All About Near Field Communication

What’s hot on the radar these days for event technology? It’s called NFC (Near Field Communication), and it’s changing the way people interact at events. Why? For starters, it makes things more fun for attendees. Plus, it’s an incredible data management and payment tool. Interested? Let’s find out more.

Tap & Swipe

NFCs are close-range wireless communication chips that fit into event wristbands, badges and ID cards. Even smartphones and devices are starting to incorporate NFC direct from the factory.

Let’s say you want to register attendees. They simply tap or swipe their NFC-equipped wristband or device, and their data is logged in. You could even set up tap stations to improve interaction and track booth traffic.

RFID & Bluetooth – Similar But Not The Same

NFC is a second cousin to RFID (radio frequency identification). RFID chips communicate over relatively large distances, like when your car pays at a toll booth. NFC, however, is limited to an intimate 4-inch range. The tech is already spreading rapidly with apps such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet making purchasing easier.

Unlike RFID, near field communication is two-way. This means videos, links, contact info and other data can be shared between NFC-equipped devices. NFC connections are instantaneous within the four-inch range –  so no need to seek, like you do with Bluetooth.

How Near Field Communication Can Be Used

Given the two-way nature of NFC, the uses go beyond simple information transmission. For example, you could use near field for:

  • Check In – Faster with more control and accuracy. Plus, streamline access to VIP areas.
  • Attendance Data – Not only how many, but who and when. Want to know when millennials show up? Your sponsors sure do. Get them to sign up for the next event now.
  • Inventory – Who picked up their swag bag? Also prevents double dipping.
  • Reach Out – Push tailored content out to specific participants. Make it personal.
  • Leverage Social – Encourage linking to social media for friends to follow the action.
  • Cashless Payment – The heart of NFC. Add a credit card – make it easy and safe to buy.

NFC and Gamification

NFC takes event scavenger hunts to the next level. You simply set up NFC pads at various hunt locations. When people find them, they get credit, which is automated and prevents cheating.

Plus, you could set up a funny or informative phone call, video or text message to be triggered at each site. You might also give them an incentive to visit all the booths with an interactive progress chart. This not only increases engagement but offers a way to extend your brand message or special offers even more.

Let’s take a look at some real world NFC examples:

Case #1: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

Tasting Table’s annual Lobster Roll Rumble winner is decided by vote. When they tried text voting, duplication was rampant. Instead of going back to pen and paper, they used near field technology. Attendees got a wristband which allowed them to vote – once per category – by tapping their favorite food/drink stand’s NFC receptor. Real time results showed up on the jumbotron. In this event, Tasting Table partnered with NFC tech startup Tagstand. Read the details here.

Case #2: Line Management and Reduction

In the past, Salt Lake Comic Con was known for its four-hour entrance waits. This was due to 45,000 attendees needing a colored bracelet to match event access status. Now, online registration links personal data to their NFC bracelet, which is sent by mail. The option to link the bracelet to Facebook is also provided.

Convention organizers can use collected data about crowd behavior, such as which attendees arrive when, how long they stay and if they return. Get the nitty gritty about this event.

Case #3: The Big Shindig

In 2015, NFC tech eliminated the need for Chicago’s 160,000 Lollapalooza participants to carry cash or tickets. The wristbands not only made buying easier but also improved festival security. Sent by mail, wristbands could be linked to credit card accounts secured by a PIN code. The vendors received NFC-equipped Android tablets that allowed people to tap to pay. Read more about the experience here.

The Bottom Line

Near Field Communication is a powerful way to create a seamless and interactive event experience. It facilitates payment and provides a treasure trove of data. The only limit is how your creativity will leverage NFC as it continues to spread and evolve.

Using NFC for your events?  Let us know how in the comments!

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