by Michael Shapiro | November 5, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, EIBTM's Worldwide Technology Watch judges named Sherpa Solutions' ActivTouch the tech-tool winner in this year's competition. ActivTouch, a mobile app for trade shows, is a relatively new entry in the field -- the company just wrapped up its third event. I wasn't previously familiar with ActivTouch, but I just had a chance to meet virtually with Sherpa's CEO, Jacques Racine, for a demo.
ActivTouch is a pretty slick app. One of its benefits is back-end integration with a number of suppliers, including booth-space management platform EXPOCAD, housing and travel software onPeak, exhibition company Freeman and several others. Attendees can sign in while using the app, and relevant data originating from those other platforms may be easily accessed. Currently, the app may be downloaded to run on the iPhone, or accessed via the mobile web for use with either the modern WebKit standard browsers or older Internet-enabled phones. An Android app is slated to be released in the first half of next year.
There's an app-wide search on the home page, so if you're looking for a specific speaker, attendee, exhibitor, product or whatever, you don't need to navigate a menu hierarchy to get there. Just enter the name or term in the search field. I also really like the app's “way-finding” functionality. If you come across an exhibitor or product in the app that you'd like to check out, you can bring up a map of the show floor, along with a highlighted route from your current location to the booth in question.
Similarly, the "Here&Now" feature can display location- and time-specific content based on your current location. The attendee simply enters, say, the name of a booth they're standing next to (Racine says that the GPS capabilities of most smartphones are just too imprecise to be of much use on a trade show floor), and Here&Now provides a list of exhibitors, products, sessions, keynotes and the like within 50, 75 or 100 feet. Because the feature takes time into account, the attendee won't see the sessions that happened yesterday, only those that are soon to begin.
ActivTouch was among a number of mobile tools that got the attention of the WWTW judges: Other finalists included Ootoweb and DUB, both of which offer mobile functionality. Nods also went to InXpo and Unisfair for their virtual event platforms. Consultant Corbin Ball, chairman of the judging panel, will officially present the winners at EIBTM in Barcelona, Spain, on Nov. 30.