Electronic Ticketing & Barcode Access Control
Electronic ticketing has brought radical changes to the entertainment and event planning businesses. With electronic ticketing and barcode access control come challenges like easy duplication of tickets and unstable Internet connectivity at crowded venues. Fortunately, with invalidation of duplicate tickets, offline authentication, manual barcode value entry and database search, codeREADr can solve all of these problems for events and venues large and small.
We have created a guide to our smartphone app and web interface that’s specific to electronic ticketing. We hope this helps put into perspective some of the best ways to deploy codeREADr for barcode access control – whether using the most sophisticated features or the simplest ones.
Electronic ticketing companies or service providers would generally create one service for each event.
Online vs. Offline Services
Real-time services require good Internet access (either Wi-Fi or 3G/4G) at your scanning location. If you lose connectivity while scanning, the app will default to on-device recording as a backup. Consider that some venues have good Internet access but NOT necessarily at the doors or when lots of ticket holders are also trying to access the Internet simultaneously. Therefore, if in doubt, use codeREADr’s on-device services or bring your own, dedicated 4G Hot-Spot which can enable very fast connections for 5+ devices simultaneously. There’s a growing number of such low-cost devices on the market with month-to-month connectivity plans.
Note: Each codeREADr scan only posts 1kb of data up to the server and 1kb of data back to the device, so total data usage is quite low.
With an on-device database, scans are quickly validated against a database downloaded to iOS and Android devices because there’s no connection latency. What’s special about auto-sync is that scans from all devices are automatically uploaded (‘posted’) to a shared online database and the synced database is automatically downloaded to each device. The default setting for posting scans is every two (2) seconds. The default setting for downloading databases is every two (2) minutes.
Both processes are completed in the background so the person doing the electronic ticketing can keep scanning without interruption. If connectivity is completely lost, then the scans are queued and synced when connectivity is restored. Select the Auto Sync option on the Advanced tab when creating or editing your services.
Choosing A Service Type
Record Scans On-Device. This is the easiest service to deploy. Although this service type will not check for invalid or duplicate tickets, people may assume you are simply because you are making the effort to scan them. Of course, you should always visually examine each ticket to verify its authenticity. If Internet access is available, you can view scan data within the app and upload your scans to our servers after the event is over.
Validate Scans On-Device. Best for these scenarios: if Internet connectivity may be unstable at the event, if ticket sales are stopped before the event, or if all potentially valid ticket IDs are known in advance. With this service type, ticket IDs are uploaded to our servers and then to your devices before the event. Those purchasing tickets at the event can be directed to a different entrance, or be issued a unique paper ticket which is collected at the entrance.
If the event venue has multiple entrances and at least some Internet connectivity, an app user can periodically upload scans and download a new database to the device. This enables more accurate duplicate checking and capacity counting, resulting in better barcode access control.
Validate Scans Online. If you are absolutely certain you will have stable Internet connectivity at the event venue, this is the best choice. Electronic ticketing IDs will be validated against our servers and results are posted back instantly to the device.
Postback URL / APIs. Best for these scenarios: if an electronic ticketing company is selling tickets online (or via mobile) up to and beyond the start of the event, or if catching invalid or duplicate tickets is a high priority and the venue has multiple devices/entrances. Using our APIs or implementing Postback URL requires technical integration with the codeREADr platform.
Record Scans Online. Generally not used for electronic ticketing or barcode access control, unless you want to view scan data on the Web while deploying multiple devices.
When you create a service, you have the option to specify the duration it will appear on the device of an authorized app user. This can be especially useful when managing services for other companies or managing many events.
When Databases Are Needed
If you want to check for invalid or duplicate tickets during an event, you need access to a ticket database to associate with one of our validation services. You can easily upload a CSV file to codeREADr’s servers. (After logging in, just click the “Import / Export” tab on the Databases page.) You can also use our Postback URL service to access a database hosted on your own servers. (NOTE: Postback URL is an advanced feature which requires IT integration.)
Creating a Database
You can easily create a database for electronic ticketing or any other purpose with a basic text editor like Notepad or TextEdit. We’ve created detailed instructions for doing so. Each database can have two fields – the Value field (mandatory) and the Response field (optional).
Values are your ticket IDs. They can contain letters, numbers and even international characters. We generally recommend values of 20 characters or less for rapid scanning of small barcodes.
Responses are the text that will be displayed to an app user after scanning an associated barcode value. The app user has the ability to search values and response texts both on-device and online. Technically, responses are specific to each value, but you can make them the same for all values. Typical responses might include the event name, ticket holder name, venue, seat number, and even an email address or URL. Entering a ticket holder name as a response is particularly useful is the Name for searching and validating in case of a lost or forgotten ticket.
Creating App Users
For a single event, you will need to create at least one unique set of credentials for our smartphone application and grant them access to the service created for the event. You can create one app username and password for all expected to scan at the event, or you can assign a username/password to each employee for greater accountability.
