Humans are social animals – we love to
get together in groups to share ideas. Networking
is a vital part of the way adults learn and do business and is a key reason why
face-to-face meetings will remain vital.
However, the current tools we use to
facilitate networking often leave something to be desired.
The standard name badge is frequently forgotten, poorly printed, or worn
so that it can’t be read. “I recognize the face but can place the name” is
commonly heard. People forget or run out of business cards.
We need help in this crucial aspect in
the way we meet. Fortunately, there are a number of significant technology
developments coming to the marketplace that will help. This article
will cover a number of novel and interesting uses of technology to improve
in product development and should be available within the next few months.
The system works as follows. Every
registration badge has a large “watermark” number visible from a distance. As you pickup your badge with your unique number at registration, you will also be
given a mini-calculator type device that easily fits in the smallest of pockets.
(Click to enlarge image below.)
This mini-PDA (personal digital
assistant) is about the size of a credit card only a little thicker. It contains
registration contact information for up to 1,000 attendees. As these simple PDAs
are inexpensive (about $15-20 each) they will be given out for attendees to
keep. There is room on the back for sponsorship advertising that can offset the
So, if you see someone from a distance, and want to know their name, you simply
enter the easily visible number on their badge into your mini-PDA and up
will pop the basic badge information (name, company, city/state for example).
In this case pictured below, you press
“0001”, or simply "1" in this case, on the keypad and John Smith, from ABC Corporation appears on the
screen. As you engage in a
conversation with John, and it gets to the point where you wish to exchange
additional contact information (address, phone, email for example), John simply
gives you his access key number – 5 to 6 digits that will unlock additional
contact information on your mini-PDA.
When you return to your office, you then
can connect this mini-PDA device to your computer, and download all of the
contacts and contact information directly into your contact database without
having to re-enter any data.
Another interesting networking device is
SpotMe from Shockfish (www.shockfish.com).
As you register, your digital picture is
taken, and you are handed a small wireless PDA-sized device. Using radio
frequency detection, this mechanism determines your location and the relative
location of people around you.
Your PDA screen provides the names of the people around you grouped in two
categories: those within 10 feet and those within 10-30 feet.
Highlighting and clicking on a name will show that person’s picture and their contact information. (Click to enlarge image below).
Other features included are: wireless
email, session agenda, and even audience voting and polling.
I participated in the first public
demonstration of this in London this past year and it worked great.
A revolutionary invention also using
radio frequency detection system is offered by Tubula Rasa (www.t-rasa.com)
with enormous potential for our industry.
The system consists of very small chips, about the size of a pin-head. The chips
can be seen in the picture on the left below (click to enlarge). In scale with a dime – the dark spots in
the center of the white strips are the chips.
The picture on the right
chip integrated into a badge (click to enlarge).
Each chip has a 48-bit unique identifier
allowing for a virtually unlimited number of unique ID tags.
These chips can be read by detection
receivers from a 5-foot range. And they are cheap – only about 5 cents each!
This system is now being used in the
baggage claim ID tags at San Francisco International Airport for tracking luggage as
it goes through the system.
is using these chips tags in wrist bands for security access at amusement parks,
for beer gardens, and even for cashless vending machines.
Tubula Rasa (www.t-rasa.com)
is offering several applications for meeting industry using this technology. By
placing these tags in badges and setting up sensing units at entrances, meeting
planners or show managers can non-invasively track who is attending sessions
(i.e. for CME credits) or the exhibit hall and for how long.
Exhibitors could use the system to provide contactless lead retrieval
information from anyone entering a booth. Another application, if a show manager
or exhibitor wished to be notified anytime a designated VIP attendee approached
within 5 feet, a sensing unit linked to a wireless Pocket PC device (such and an
iPAQ) will beep with a screen providing contact information and even the
picture of the person – these are just some of the amazing applications here.
Computer and Internet technology
continues to fuel a renaissance of invention that is changing the meetings and
exposition industries before our eyes. These are just a few of the ideas that
are emerging to help us communicate and network in a more efficient manner.