When I first wrote
about the coming radio frequency identification phenomenon, the
industry was predicting that using RFID for tracking attendance,
lead retrieval, show-floor traffic patterns and attendee locator
services would change how we think of our name badges and how we go
about capturing data on-site. For the most part, this has been
From the early days, the adoption of
RFID has grown, but mostly for larger shows. The primary obstacles
are affordability and flexibility of users.
Badge costs have come down from more
than $2 each to as low as 40 cents for the basic tracking.
Different types of technologies are used: passive (wherein the work
is done by a reader and the badge carries a small amount of
information) and active (the badge contains a small battery and is
transmitting its signal).
Confidentiality concerns have been
addressed in a number of ways. For example, a passive badge can be
read only by a handheld or unattended reader that has been
activated and set to read the data. In some cases, these passive
readers are connected via a wireless network that verifies and
authenticates information before it is displayed. However, these
can be very expensive and also somewhat unreliable due to the
various components involved.
The active RFID technology at first was
considered undesirable because cell phones, personal digital
assistants or notebooks with infrared capability were able to
access the information being transmitted and, in one case at an
international conference, track an attendee’s location. This
concern has been addressed by setting up the active RFID signal so
that it is looking for a corresponding response signal before it
actually transmits any information, so that an individual’s
information contained on a badge cannot be read by anything other
than a properly configured device.
One provider, SMART-reg International
(www.smart-reg.com), based in Palo Alto, Calif., has
introduced several services packaged around its All in the Badge
product, which is a badge that can be configured to hold up to
1,000 characters of information. These badges can be touched to a
reader to display the attendee’s agenda, which in turn can be
printed from a local printer or used to control attendance at
sessions by basically marking off the attendance on the badge
itself Ñ and preventing attendees from sharing their badges to gain
admittance to events. The badge also can be used for lead retrieval
and validation of attendance at a session. These badges cost about
60 cents each, and the readers for lead retrieval are around $190,
with the data delivered on a USB flash drive.
Another company using RFID for meetings
is Convention Strategy (www.conventionstrategy.com), based in
Germantown, Md. The firm offers miRFID, a technology providing
badges with minimal attendee information that can be read by RFID
scanners placed at the entrance to seminar rooms, trade show
aisles, or other locations where traffic or attendance is
Combining the best of RFID lead
retrieval and the Internet is Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based TechNeat
(www.techneat.com). This uses a modified BlackBerry
with a magstripe that captures the information, lets the user edit
or enter notes and, when a wireless signal is available, lets the
user upload the information to a secure password-protected website
(thus allowing staff back at the office to generate fulfillment or
schedule appointments right away).
Stay tuned. Prices will continue to
come down as the technology expands and competition grows.
Bob Walters,he is based in Battle Creek, Mich., is founder of Phoenix
Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.