For service providers or event managers handling multiple clients, you will need to create at least one unique app user per client. If you or your clients handle multiple venues, you will also need to create at least one username for each venue. Generally, the best and easiest method is to create at least one unique app user for each event.
Setting Device Limits for Barcode Access Control
For security purposes, we offer the ability to set a device limit for each app user. Otherwise, users can sign into our smartphone application on any compatible device. If you are sharing one set of credentials among multiple employees for an event, we recommend setting the device limit a few above your employee count in case extra scanners are needed.
Though not absolutely necessary, it can be helpful to name your devices for tracking purposes. After logging in, click the “Authorized Devices” tab on the Preferences page. For example, if one person is responsible for or always using that device, you could name the device after that person for tracking purposes. You can also name a device after the scanning function to be performed (“Will Call”, “Gate”, “Parking Lot”, “VIP Line”)
Some venues issue tickets by gate, line, color or other differentiation methods and may have a different entrance for advance and on-site purchased. If each type of ticket holder is scanned by a dedicated device, then duplicate tickets can easily be checked using on-device validation without syncing.
DATA COLLECTION FOR BARCODE ACCESS CONTROL
Creating Multiple Choice / Manual Entry Questions
You can create questions for an app user to ask ticket holders while scanning. After logging in, click on the “Create a Question” button on the Data Collection page. We offer the ability for an app user to manually enter information with a mobile device’s keyboard or tap an option on a multiple choice question. We recommend creating multiple choice questions over manual entry to keep from holding up a line while an app user types in a long answer.
With this feature, you can collect anything from demographic info (“What is your zip code?”) to a call to action (“Would you like to join the fan club?”),
Data collection results from a service such as electronic ticketing are appended to scan data when posted to our servers. If you are using our APIs or a Postback URL service, the receipt of this data could trigger an event, like sending a text message or email.
We strongly recommend using QR codes for access control whenever possible. Why? Tickets are increasingly being presented to scanners on the electronic displays of mobile devices. The easiest barcodes to scan from an electronic display are QR codes.
We recommend printing QR codes at 0.7” (17.8mm) to 1.0” (25.4mm) square, including a mandatory white border at least the size of one element of the code. The better the camera on your device, the smaller QR code it can scan.
When using a device with an auto-focus camera, our apps can read UPC/EAN, Code 39, Code 128 and other barcode types. Although they do not scan as quickly as 2D barcodes, both our scanning technology and smartphone hardware are improving on a regular basis.
For events scanning a large number of tickets in a short period of time, you may want to upgrade to our SD PRO scan engine. It still uses the devices built in camera but its much faster than our standard scan engine. You can also use a Bluetooth accessory or a PC or MAC with USB scanners. You have many options for scanning.
- Calculating Required Number of Devices: To calculate the number of devices you will need, assume an average speed of 10 tickets scanned per minute per device. Your needs will vary depending on the peak number of attendees that you forecast will arrive per minute and the maximum amount of time you want them to wait in line. For example, if you think 30 people a minute will arrive at the peak of your event and you want them to wait in line for a maximum of 1 minute, we suggest you deploy 3 active devices and a spare unit.
- Expected Battery Life: From our experience, most reasonably new and fully charged devices should be able to scan for several hours. After testing the 4th-generation iPod touch, it showed the 20% battery warning after consecutively scanning 2,500 tickets in 3 hours.* Consider getting an external battery pack which can be purchased for as little as $20.* Default brightness settings, Auto Next Scan disabled, Wi-Fi on, internal battery only
- Printing Tickets: Tickets should ideally be printed on smooth, non-gloss paper stock.
TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR BARCODE ACCESS CONTROL AND ELECTRONIC TICKETING:
- When scanning for barcode access control, make sure to practice! The most important thing is to keep your device stable and avoid shadows or glare on the target barcode.
- Sign in to the app and select the event’s service at least once before the event while you know you have internet connectivity. This procedure downloads the correct services and databases onto your device.
- Make sure to charge your devices before an event. To conserve battery life, keep display brightness as low as possible and disable Wi-Fi if you don’t need network connectivity during an event.
- Most devices can be set to never power down while scanning. But to save battery power, you can set the device to auto-lock after a certain duration when the device is idle. NOTE: On iOS devices, you can also use the Sleep/Wake button at the top of the device to put the device in sleep mode while saving the app’s state. Avoid using the Home button, as it will close the app.
- Smartphones usually try to connect via Wi-Fi before they try 3G/4G. If a device connects to a Wi-Fi router that isn’t connected to the Internet, then you may need to manually disable Wi-Fi on the device to switch to 3G/4G.
VIEWING SCAN DATA
After an event, you can use the app’s History button to view barcode access control data or connect to the codeREADr.com Website. After logging in, click on the Scans page. From the Scans page, barcode access control data can be sorted and exported by keyword, timestamp, service name, user name, device name and validation status.