones”.

The chip uses technology that works similarly to an Oyster card. Some of the more advanced technology will allow punters to load up money and pay for their drinks.

Robert Langford, finance director of Solo Promoters, said: “It is a good fit for festivals. It can clamp down on counterfeiting and provide reliable audience counts, and people won’t have to carry huge amounts of cash. Everyone is really interested in contactless. It has been a big hit in the US and will follow in Europe.”

The microchip has been developed by a company called Intellitix, which has opened in the UK after securing a series of deals for its technology in North America. Others are working on similar kit.

Last year, over 1 million microchip wristbands were activated in North America at festivals including Lollapalooza in Chicago and Coachella in southern California. The first appearance in Europe was in The Netherlands at the Eurosonic Noorderslaag event.

Ruud Berends, organiser of the Eurosonic event said they brought the technology in as it allowed them to “reduce queuing times, gauge exactly how popular each band is, and to provide a range of interactive services for our delegates”.

Yet fears have been raised over the invasion of privacy over users having their data collected throughout their time at the festival. Mr Eavis admitted that it could make the festivals too commercial adding he “wouldn’t be happy” about using information about people.

Jon Midlane, 32 from London, a Glastonbury veteran who has been at the festival eight times, said: “At its most basic level it would make the festival easier, but on every other level I hate the idea; it is almost the antithesis of what a festival is about.”

He continued: “It smacks of consumerism, marketing and data collection. That is not why you want to go to festivals. I would find it bizarre as it seems a bit like a prison tag, a way of keeping tabs on people.”

Serge Grimaux of Intellitix said fans can “decide to stay anonymous at all times” adding: “The technology collects far less information than credit card companies and supermarkets do.”