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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
ITN provided BCard badges embedded with dual NFC and Alien Technology Squiggle ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID tags at the EMC World conference, held in Boston in May 2010. The company installed Alien interrogators to read those tags, which were used in cases in which event managers wanted to have a record of the number of attendees passing through areas in which reading each badge with an NFC reader would have been unrealistic (such as in a very crowded location). With the UHF solution, the managers can store data indicating which visitors came and went from the show, the number of times they did so, and the number of individuals who might have filled a specific area, thereby providing data to assist with future traffic-flow planning.

Ivan Lazarev, ITN's president
ITN International has also recently begun offering what it calls the ITNPod—an adjustable-height column, standing at least three feet tall, with four affixed NFC phones. An ITNPod can be placed at exhibit-hall entrances, or in less-frequented locations on a show floor, for the purpose of capturing data regarding attendees' movements. Individuals who tap their badge against one of the phones on the ITNPod can accrue opportunities to win prizes, allowing managers to maintain a record of the number of visitors entering and exiting a site, while also attracting more traffic to specific areas.

The company reports that it has seen its business increase by 20 percent annually over the past two years, and that it has serviced more than 500 events to date with the BCard NFC-based solution. ITN can distribute as many as 3,000 phones (1,800 from Nokia, the remainder constituting a variety of Windows mobile devices), each equipped with an NFC reader. The solution was deployed in September 2010, at the IBC 2010 conference in Amsterdam, and in October, at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications trade show in San Francisco.

Over the next few years, conference-goers will be able to forego using NFC-enabled badges, and will simply bring in their own NFC-enabled mobile phones to do everything from providing access control and registering to exchanging business cards and accruing education points. In this scenario, the phone would serve both as an NFC reader and as a tag. Data such as session access and contact information, for example, could be stored on the mobile phone itself, and attendees could share that data with others by tapping their phone against another person's phone, or they could tap their phone to capture information from another phone or smart poster. (A smart poster has an RFID tag that attendees could tap with their NFC phone in order to obtain additional information about whatever is being described on it—for example, see NFC Research Lab Rolls Out Smart Posters.)

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