How festivals are at the frontier of tech


If you are reading this you’re unlikely to be at Glastonbury but with all the talk of weather, wellies and wicked tunes it got me thinking, are festivals all about flower power or something more?

Over 175,000 people are due to descend on Worthy Farm in Somerset this weekend and for many of them the top priority on their minds, after the music, finding the bar and loos, is connecting to Wi-Fi. This year mobile operator EE, has created WiFi-enabled hedges, shaped like some of the festival’s main stages, to boost signal coverage for festival goers who are expected to send around 15 terabytes of data. That is a lot of phone calls, messages and social media posts — one wonders when people get time to actually listen to the music!

Offering Wi-Fi isn’t the only technological advances that can be found at festivals these days. Tomorrowland, which is an annual outdoor festival, issues tickets in the form of “wearable tech” wristbands that feature many exciting capabilities. The wristbands employ personal ticket information, allowing attendees to simply scan their way onto the festival grounds. Not only does this save paper, as well as decrease instances of ‘lost tickets’ and subsequent lines at the Help Desk, but it gives festival-goers one fewer thing to worry about during the weekend. In addition, these wristbands can facilitate a ‘cashless’ environment, where all money used to buy food/drinks and merchandise is uploaded to the wristband itself, again shifting the focus back to the music and experience. Coachella, the annual music festival that takes place in California, also offers RFID wristbands to festival goers. In the future it is more than likely the wristbands will be used for datamining, allowing brands and advertisers to target festival goers.

And it doesn’t stop with wearable tech. You can now also live Coachella in virtual reality. By using an app you can experience the festival without attending, but you do need a VR headset.  This isn’t the first time a music festival has embraced the emerging advancements in technology; last year, Lollapalooza Berlin hosted a team-up of Sony Music Entertainment and Wowza for a 360-degree virtual reality live stream. It won’t be long until anyone with an Oculus Rift or VR setup for their phone will have the opportunity to be transported into the festival experience from the comfort of their couch, reaching for the popcorn instead of reaching for the rain jacket.

Along with flowers in your hair, it would seem tech will be everywhere at festivals for years to come.