I was recently at a client’s office and was asked, in my professional opinion, what the future held for RFID in the trade show environment. We all know that in today’s economy that businesses need to be budget-friendly. Yes, RFID pricing has come down dramatically in the past 3-4 years (remember the days of the $5.00 tag??), but like all technology, as it becomes more mainstream, the cost will decrease more, and the technology will increase.
That being said, where does it belong??
Aisles and Entrances, YES / Booths, NO. One of the primary functions for RFID in the event marketplace is to measure traffic flow in and around the exhibit floor. By placing these units at the entrance ways and in the aisles you can easily measure hot spots on the floor, total time spent on the floor, and the # of days an attendee comes back to the exhibits. On the other hand, using this technology for lead retrieval is not ideal. I have a few issues with this, specifically around data privacy. Since RFID is touch less (one of the beauties), there is the potential for gaining false leads. Lead retrieval is something that you opt into – allowing the exhibitor to scan your badge. True, you can tune down the range on the reader so the tag needs to be inches away from the reader, but at that point, bar code or magstripe is just as easy (and less expensive).
Keynotes and General Sessions YES / Required Sessions, NO. RFID technology is a great way to track a large amount of people going into an area, and most readers will have a read range greater than the number of people in the “zone”. For this simple reason, using RFID in a CEU / PDH setting generates issues. People love to see the instant acknowledgment of “seeing” that their badge was read. They like to see the screen, or a person to confirm, that has their name on it, turns the screen green, or other ways that displays a “successful” read. Doing this for 10+ people at the same time is not feasible. Yes, some RFID systems work similar to an airport security booth – built on an entrance way trellis that allows people to come in single-file, but again, at this point, Bar Code or Mag Stripe technology would be a better solution for a lesser cost.
The greatest part of technology is that it is always changing and there may be a more purposes for RFID at tradeshows. I don’t see it. Do you??