2020 Mobile Tech Prediction: NFC Replaces Barcode Scanners at Events

Even if you have never heard of NFC, Near-field Communication, I guarantee you’ve experienced it. NFC is a technology that allows devices to exchange information by placing them next to one another. Smartphones use NFC to pass photos, contacts, or any other specified data between NFC-enabled devices.  It’s a simple, easy technology we use on a daily basis without realizing it.  Case in point:  Simply tap the pad on your hotel bedroom door to open it, jump on public transport after tapping the entry to a barrier; and even now to open my Tesla Model 3!

NFC has become mainstream at festivals and concerts in recent years; not only as a ticket for access to different zones but also to manage credit for merchandise and catering on location. It also means that the days of tickets being lost, damaged, or falling into the wrong hands is a thing of the past.

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No Cash, No Problem!

Cashless payment through contactless technology really does have real benefits for the visitor such as security and convenience. And even more so for the organizer. According to research from Intellix, the media platform for the events sector, festival organizers expect to increase their revenue by up to 87 percent, by using a cashless payment solution.

Compare the concert organizer’s zeal for the NFL with the exhibition and tradeshow industry. What a contrast!  Why on earth, despite all the event tech developments, isn’t NFC the de facto standard for every show? It’s ideal for event entry without the need for scanners, but, in the same way as festivals, NFC enables access to different show sessions. And from our perspective, NFC delivers a smooth user experience for lead retrieval for both visitors and show workers alike. A win/win.

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No More Excuses

As crazy as it seems, I believe the reason the event industry has not fully embraced NFC  is fear – Exhibition organizers are set in their ways; they have produced successful shows for decades and refuse to embrace new technology that might even improve the experience. Fear of change is retarding the Digital Transformation of the event industry in general.

In addition to fear, show decision-makers struggle to see the forest from the trees and make excuses for not using tech like NFC such as the badges harm the environment. This is utter rubbish! Is the plastic substrate that’s used more expensive than a piece of card, which is perceived as being more eco-friendly?  No! When I count the number of plastic badge holders that I throw away after events, it’s ridiculous. Plastic badge holders are surely not eco-friendly. Indeed, an NFC card can be re-used very easily, even at the same event if you hand them in as you leave the show. Also, now that Apple and Google have opened up the ‘wallet’ for NFC tickets with a secured token, exhibitors you can go fully digital, without even issuing a badge.

NFC experts such as ITN provide fabulous looking badges at Exhibitor Live in Vegas each year. They report being happy to provide their full registration and badging service for events for the total price of the old technology involving barcodes and scanners. So that should rule out the cost criticism of ‘total cost of deployment being too high’ argument.

Factor in the percentage of added revenue found by festival producers, and there’s no excuse for not embracing NFC. Corporate tech events at Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle have seen the benefits by switching to NFC as the way forward with all the extra functionality available such as access control and tracking – Truth is, there’s real-world evidence proves unequivocally that NFC is the best badge choice for events.

Considering the many benefits mentioned above, NFC for tradeshows is a simple, cost-effective replacement for barcode badges. Take this a step further, the NFC badge can also be used to enhance ongoing loyalty and revenue. For instance, special discounts for sponsors’ products or services after an event; early-bird discounts to re-book for the next event(s). The list could go on and on with a variety of creative revenue/loyalty initiatives triggered by an event’s NFC badge and the touch of a phone.

Bottom line

The events industry is going through a digital transition and will be forced to adopt NFC technology in the near future. The arguments against it are too weak and the upside is simply too high.

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