Mobile technology at exhibitions: Escaping the paperchase
30-Jul-12by Annie Byrne
The role smartphones play at exhibitions is increasingly sophisticated. From mobile communication to swapping contact details, sharing content, automatically notifying others of your presence and even augmenting reality as you operate on the show floor, carefully selected technology is finding traction at exhibitions.
The technology also paves the way for greener events since no paper is wasted on the show floor. Exchanging data digitally saves on printing, planning, logistics and recycling.
However its real strength is that it enables data capture not practicable using paper.
US technology solutions provider Poken is part of this technological movement. It creates wireless data capture and exchange technology for use at exhibitions using Near Field Communication (NFC), a short-range wireless technology that enables two devices to securely exchange small amounts of data when they are placed a few centimetres apart. NFC has many different uses. It can be used, according to founder and CEO Stephane Doutriaux, to transfer files between devices with a touch, and to collect multimedia information from stands.
It’s not unfamiliar technology; we see it used widely in systems such as electronic public transport ticketing. In the exhibition hall, this results in you pressing a USB-enabled fob against that of another to swap contact details and store potential leads. Strategically however, this means every interaction that takes place on the show floor is recorded and stored for later use. Or to put it another way, you can walk away from the conversation but the conversation remains.
“Our mobile phone apps allow the participant to ‘take his data with him’ anytime, anyplace,” said Doutriaux. “The event and the information collected don’t die off, they continue to live through every participant’s access to the data that was provided by exhibitors and organisers.”Convincing people to adopt
Poken’s technology works by equipping every participant with a small reader used to collect information (brochures, videos, sell sheets, catalogues, points and so on) from tags within the exhibitor stands. This in turn provides greater detail for the exhibitor’s statistics, as he knows who is interested in his products.
Additionally the process involved in accessing this information is greatly reduced. Stacks of forms and hours in front of spreadsheets are no longer necessary. The tough part is getting people to adopt the technology. Ultimately, even if the hardware is available, clients still have to use it.
Singapore, according to Eileen Feng of Singaporean digital meeting schedule and data company Socialwalk, is one place that we in the UK could learn from. The country is already switched on and looking for the next digital solution.
“Singapore’s organisers are very well-educated and seasoned travellers,” she said. “This puts them in the ‘early adopter’ category of users.
“Singaporeans understand the need for ‘high tech – high touch’, which basically demonstrates the high level of dedication towards openchannels of communications with users of Socialwalk’s service.
“Having said this, we do see a surge in adoption of new technologies and methods in exhibitions across all of Asia. It’s definitely a good sign of things to come.”
As with any technology, a truly paperless approach to sharing information live at exhibitions requires widespread adoption in order to remove the existing two-system approach of paper and digital.
“There are so many exhibitions – some run by very enterprising teams, some less so,” said Doutriaux. “Understandably, the larger players in the space take a bit more time to move, and that’s because they have larger concerns over image and the viability of new technologies.
Fortunately with three years of successful sales, we’re now working with even the most traditional companies, who see we are both innovative and reliable.”Bringing your show data home
UK company TAAP is a software and solutions provider working within a range of industry sectors to provide systems that allow improved data capture. It works with customers who require solutions for data capture, to be used for prospecting, surveys and experiential marketing at exhibitions.
The software operates on mobile devices such as smartphones, PCs, laptops and touchscreen kiosks.
TAAP marketing manager Angela Corry highlights a hidden complication that becomes apparent when it comes to exporting such information internationally.
“The rules between the storage of data collected in the US and Europe need to be considered,” she said. “We can export data to any back office system, but there can be complications when it comes to transporting the data across borders.”
But it won’t be long before the bumps in digital data capture are ironed out. What matters is that nothing is wasted. While reducing paper may be good for the environment, reducing the number of lost leads and creating a digital shadow for your exhibition will be good for your business.
This was first published in the June edition of Exhibition News. Any comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org