Cashless Payment System Fails at Download Festival

The Cashless Payment System at the Download rock festival is the first major UK festival to test the a cashless method of transactions.

download festival 2015
Photo by: Lewis Kirton-Smith

The organisers advertised the new systems on the website:-

We can’t trust Download Dog anymore so the festival is going absolutely cashless this year – the first major UK festival to do so. Which is pretty epic.

Not only will it reduce queues for the bar and food stalls, it removes the faff of cash and makes security on site even tighter.

How? We’re introducing Dog Tags, a payment system that will work across the whole festival.

To use the system you have to go to:- < ahref="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" >

The RFID Dog Tags Info and FAQ’s:-

The idea is that you can easily top-up money online, before or during an event. The system then allows any remaining balance to be refunded after the event.

Download Festival Cashless Payment System
Photo by: Wenn

However the Daily Mail reported the “New system branded ‘useless’ and ‘a complete joke’ by revellers” and this at a time when application development companies like Chameleon are moving towards clients using systems with no cash.

The problems being faced were:-

Topping up system not available due to systems crashing.
Attendees added cash to system 48 hours in advance finding no money on their account when the barcode is scanned.

Why Did The Cashless Payment System Fail at The Download Festival?

The payment system was using payment-enabled ‘Dog Tags’ which are designed to speed up transactions, reducing the queuing and to combat crime at festivals. The problem was that the system crashed leaving the festival attendees hungry and thirsty.

Systems are tested fully before they go live but it is very difficult to test in the same volume that actually happens when live.

Possible reasons the system failed:-

1. The api wasn’t build to service so many people in a short period of time (testing potentially on a few dozen people and thought that it would simply upscale to thousands).
2. They didn’t respect the fact that at a festival phone signal is a premium and can’t be relied on.
3. They didn’t develop a system that still functions off line and then simply logs the transactions for when signal is restored. Then it’s not disrupting the service.
4. Their servers were not scalable for peak usage.

It is always recommended to do a soft launch in a few areas first to test the system. Then slowly roll it out section by section and then you have proof the system can cope with the large demand when required.

download festival 2015 fans angry

The organisers where attacked with angry messages on both Twitter and Facebook and this will have a negative effect on the organisers trust.

A spokesman for Download Festival commented Download’s new ‘cashless’ RFID system has encountered some minor technical issues, affecting around 1% of attendees, which has resulted in extended queuing times at some information points.

When the payment system starting to come online the servers should be hitting low utilisation rates and then as more people come to use the system, i.e. more transactions taking place the server load will increase.

The problem it seems here is that the system failed to cope with the load. This is a huge embarrassment for the first cashless festival and we wonder what damage this has done in terms of trust as the future of money is changing. This week Apple announced their system called “Apple Pay” for the UK market.