Barcodes ace RFID tags courtside

Australia's own grand slam tennis tournament, the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, may be showcasing the latest in RFID technology this week but the humble barcode still holds sway for spectator tickets.

Tennis Australia's IT manager Chris Simpfendorfer said he doesn't think RFID tags will replace tickets in the short term as "barcoding works really well". "Barcoding may be old, but it is effective and flexible; for example, customers can buy the e-ticket online, print it from the Web site, and bring it to the site," Simpfendorfer said, adding that barcoding simply "does the job".

This year's tournament, meanwhile, will see officials with RFID tags on PDAs demonstrate asset tracking when passing through a Melbourne Park marquee.

Simpfendorfer said Tennis Australia is investigating RFID applications presented to it by technology partner IBM to determine if the business returns add up.

"Asset management is there, but not for ticketing," he said. "We will also investigate the potential for [RFID] access control to the site."

That said, Simpfendorfer believes an RFID ticketing system would have some advantages over barcodes, like streamlining queues into events and monitoring the movements of attendees throughout spectator areas.

"It maybe there in the longer term, we'll see how we go," he said. This year's Australian Open IT infrastructure will utilize virtualization technology to consolidate its server requirements from 60 to nine.

IBM business consulting services' wireless leader, David Jones, said having an RFID tag on a PDA with a tag reader at a marquee can deliver asset tracking in addition to information, such as the person's name and favourite player.

"Interest has been expressed in tagging the tickets themselves and we've been talking to sporting and function organizers who want to collect more information about ticket holders and where they are going," Jones said, adding since an organization like Tennis Australia requires a massive amount of additional assets over a short timeframe, RFID can facilitate the management of such equipment.

"RFID is not being used by Tennis Australia, but we are looking at applying the technology to sporting events likes these," he said.

IBM is piloting RFID in two areas - asset management in real-time and replicated data for remote applications in utilities, distribution, and defence industries. Another application is in the retail industry from manufacture to point of sale. This, Jones said, applies well in the food industry where it can give produce visibility from when it's grown to when it's packaged.

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