Rings, Spiders, Horsetails, Fish and RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 @ 08:08 AM

Auto-ID Technology Used to Secure Boston Pops July 4th Celebration

Boston PopsI must admit, I often enjoy the small holiday celebrations held in my town more than the larger celebrations held in neighboring Boston.  Don’t get me wrong, events in the city can be spectacular and I’ve attended many First Night celebrations, Life is Good Festivals, fundraising walks and others. But there’s something to be said for smaller crowds, walking instead of driving or taking the train, and a nice hometown feel when it comes to celebrating holidays like Memorial Day or the 4th of July.

I’m not the only one with crowd issues when it comes to the large events.  The Boston Pops Fourth of July concert and its famous rings, spiders, horsetails, fish and other amazing fireworks displays attract over 500,000 visitors.  Over the years, this two-day event at the city's Esplanade along the Charles River has grown to be one of the United States’ largest Independence Day celebrations.  So how does one manage crowd control, traffic flow and the safety of this many audience members?  Enter 20 federal, state and local agencies- and RFID.

Beginning in 2008, Boston 4 Productions (B4) - the management company in charge of the Boston Pops event - implemented a UHF RFID system to manage access to the event’s command and control center.  The system included RFID portals placed at the command center entrance and exit and Gen 2 RFID tags embedded in authorized staff members badges.  In 2009, the system was enhanced to provide a longer RFID read range and integration with other security solutions including video cameras, pressure sensitive floor mats, and red and green stack lights used to indicate whether a person entering the room was authorized or not.  The enhanced system also read RFID badges as personnel exited the command center, providing presence data that could be analyzed to help determine how often specific agencies or individuals accessed the center or other areas of interest.

By all measures, the system has proven successful. Compared to previous years, being able to quickly identify authorized personnel has not only increased efficiencies by proving a higher level of secure access to restricted areas, but it has also reduced manual efforts needed to validate credentials and the associated cost of hiring security personnel to monitor the command center doorways.

I’m sure the 2011 Boston Pops’ Fourth of July concert will be a smashing success.  I’ll be thinking about the large crowds and massive management efforts needed monitor and secure the area (with the help of RFID) as I lay back and enjoy the small town fireworks show launched from our high school ball field.

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