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At Many Trade Shows, Use of NFC-enabled Phones Is Touch 'N Go

ITN International's Touch 'N Go solution utilizes NFC-enabled mobile phones, RFID tags in visitor badges and a hosted server to share data between attendees and exhibitors, as well as collect event-traffic information and pay for food.
By Claire Swedberg
If an exhibitor needs to print information that she has accumulated via the mobile phone's RFID reader, she can use the phone's Bluetooth pairing function (provided as part of the system). Previously stored on the phone is the pairing data, which includes the serial number of a printer intended for printing information from that phone. She can then take her phone to a Bluetooth printer, provided by ITN, located at her own booth. Attached to the printer is an NFC tag with a Mifare chip encoded with specific data about that device, including its serial number. When the mobile phone is tapped near the printer, the phone's NFC reader captures the details of that printer, including the pairing specifications, and she can then simply press a prompt to print either information or pictures stored on her phone.

At a meeting or break-out session, staff members at the door to the room in which that activity is being held can utilize an NFC-enabled mobile phone to read each attendee's ID, thereby capturing and storing information indicating who attended the session, while also encoding data to the individual's badge, recording that he had entered the session. Upon leaving, the individual again has his tag read, and the length of time he spent attending the session is thus saved on his badge. If he has remained in the room for a predetermined amount of time, he may qualify, for instance, for a continuing education credit from his employer. For the event organizers, the system provides a record of the number of individuals attending each session, as well as their identities. "Then," Lazarev says, "they have a very accurate picture of what is going on at the event." In fact, management could see, in real time, which visitors are at which particular sessions. What's more, he says, the organizers can then use that data to send surveys about the session to those who attended.

To print information accumulated via the phone's RFID reader, an exhibitor can send a command via Bluetooth to an ITN-provided printer.

The BCard badge also has a purse functionality enabling it to store a prepaid balance, thereby allowing attendees to purchase food or beverages from food vendors, who can use one of ITN's RFID-enabled phones to read the purchaser's badge and deduct the cost from the prepaid balance stored on its RFID inlay.

The system will soon be available on Apple iPhones fitted with iCarte NFC readers, Nokia C7 touch-screen phones with integrated NFC functionality, and other NFC-enabled devices that run on the Android and Java platforms. "2011 is promising to be a very exciting year for NFC," Lazarev states, "and ITN is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the increased use of NFC handsets by business professionals."

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