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Wi-Fi glitch affects ride armbands at Florida State Fair

TAMPA — A Wi-Fi connectively glitch at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Sunday forced organizers to use paper tickets in addition to armbands.

Scanners to read a barcode on armbands worn by fairgoers were rendered inoperable at times because they could not connect to the system through the Wi-Fi signal.

“We had some connectivity problems in maybe 10 percent of the area, which we consider to be too much,” John Prestianni, Florida State Fair director of finance, said Sunday.

Two zones on the property were affected by the issue, Prestianni said.

Since this is the first year the fair has utilized scanable, bar-coded armbands, a contract that vendors signed addressed the possibility of such an issue.

“We wrote some things in the contract that gave us some discretion on how we were” going to handle any scanning problems, Prestianni said. “If we have a problem in a day, we can basically throw out that day and then use other days as a basis for that allocation. We're going to be as fair as possible. We have flexibility.”

On Sunday afternoon, ride operators allowed those with armbands to get on the rides, although armbands couldn't be scanned. Officials also utilized paper tickets to allow people to purchase rides.

The scanning system was tested prior to the fair setup and did just fine, Prestianni said. The size of the rides and the power drain couldn't be accounted for in the testing, he said.

Although the glitches cropped up on Day 4 of the fair, Prestianni said he is hopeful the issues will be soon resolved and the system will remain the long-term resource it was intended to be.

“In the long run we felt this is a big investment for us and we know it's a little bit of a struggle to start off,” Prestianni said. “Most technology has a little bit of a struggle (at first). One of the things this technology will allow us to do is to offer armbands everyday and that has been the biggest request and complaint we've had over the last I don't know how many years.

“We felt this was something customers really wanted. We're having a little trouble right now, but we're going to get through it.”

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