You may have just learned about NFC vs. RFID solutions, may be trying to decide which one is better for your event, or want to get a quick refresher. In any case, we will help you get up to speed in this quick guide! While both NFC and RFID can be used in wristbands, when event organizers compare the two, what they’re really comparing is actually using the attendees’ own devices versus the organizer-issued, static badges. As a result, we will mostly be comparing those two.

Differences in Technology

Both RFID and NFC were created and are primarily used as a way to easily store and transmit information between devices. It’s actually in the names themselves: RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, and NFC stands for Near Field Communication.

You can glean even more information from the name. RFID places an emphasis on identification, whereas NFC places and emphasis on communication. This means RIFD is very efficient at storing and processing simple information but at very large volume (think: product bar codes in a shipment container, which is a very common real world use-case for RFID). NFC, on the other hand, can store longer/more complex information, and has somewhat more flexibility when it comes to storing and interpreting information (think of the NFC technology installed in your phone, which can be used for both Apple Pay, Android Pay, or any other NFC tech).

In addition to emphasis — simple information at large volume in RFID vs complex, changing information in NFC — the two also differ in range and cost. RFID-tagged objects can be read through distances as long as 1 to 100 metres, depending on the setup. NFC on the other hand has a much more limited range of less than 1 centimetre to 10. Finally the costs: while these can range vastly, NFC shows a tendency to be more expensive than RFID. It is both more complex and a newer technology: RFID has been around since 1980, whereas NFC (which is technically a subset of RFID) since 2002.

Differences Event and Festival Use

Depending on your event or festival, NFC or RFID might be better suited to your needs. Here are some of the things you should consider when you’re thinking of implementing RFID or NFC:

Convenience

When you use NFC for cashless payments, specifically through smartphones, patrons must have their smartphones on their person at all times on festival grounds, which will not always be the case. In many instances, patrons leave their phones in tents or bring a cheaper handset in case of theft or loss. If this happens, patrons won’t be able to access the event and cannot make on-site purchases. Compared to this, RFID does not require smartphones or power to be used. Lost or stolen wristbands can be deactivated immediately and patrons are reissued a new one with their unique account ID information transferred to the new wristband.

Charging Stations

With all the photo-taking, video-recording, and social media interactions guests will use their smartphones for, their phone batteries are likely to deplete quickly, making NFC-enabled phones a more risky choice for all-day or multi-day events. Without battery charging stations, patrons will have difficulties making on-site purchases.

Signal

Platforms backed by NFC require a stable network to fully operate, and may experience disruptions when a reliable network connection cannot be secured. If your festival is taking place in a place that has easy access to data, NFC is a viable choice. But if you cannot guarantee a great signal for everyone, place your bet on RFID, because it will guarantee your festival keeps functioning even if there is a data outage.

Tracking and Reporting

NFC systems may not offer robust reporting options for vendors or event organizers. This ultimately affects transparency in vendor reconciliation and the bottom line for event organizers. With RFID, event organizers have complete control and transparency of all on-site transactions for vendor reconciliation. In addition to that, RFID gives you access to a wealth of guest spending and behavioural data for invaluable insight.

The Flow of Your Crowds

How big is your event? The bigger your event, and the more you have to plan for logistics, the more RFID starts to make sense. It often comes down to a simple question of distance and functionality. Giving your patrons RFID wristbands means they can simply walk through gates and don’t have to worry about tapping anything anywhere. With NFC-enables phones, patrons will have to come much closer and place their devices on each reader in order to get access to the venue.

Related articles