Talking data

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Exhibitions are, and always have been, about the conversation. The essential human interaction that is part of our day-to-day lives. The conversation that happens between visitors and exhibitors, visitors and the organisers, and between the organisers and the exhibitors. Technology can make that conversation even easier. The conversation is an exchange of data; it’s been at the core of exhibiting for decades. Originally it was the exchange of business cards, something that continues to this day. However, we have moved through information being passed by telex, letters and fax, they are a linear mechanism and offer little enrichment at the point of contact or for personal interaction. With the advent of a technology solution, in the form of data scanners, the process remained linear but came with its own challenges – hardware costs, maintenance, replacement cycles, data retrieval, the logistics of distribution and collection, damage and accountability for both hardware and data. But even with these shortcomings the scanner has remained an ever present at most exhibitions, a small nod to technology. The arrival of the smartphone heralds the future of event data capture, allowing exhibitors to use their own device to capture data via a lead capture app: The ‘bring your own device’ solution (BYOD). To add a little context to this bold statement we stand at the 30th anniversary of the first ever mobile phone call; there are 37.8m smartphone users in the UK, expected to rise to 43.4M by 2017; one in six UK adults look at their smartphone more than 50 times a day; over 30 per cent of UK adults look at their smartphone within 5 minutes of waking; 4G subscriber numbers are expected to exceed 10M by the end of the year. The rise of the smartphone has seen a wealth of visitor apps enter the market, providing visitors with a content rich experience but the barcode and QR code scanner remain the data collection tool for the exhibitor, arguably the primary customer in the mix. So, what can BYOD offer that scanners and other analogue options cannot? The benefits are available to organisers, exhibitors and visitors alike but in different ways. It puts control of the hardware, charging, use and device platform into the hands of the exhibitor. The data transfer speed cuts the time from scanning to useable data being received by the exhibitor down to the time it takes for the data packets to be transferred from handset to a back end system. Transfer could be via event Wi-Fi or 4G and, if connectivity is patchy, the more sophisticated systems will seek connectivity opportunities to squirt packets of data up to the management system when it can connect. Data can be enriched on screen, it can use live look up to pull visitor information across or capture enhanced data via QR code. All of this means that the exhibitor can gather more meaningful information at the time of capture. Having more information in the hand of the exhibitor allows the conversation with the visitor to be more meaningful and more engaging. And, because we view smartphones and mobile devices as part of our day-to-day existence they cease to be intrusive, which allows the critical aspect of face to face engagement to happen without the scramble for a lead pad, pen or scanner. Allowing exhibitors an easy route to capture data also provides organisers with an opportunity to gain insight into what’s happening on the show floor in real time. Data that can deliver the news to organisers, good or bad, allowing action to be taken immediately. The practicality of a BYOD solution completely removes the need for the logistics of managing the hardware and data, this all passed directly to the exhibitor. By using a cross platform app that allows scanning of barcodes and QR codes the hardware issue is removed at a stroke. Data transfer can be instantaneous, data loss negated, data enrichment becomes infinitely more sophisticated than the process of scanning a badge and then scanning a pre formatted sheet of information to categorise the visitor. The evidence is unquestionable, using our mobile devices is second nature, BYOD taps into that comfort zone, it is the future for event data capture.   This article was first published in the September issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne
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