Smartphone Shambles: A review of Samsung’s ‘Smart Ticket’ technology

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On Monday 28th October Samsung launched their new ticketing platform Smart Ticket with an inaugural concert at Guildford’s G Live, courtesy of Biffy Clyro (a review of which can be found here). Promoted as a means to circumvent touting, encourage ‘cashless’ payments at bars and serve as a hub for digital media, the service ditches the customary paper ticket.  This is replaced by an app which stores your guarantee of entry behind a lock that can only be unbolted through a combination of your phone number and a unique four-digit PIN. The technology has been dubbed ‘revolutionary’; well, if you believe the press statements. But how ‘revolutionary’ is it really? Well, about as much as Russell Brand.

Now, I’m sure Samsung have good intentions, but someone really needs to tap them on the shoulder and tell them about a fella named William of Ockham. You see, over the years people have grown rather fond of paper; since teaming up with ink back in 23rd century BC, paper has really proven itself to be a particularly reliable tool for carrying information. For example, paper doesn’t crash or have to be constantly connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot; this makes it incredibly useful for when speed and dependability are of the imperative, such as when getting 1,500 people out of the cold on a brisk October evening in Guildford.

With that in mind, here is a list of five ways in which Samsung made their product name the painful target of some quite effortless irony.

To emphasize Smart Ticket‘s shortcomings I have also decided to imagine a world where the issues faced by Guildford’s app-wrestling crowd were similarly encountered in a conventional paper-lavished queue. Some of the following situations are relatively contrived, others break the boundaries of reality.

1: Getting in had all the finesse of a self-service checkout

Not satisfied with merely falling at the first hurdle, Smart Ticket decreed its duty to plunge headfirst into the obstacle with vigour. Tickets were verified by the concert-goers’ phones being scanned against a staff member’s own provided Galaxy S4; if this process ran smoothly you could be waiting for only 7-8 seconds for the scan to complete. This is only about 6-7 more seconds than if the door security were ripping stubs off tickets like at a normal concert, allowing for what the press release calls ‘quick and seamless access’.

However, this was only a minor hindrance in comparison to the sufferings of a substantial number of others. Samsung’s ticket-scanning technology utilised a wireless platform known as Near Field Communication (NFC) and by near it meant really bloody near. So near, in fact, that if the phones’ NFC chips were centimetres apart, the connection between the two devices would fail and the process would have to start again. Considering that these NFC chips are internal components and the staff were attempting to initiate connections with devices of various models and designs, some phones occasionally had more difficulty communicating to each other than a couple nearing the end of a bitter 20-year marriage. These unlucky few were sent to a help desk where they would try and commence the drudgery again with other devices, usually to no immediate avail. 15 minutes or so later, they were granted ‘quick and seamless access’.

Meanwhile, in Paper World…

“I’d really like to let you in sir, but sadly I can’t read. However, if you queue at the help desk one of the assistants may be able to decipher these strange symbols which are present on your piece of paper.”

2: The Wi-Fi was intermittent…and you needed the connection to show your ticket. Twice.

After making it through the world’s most interactive tribute to Franz Kafka, the audience were greeted by the only situation which could possibly be any more Kafkaesque; pretty much the same situation happening again. This barrier was slightly easier on the soul as you simply needed to present your ticket rather than have it re-scanned, however for many who had thought they could now forget about their phones for the night this meant they had to once again reload the app and then do that weird dance people do when they’re trying to find signal; you know, the one where it looks as though they’re offering their phone as a sacrifice to the Gods in return for some 3G coverage. This lead to further delays in the pursuit of ‘quick and seamless access’.

Meanwhile, on Paper Island…

“Ah shit, my paper ticket has disappeared in to the ether as I walked down the stairs. I hate it when that happens.”

3: ‘Cashless’ payment doesn’t make anything safer when you have to carry a £300 smartphone around with you everywhere.

You know the feeling. You go to a concert, you leave a tenner in your pocket, then the crowd gets a bit lairy, you get pushed around and then the next time you reach for it it’s gone. It puts a dampener on your whole night – when you get home you have to let all your friends know via Facebook that for a while you won’t have a £10 note, you chase up the insurance and see if and when they’ll be able to send you a new £10 note, then you have to call up Vodafone and have them…oh, hang on.

This idea is considerably dangerous for two reasons. Firstly, literally everyone knows that each member of the audience is in possession of an expensive electronic device, as if fitted with the enhanced vision of a pickpocketing Terminator. Secondly, with the incessant coercion by businesses to link everything to Facebook, connect your PayPal account to apps, etc. it’s unknown just how much data an unsavoury fellow could be able to scoop up on you before you’re even able to report your phone as missing; that might explain why when you got home to report the theft to Orange you were legally dead.

Meanwhile in Paper-on-Trent…

“Oh fuck, I just dropped my wallet, my phone, the deeds to my house, my birth certificate and my own face.”

4: The ‘cashless’ machines didn’t even work.

Once I entered the auditorium, I didn’t dare leave for the bar in the fear that I would not be allowed back in again; however as I sipped on some refreshing tap water after the conclusion of Biffy’s set, I was politely informed by a member of staff that the bar gave up trying to work out the machines and just used cash instead.

Meanwhile in Paper Mario World…

“How do I pay?”

“No.”

5: Your +1 was named and could not be changed.

Although this eliminated the possibility of touting entirely it also proved to be a massive pain in the back-hole; as tickets were exclusively available through ballot and could only be purchased in pairs, this meant that the ticket-buying process was accompanied by a manic ringing of friends, knowing that if I did not find a mate who could reply to their texts within the next 15 minutes I was probably going to the miss the show too. Think Ticketmaster meets 24. The issue was also exacerbated by the weather’s decision to go fucking HAM the evening beforehand, disrupting or downright cancelling many people’s plans to travel down; this resulted in a plethora of unused tickets and £35-shaped holes in bank accounts.

I understand that this method was used to make touting for the show completely impossible but surely it’s just a bit overkill; forcing ticket-buyers to produce an ID and card with their proof of purchase curbs the majority of touting, and even if some still slip through the net, it’s worth it just to witness the icy encounters between someone who has knowingly made a person pay £140 for a Muse ticket and that very person.

Meanwhile in Papier-Machu-Picchu…

“I would give you my ticket but I’ve stapled it to Tom’s ear, sorry.”

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I write about music. When not at gigs I like to spend my time being annoyed that I'm not at a gig. UPCOMING // Takedown Festival

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