Glastonbury 2014: Music, pints and even the loos are going hi-tech at the festival this summer
This year's Glastonbury will be more connected than ever, with 4G coverage and phone charging for every festival-goer
Those standing in their wellies overlooking Worthy Farm will notice something change tomorrow morning; their smartphones will start to beep and buzz as a wave of 4G and 3G signal floods over the low-lying fields and hedgerows of Glastonbury.
With up to 200,000 music-lovers descending on the Somerset festival this weekend, the site is set to become one of the largest towns in the South-west for the next four days. This year, though, the temporary settlement known for mud and music will also be known for mobile signal as it gets connected like never before.
Mobile phone operators, including EE and O2, have thrown up hundreds of transmitters based on up to a dozen separate masts across the 1,200 site. The main player is EE, which is promising a comprehensive 4G service with a truckload of signal, from fives masts on the back of lorries, each carrying 100 individual transmitters.
According to EE the hope, and festival purists may not feel the same way, is that their 50,000 or so customers at the site can post more tweets, update more Facebook statuses and upload more Instagram pictures than ever before. It's something that EE's marketing director Spencer McHugh jokes is "unfortunately" something people not at the festival will have to endure with envy.
That's right, the smug social media posts won't end on Saturday morning as smartphone batteries die, either. The Festival Power Bar, new this year, adds to traditional charging tents – where punters queue for hours to boost their batteries – for EE customers. It costs £20 and once drained (after five hours of charge) can be swapped for a fresh one (at the appropriate tent).
Back on message though, he adds that festival-goers "enjoy sharing, posting and uploading their experiences like never before, and our super-fast 4G network and our new mobile charging solution, the EE Festival Power Bar, will make sure our customers can stay connected and share content quicker and easier than ever before".
Organisers at Glastonbury aren't too keen to talk about the corporate tie-in with EE, perhaps fearing that it might undermine the peace-and-love vibe of the festival. After all, new levels of mobile coverage at Glastonbury will do little to soften the blow of accusations that the festival is "the most bourgeois thing on the planet" (from Iron Maiden's frontman Bruce Dickinson last week).
Another more low-tech development is a new £600,000 investment in "super-loos" at the site. The 5,000 new long-drop composting lavatories, each costing £20,000, are lower tech that a 4G mast but they are the latest in eco-loos, and will eventually phase out environmentally dubious portable facilities on the Somerset site.
They won't require emptying during the festival, have been described as a "huge improvement" by organiser Michael Eavis, and use waste water from showers and washing, rather than mains water.
More obvious signs of the march of festival technology at Glastonbury will be the world premiere of David Attenborough's 3D Journey, which will be shown in the Greenpeace field on a giant 3D screen and includes previously unseen footage from seven of his award-wining films, including Flying Monsters 3D and Kingdom of Plants 3D.
A view of the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset
Another animal sight will be rather less orthodox and comes in the form of a "Highspeed Herd" of fibre-glass cows. They have been kitted out with 4G modems to allow passing music fans to log on and upload videos at key points around the Somerset farm.
The cows, modelled on Worthy Farm's own dairy herd and named Dolly, Daisy and Molly, have been decorated by festival artist Hank Kruger. Until now the artist has been known for decorating the steel drum bins around the festival ground. Earlier this week he said the "4G beasts" were the most "hi-tech" thing he'd ever worked on.
And after they have uploaded a shaky Dolly Parton video from a bovine hot spot, Glastonbury-goers will be able to celebrate with a hi-tech drink. Or more precisely a hi-tech purchase at one of the 25 bars on the site that will allow EE customers to pay for items up to £20 with a pre-registered app (dangerous after one toffee cider too many).
For the rest of us, there is another (less muddy) way to enjoy a hi-tech Glastonbury; the BBC has more staff at Worthy Farm than it does in Brazil for the World Cup. Just think of those wonderful BBC iPlayer videos they are creating. And you can watch them in the dry too.
Elsewhere, at this weekend's Goodwood Festival of Speed and at WOMAD Festival and Southampton Boat Show, other technologies will be playing crucial behind-the-scenes roles. After 21 people were crushed to death at Love Parade in Germany in 2010, many event organisers have been looking at increasingly advanced crowd-control systems.
One such system is Live Event Footfall Analytics from Etherlive, which uses a dedicated Wi-Fi network and specially installed cameras to run an advance algorithm for "seeing" a body and counting it – crucially – only once. Tom McInerney, the firm's director, says that as "crowds increase and site layout becomes complex", systems like this will become increasingly important.
Meanwhile, at Wimbledon, organisers are using Twitter to post tweets, pictures and votes on Henman Hill, and have signed a deal with video player Grabyo to provide live replays on the site. So if you haven't managed to get one of summer's hottest tickets, you can turn on, tune in and drop out without, it seems, even rocking up.
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