Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/24/glastonbury_wi_fi/

Orange gazes into 2050 Glastoball

Futuristic festival of the future with Wi-Fi in your wellies and that

By Bill Ray

Posted in Mobile, 24th June 2010 11:38 GMT

Orange is celebrating 40 years of Glastonbury by imagining what it's going to look like in another 40 years (pdf).

Wi-Fi already blankets almost all the UK's music festivals, with some even allowing punters access to the internet from their sleeping bags, but Orange foresee greater leaps in tent-connectedness.

Virtual punters bouncing

It's strange how something that's perfectly acceptable in a muddy field looks idiotic on a sofa

By 2050 Orange reckons punters be wearing sensors to publicly display their mood – a kind of portable lie detector so people can see at a glance if a venue is relaxing, kicking or just boring. More worryingly (especially to those familiar with Lem's Futurological Congress) is the idea of drugging the less-responsive audience: "If they become overwhelmed or aggressive... a dose of a suitable pheromone [could] counterbalance the negative surge and make them feel more positive."

But at least Orange doesn't want to stop everyone sharing the festival experience. "Rather than having just one authorised broadcast of the festival, there will be thousands of micro-broadcasts from organisers and festival-goers", it says. Which should prove interesting to those trying to extract revenue from their performance.

That's already happening, of course, though mobile phone coverage at today's festivals is lamentable, and even where mobile operators are involved they tend to ensure 2G (voice) rather than data services.

One might hope for Wi-Fi, but that isn't a priority service, at least not yet. Some festivals do provide sponsored or free access, others outsource public Wi-Fi to a hotspot operator with attendant commercial issues, but for the organiser Wi-Fi is now an essential tool that security demands and traders expect.

Last year's Wi-Fi rig

Real wireless - back haul over 5GHz with a cheapo (light) licence

Womad is one festival that does provide Wi-Fi for punters, with festival-related content being free and users invited to pay a quid for unlimited internet access. At least that's what it cost last year - Etherlive (who provide the kit and connections) couldn't say if it'll be charging this year as the matter is still under discussion, which seems an endemic problem with Wi-Fi at festivals.

I want my MTV Wi-Fi

Not that the public is screaming out for it - last year 700 of the 43,000 attending Womad made use of it, but demand is growing and if the public isn't interested then the festival staff certainly are.

Rig head

Everything you need for a successful festival, circa 2010

This year at Womad, Etherlive will be providing seven CCTV cameras with live streams over their own Wi-Fi network (optimised using Ruckus kit), there's also connectivity for ticketing and the RFID system the company is testing for feeding staff at the event.

Then there are microphones around the edge of the site which constantly monitor, and report, on the escaping volume levels. That allows engineers to correct if the volume is too high, and provide mitigation evidence in the case of locals complaining.

As for the public, once they'd stumped up a quid they made good use of last year's connectivity with users averaging 90MB over the course of the event. Lots of Facebook updates we'd imagine, and perhaps some searching for information on water-borne diseases.

So not the "thousands of micro-broadcasts" that Orange predicts, though one can imagine it happening. Etherlive reckons that today the biggest traffic comes from antique fairs rather than music gigs – buyers photographing goods and sending pictures to mates for valuation, or uploading them straight to eBay.

All that networking consumes a lot of power, today the stand-alone kit is battery powered with grid and generators providing the supply. Orange reckons that by 2050 that's not going to be green enough for Glastonbury, and finishes with a puff for its electricity-generating wellies which should be generating enough power at that point to usefully contribute to running the main stage. ®

Power-generating wellingtons

You're never going to generate any power like that love - have a blast on this and start jumping up and down for gawd sakes