Google I/O FORTRESS: Sold-out dev conference is in LOCKDOWN

Guards, metal detectors, badges, wristbands, QR codes, photo IDs ... whaa?

Google I/O This year's Google I/O conference hasn't even formally kicked off, but attendees who arrived early to pick up their badges on Wednesday got their first look at the peculiarly formidable security at this year's event.

For reasons unknown, security at I/O 2015 is tighter than at any other conference this Reg hack has seen at San Francisco's Moscone Center – and believe me, there have been a lot. Not even Larry Ellison's appearances at Oracle OpenWorld have been this locked down.

Attendees were first herded around to one entrance at the end of the Moscone West building, where they were told that they needed to have both their Attendance Confirmation emails (with their accompanying QR codes) and their government-issued IDs out and visible before they'd be allowed to enter.

With appropriate credentials verified, they were then allowed to proceed to the registration desks, but not before moving through a bank of proper metal detectors, like you see at airports or government offices.

Uniformed private security were on hand to search attendees' bags, which were presumably packed full of metal gadgets.

Past the security gate, attendees were allowed to queue up to present their IDs and receive their badges – assuming, that is, they had followed directions and submitted a headshot photo by the deadline. All badges this year have the attendee's photo printed directly on them.

Somewhat annoyingly, however, the badges also come with a QR code printed on them. Anyone who scans the code will be able to read not only the name associated with the badge, but also the email address. Not sure I remember signing up for that feature.

There was another twist this time around, too: the badge isn't the only thing they'll need to enter the conference. There's also a wristband, the color of which determines where they'll be seated during the keynote address. We're not sure, but we strongly suspect there is some kind of chip inside the "buckle" of the wristband.

A second, more traditional plastic wristband was also handed out, which grants admittance to the post-event party on Thursday.

Event staff put on both wristbands right then and there, during registration. We were all told that if we took them off, we would no longer be allowed back into the conference, even with our badges. That's right; entry to Google I/O this year has two-factor authentication!

Whether we'll ever know the reason for all this fuss remains to be seen. A few sessions at last year's show were interrupted by protesters, so perhaps the Chocolate Factory is simply taking no chances.

The increased hassle has done little to dull the show's popularity, though. General admission tickets cost $900 and academic tickets are $300, yet interest was still so high this year that Google only handed out invitations to buy tickets using a random lottery.

The conference keynote kicks off at 0930 on Thursday morning and continues through Friday. ®

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