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Is RFID Being Used in Trade-Show Applications?

Posted By RFID Journal, 09.28.2011
And if so, in what ways?

—Tom (Parsipanny, N.J.)
———
Tom,

Radio frequency identification is being employed in two primary ways at trade shows and conferences. First, companies are using the technology for lead retrieval. Trade-show badges typically have bar codes on them, and when someone enters a booth, the booth staff can scan the bar code on that person's badge. The bar code has a serial number linked in a database to that individual's information, so the exhibitor can follow up with that visitor post-event. These bar codes have been supplemented or replaced by RFID badges. So a passive high-frequency (HF) or ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) handheld interrogator can be used to read each tag's serial number, which is then linked to information in a database.

RFID can be a little quicker and easier, since the reader need not be oriented in any particular way in order to read a badge. At this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference, exhibitors were provided with mobile phones running an application developed by ITN International, known as Touch 'N Go (see At Many Trade Shows, Use of NFC-enabled Phones Is Touch 'N Go, NFC Used by Exhibitors at RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 and NFC—Pay By Phone and Beyond). One advantage of using a smartphone is that the application can be more flexible. In the case of ITN's application, exhibitors could write their own questions for the purpose of lead qualification.

Some companies have attempted to utilize UHF transponders to take lead capture to the next level. We worked with Lygase RFID Solutions in 2010 to track which attendees entered specific booths, how long they stayed in each booth and how they moved about the show floor (see RFID Journal LIVE! to Feature Groundbreaking RFID Business Intelligence System). This information, captured by overhead readers, was independent of traditional lead-capture systems (which we also let people use). The advantage of UHF is that it offers longer read range, which means a reader can potentially determine when a visitor enters a booth, regardless of whether staff members scan that person's badge. UHF signals are absorbed by water within the body, however, so reading tags consistently can be an issue.

The other way in which event organizers can use RFID is to track who attended which sessions. Portal readers can be set up around the doorways of rooms in which sessions are taking place. As visitors walk into and out of each room, attendance can be recorded. This information can then be used in several ways: It can help organizers determine which sessions were the most popular, and at events at which attendees earn credits for college or professional degrees, the RFID data can confirm that they actually took part in the course.

In addition, social-networking is a new twist in using RFID at events. This year, RFID Journal partnered with ODIN RFID to enable attendees to swipe their RFID badges at a kiosk and "Like" a session on Facebook, or to upload photos of themselves to our Facebook page (see RFID-Enhanced Social Media and RFID Journal LIVE! to Let Attendees Use RFID to Share Experiences via Facebook). We have also used badges to conduct giveaways—attendees swipe their badges, and random badges are awarded gifts, such as an Amazon.com gift certificate. Each winning attendee must then visit the sponsoring firm's booth to pick up his or her prize, so that the company can meet that individual.

These are currently the most common applications of RFID in the trade-show and convention business.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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