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Populous Adds RFID to Its Playbook

The global sports architectural and events-services firm has started to embed EPC tags into event tickets, passes and credentials, so that its clients can benefit from the use of the technology.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Populous employed Alien readers to collect the attendee ID number encoded to each tag's user memory bank, as well as the unique tag identification (TID) number encoded to each tag's chip. Unlike the attendee number encoded to user memory, the TID can not be altered, and it would be virtually impossible for a counterfeiter to create another RFID tag with the same combination of numbers, since that would require fabricating an entirely new integrated circuit. Populous used the combination of these two numbers to authenticate each tag, by comparing them to the attendee number and the TID associated with the user's name in the RFID software it utilized. Johnson says she can not reveal the name of the company that developed the RFID software used in this application.

During the NACDA conference, Johnson reports, Alien RFID readers mounted around each doorway into the exhibit hall collected the RFID tag data, along with a time stamp, as each attendee walked into or out of the hall. Armed with this data, she explains, NACDA could analyze attendees' movement into and out of the hall, and could also use that information to ensure that food and beverage service was adequate for the number of visitors within that location. It could also choose to share the data with sponsors inside the hall, so that they could determine the best times for attendee interaction.

"We saw that most people [at the 2010 conference] were turning to the right when they walked into the exhibit hall," says Bob Vecchione, NACDA's deputy executive director. "So after collecting this data for a few years, we might be able to charge sponsors differently, based on where traffic goes."

To that end, Vecchione says, NACDA plans to again hire Populous to issue the RFID-enabled credentials at its upcoming 2011 conference, in Orlando, Fla., and the organization hopes to add additional readers to the exhibit space in order to collect more granular data regarding attendees' movements, and to begin using the collected data for new applications as well. For example, he says, the organization could place readers inside meeting rooms during concurrent sessions, in order to better understand the makeup of visitors attracted to each session. "We could look at the mix of marketing people, licensing people, etc., in each session," he states. "We could have an intern there writing down names. But with this [RFID] technology, it's there, so why not use it?"

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