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by Michael Shapiro | July 8, 2011

With all the buzz about the big way location-based, geo-social apps are poised to enter our world of meetings and events, you might be wondering just how they're going to work. After all, GPS systems just don't function that well when it comes to, say, pinpointing an attendee's location inside a cavernous convention center. To be certain, event organizers and app developers have been brainstorming creative workarounds to the problem. But how is location-based technology going to take off on a grand scale?

While the majority of location-determining apps out there today are powered by GPS technology in the mobile devices, other, potentially more accurate types of positioning solutions are likely to become more prevalent in the industry, according to Asif Khan, the founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association. The technology Khan believes will be the most widely used is mobile carrier-based, and it's part of what's known as geofencing. "Basically," Khan explained in a recent interview, "every carrier knows, at any given time, where the mobile device is of that user, based on its IP address and triangulating its position off of cell towers." We're in the early days of its use for marketing now, and Khan believes we'll soon be seeing a lot more recommendations, messages, offers and the like pushed out using geofencing. "The beauty of that is there's no app required," Khan noted. "You know where the phone is, the consumer opts in and the message content is just pushed over SMS [text messaging]."

The third type of location-determining technology is possibly most applicable to conferences and conventions. This would be the category of "indoor GPS" or indoor location technologies. Wi-Fi-, Bluetooth- and ultrasound-based solutions fall under this heading; all require an investment in hardware to outfit the venue with the appropriate equipment. "This can be a lot more powerful," Khan explained, "because in some cases it can pinpoint the location of the individual to within two or three feet." Some retail and grocery chains are now experimenting with ultrasound technologies, pushing deals out to shoppers based on which displays they're approaching.

The benefits for trade show exhibitors, in particular, are clearly evident when it comes to marketing to attendees with such accuracy. With geofencing, though, attendees will have to opt in to receive text messages; with indoor location technologies, the facilities and/or event organizers will have to invest in a hardware infrastructure. And in both cases, perhaps the larger question is what kind of pushback are we likely to see from attendees? Several years ago, when RFID badges and rented mobile devices for networking became more popular, many decried their use on account of privacy concerns. Now that Foursquare, Facebook and the like have become more commonplace in general use, will attendees be more amenable to location-based recommendations arriving via their smartphones at conferences? Khan thinks so, as long as there is significant, relevant value associated with the messaging. How do you think your attendees will react?