These first two days at CES have been an amazing experience. I’ve met so many interesting people, seen some great innovative products and benefited from the amazing networking opportunities. I’ve also been terribly disappointed with the NFC event badges at CES. To be clear, I don’t mean the badges themselves but more so the infrastructure that supports their NFC capabilities. After first seeing ITN’s product at the NFC Solutions Summit in 2014, I’m not shocked at the cumbersomeness of the the solution. Everything from the type of tag to the readers to the backend infrastructure was simply terrible. It provided almost no value.
Let’s start with the tags affixed to the badges. Using adhesive tags for the badges is fine, we do the same thing in our TapLead event and tradeshow solution since it affords some operational flexibility, but why on earth ITN chose DESFire tags with 2 kB of memory is beyond me. DESFire tags are over twice the cost of NTAG or even Topaz 512 tags, and with more than 160,000 attendees and over 4,000 exhibitors that cost adds up even at these high volumes. There are applications for such high capacity tags, but from scanning my badge I can see that only 241 bytes of the 2,048 are used, an amount of memory well within the capabilities of an NTAG215 or even a Topaz 512 tag. The other problem with the NFC stickers on the badges is that they are small circular tags which are not as easily read as rectangular credit card sized tags, and tag readability is crucial to a positive user experience.
One thing in particular that was terribly disappointing was the call to action seen on the ITN signage when I picked up my badge. It said “Tap your NFC phone here to learn more about NXP”, and as an NFC enthusiast I naturally tried to scan it. The result: Nothing happened. The reason: Nobody even bothered to put an NFC tag behind the sign.
Next let’s move onto the readers, or should I say, phones. Rather than provide a simple standalone unit to exhibitors that requires no wireless connection and has long battery life, ITN gives out full blown NFC handsets or readers with Bluetooth (not low energy). The idea is that if you want to use your own phone, you can pair it to ITN’s Bluetooth NFC badge reader. Anyone that has ever tried to pair a Bluetooth device knows that it’s never as simple as you think. Now imagine trying to do it when there are hundreds of devices around with almost the identical name. I know at the NFC Solutions summit I was never able to pair my device. I then tried to use the NFC phone ITN provided and found that the only way I could retrieve my leads was to get a username and password from ITN, log into a web portal, and view the leads in possibly the most over complicated user interface ever made. This system provided almost no value since I never figured out how to use it.
The TapLead system from TapTrack is far superior to this in every conceivable way. The lead gathering tool is not just for exhibitors, but attendees as well. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we decided to use as many existing standards as possible. For example, TapLead badges use a standard NDEF vcard format so attendees with NFC phones can scan the badges and import all contact information into their address book without even installing an app. Should an attendee want additional features such as lead categories (partners, sales leads, investors, etc..), instant follow up using email or recording personal notes regarding the new contact, the TapLead lead gathering app is free and can be downloaded by attendees and exhibitors alike. Sometimes exhibitors don’t want to use a phone since it can distract them from the networking opportunities. Using our standalone dedicated lead gathering device, exhibitors can scan badges quickly and have the leads stored in a removable memory card. This memory card can then be scanned by an NFC phone without ever needing to install an app. Exhibitors simply enter their email address and the TapLead back end will email an Excel spreadsheet with all your leads, it’s that simple and does not require any username/password or the exhibitors to sign up for a web portal. If you don’t have an NFC phone exhibitors can simply come to the TapTrack booth and we can do this for you in mere seconds.
We have used this system at events and tradeshows and gotten an amazing response from the attendees, exhibitors and event organisers. For more information about our TapLead system or to request a demonstration, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-293-6094.
Jan 8, 2015