The implementation of South Africa’s first cashless NFC system at the Oppikoppi Unknown Brother rock festival has been declared a success by organisors, merchants and system developers alike.

While teething problems are acknowledged, all parties agree that substantial progress has been made in providing an enhanced customer experience for festivalgoers, as well as reducing fraud and risks associated with cash management.

“When you consider that this turnkey solution was conceived, designed, developed, procured, integrated, tested and deployed within just eight weeks and at that among 15 000 festival goers and 60 merchants, then you get a sense of just what has been accomplished at Oppikoppi 2011,” says Herman Singh, CEO of Beyond Payments, innovators behind the festival’s NFC system.

The location of the festival in remote Northam in the North West presented its own environmental challenges. These included heat, dust, erratic supply of generator-enabled power and data congestion on cellular networks.

“The true measure of the success of the solution is that although a mobile ATM was deployed as a backstop in the event of total system failure, no one made use of the service,” Singh says.

“A festival without an ATM queue has to be a world first and may be the defining picture that starts to change the world of event-based payments,” he adds.

“One of the best things about the system was that bar losses due to theft were virtually brought down to negligible amounts,” says Carel Hoffman, president of Oppikoppi organiser Hilltop Live. “Additionally, we could see what the turnover was for each and every merchant, making planning for next year’s festival far easier. Finally, of course, the entire system was cashless, so all merchants could relax and concentrate on trading, as opposed to counting 20 cent pieces.”

According to Beyond Payments, the convergence of payments and technology, such as the ability to move and load cash from mobile phones as well as the adoption of mobile wallets, will see the rapid and continual revision and improvement of NFC payment systems in the near future.

“Our key learnings from Oppikoppi this year are that the public welcomes this type of cashless payment environment, that one needs to keep it very simple, that any improvement in response times is always appreciated, that preloading prior to the event is helpful and that this is a 24 hour a day operation,” Singh says.

“NFC is here to stay. We will take our experience and develop an enhanced system at Oppikoppi 2012.”