Why are people wandering around your show floor, tapping their badges and phones together? They’re using near-field communications (NFC) technology— which is poised to revolutionize how the events industry conducts business.
In theWorkingSmartercolumnin ourNovember issue, we touched on near-field communications (NFC) technology—whosepotential implications for meetings are large enough that we think the topic deserves its own article. NFCis a short-range wireless-technology stan-
dard that was adopted seven years ago by the mobile-phone industry, so that mobile devices could handle mobile payment, mobile ticketing, and “service discovery” (aka smart posters), according to Ivan Lazarev, president andCEOof ITN International, which among other event products offers lead-management services. And that’s whereNFCcomes in.
What this means is that trade-show attendees
with an NFC-enabled smartphone or name badge —such as ITN’s ownBCARD—caneasily pass their contact information and, say, purchasing interests to an exhibitor simply by touching their BCARD to a badge reader, such as an NFC- enabled mobile phone with a lead-retrieval app pre- loaded, which ITN provides to exhibitors. At present, 100 million NFC chips have been
ordered by smartphone makers, according to Lazarev. “There is not a single phonemanufactur- er today that is not going to introduce an NFC phone in 2012,” he said —with one exception: Apple. Despite this, Lazarev believes the iPhone will
“There is not a single phone manufacturer that is not going to introduce an NFC phone in 2012”—with the exception of Apple.
ITN first got involved with the technology
after 2005,whenthe company was approached by the semi-conductor manufacturer that helped invent NFC. “I quickly realized [that] this is going to make a huge, huge impact on the event indus- try,” Lazarev said, “when it comes down to exchanging information, tracking it, and using your mobile phone as a platform to drive content with- in an event.” Technically speaking,NFCis amore advanced
form of radio-frequency identification (RFID). When a device with an NFC chip (such as a smartphone) or an NFC tag (such as a name badge) is placed within four centimeters of anoth- erpoweredNFCdevice—that is, not just anoth- er tag—amagnetic field is created, allowing for information to be transferred wirelessly between them.
get on board sooner rather than later with what is becoming an industry standard. One exhibitor withNFCexperience is Harris Interactive, which used ITN’s BCARDs at last year’s IBCbroadcasting trade show.Head ofDig- ital Marketing Victoria Sherriff said that Harris received 1,500leads from traditional channels dur- ing the show —about normal. But the company also received 500 additional leads from the BCARDs, which Sherriff believes it would not have gotten if it hadn’t used NFC. Why?“There are different stages of the buying
cycle,” Sherriff said. “Some people are ready to engage with the sales staff, but not everyone is. [NFC] enables people to go in, look [for] them- selves, find out a little bit about what we do, and …put theirowndetails in. So they really are in con- trol of the experience.”
34 pcmaconvene February 2012 ILLUSTRATION BY GREG MABLY
Credit Card If it sounds like NFC could be an ideal accreditation solution, you’re right. “All you need to be able to track [CEUs] is a mobile phone at the entrance to a session room,” said ITN International’s Ivan Lazarev. “People come in, tap their card in, tap their card out, and you [use] a simple app that tracks the date and time [each person checks in]. Then all that data is immedi- ately posted via the smartphone…within seconds of it happen- ing. And so your CEUs are available.” In the near future,
attendees may not even need badges for CEU credits; they’ll just download an app onto their NFC-enabled smart- phone, and tap it to the reader phone when they enter and leave an educational session.