My key chain is growing exponentially, thanks
to smartcards from the local grocery store, coffee shop and gas
station. There are now even tiny credit cards to add to the
The bigger plastic in my wallet is getting smarter, too.
American Express Blue has an antifraud security chip, and
health-insurance companies are beginning to provide cards with
chips containing personal health histories.
In the meetings world, badges with bar codes, swipe stripes or
smart chips have been used for years for lead tracking at trade
shows. It is now possible, however, to expand the use of these
technologies to track session attendance and to note personal
interests so attendees can interact at social functions via
There are two primary types of cards to consider: those
generated at the registration desk and those generated by an
employer. Each carries similar information, but one is designed for
short-term, disposable use, and the other is geared for a
longer-term purpose and is more valuable for ongoing educational
environments. Unfortunately, like all other evolving technologies,
standardization is the primary stumbling block.
A CARD IN THE HAND
Meetings-specific cards are created for one-time use.
Embedded information usually is restricted to contact data and
demographic or purchasing details that is updated automatically to
a centralized database to track booth visits, session attendance
and even computer kiosk usage. The cards often are used for lead
retrieval and not much else.
Several show management companies have enhanced their systems to
include an attendance-tracking module using the smartcard,
including ExpoExchange (www.expoexchange.com), Laser Registration (www.laserreg.com), Registration Control Systems (www.rcsreg.com)
and WingateWeb (www.wingateweb.com). Some even have modules that will
let attendees generate their CEU (certified educational unit)
certificates and verification of attendance at kiosks.
For planners who work with their own CEU tracking systems
or organizations with their own teaching facilities, not much is
available. One limiting factor is university- or
employer-generated ID cards usually are not used in registration
Ideally, a centralized system would be tied to the card readers
in the meeting rooms. Attendees would swipe their ID cards to be
admitted to the session, and their attendance would be noted
For this scenario to become reality, several things must happen.
First, we will need to create some standard for collecting the
information. This doesn’t mean everyone would have to use the same
system, just that the information on the cards would use the same
field names and content.
Then we need some exchange platform (think of the XML standard
for Internet data) that would let us define the fields to the
specific system used in house (like MeetingTrak/CE and
Finally, developers would have to create (or provide the ability
to create) a module to process the data through the validations
required for normal data entry, to insure completeness and
It all sounds relatively simple, and in fact, it is. Just as
each of the major providers has accommodated online registrations
from various sources, they could develop a smartcard module to
import this information. This would be especially helpful to
universities and associations that manage large continuing medical
Such a system connected to existing ID cards would significantly
improve the overall performance of these departments, not to
mention the timeliness and accuracy of CEU reporting.