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Interactive Name Badge puts compatible people together

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May 26, 2004

Interactive Name Badge puts compatible people together

Interactive Name Badge puts compatible people together

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May 27, 2004 American start-up nTAG has produced an interactive name badge for conferences and social events that significantly improves the quality of people-to-people connectivity. Based on years of research at MIT's Media Lab, nTAG brings social technology into the business event arena where both host and attendee derive numerous benefits compared to the paper badges of the past. While stimulating conversation between attendees, nTAGs also help organisers to deliver event information, track attendance, manage security, send messages, and evaluate surveys and polls in real time. Worn like regular paper badges, nTAGs exchange data with one another using infrared sensors. As attendees approach each other, information is automatically transferred from tag to tag, requiring no action from the wearer. Then the tags' LCD screens illuminate and display information on shared interests -- "Hi Karen, we both work in the fashion apparel industry."

Just under 10 cm wide, 9 cm high and weighing 170 grams, the nTAG is similar in appearance to a traditional conference badge. But with infrared sensing, an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system, LCD screen, and three simple control buttons, nTAGs act as a personal host connecting individuals with mutual interests and needs.

The technology brings people together to make connections and help event planners use the nTAG technology as a total event communications system.

nTAGs are pre-loaded with information an individual wishes to share with others.

Attendees provide this data by answering questions provided by the organizer when registering for an event.

These can be simple multiple choice questions such as, "What is your favorite season?" which attendees answer using the control buttons; or more in depth questions such as, "Why do you think the new product line should be targeted to women aged 25-34?" This information can also be answered through a web form distributed pre-event or at kiosks located at the venue.

Throughout an event, nTAGs communicate with a central server using RFID, allowing the event host to monitor nTAG interactions, ideas being shared, polling and survey data; and distribute both scheduled and ad hoc messages regarding the conference agenda. For example, if a session ran longer than expected -- a message can be sent to all attendees, "The 2:00 session ran 15 minutes late. As a result, all following sessions have been moved back 15 minutes."

Among other virtues of the nTAG is "Idea Sharing". Attendees load their nTAG with questions and answers to business or social concerns. The host can set a theme, such as "How do we reduce the unemployment rate?"

Attendees reply to the question and as they mingle, nTAGs display their ideas, allowing people they meet to accept or reject them by clicking a button on their tag. Popular ideas quickly spread throughout the room; ideas that are rejected eventually fizzle out. Attendees are encouraged to discuss big ideas, and the host collects valuable insights.

"nTAG understands the key role that conferences and events play in business development," says George Eberstadt, Co-founder of nTAG, "and we recognize that the best way to maximise the value that these gatherings deliver is to ensure that the people who come to them connect with others that have shared interests and needs."

nTAGs also help event hosts evaluate the success of an event without going through the time consuming process of reviewing paper surveys and feedback forms. With nTAG, the first wearable networking technology, the feedback on any gathering is measured immediately and accurately. On-site polling and surveys gather a variety of opinion data, valuable to both host and attendee.

Disruptive technology

American company nTAG has released one of the most significant new products into the seminar interactive name badge created to encourage attendee networking at business and social events.

Warren Lester founder of B2B caf' and one of the leading networking facilitators in the country believes nTAG could have a significant influence on the way networking events are conducted in the future. "This is potentially disruptive technology,' Lester told Gizmo. 'If it is as good as it appears to be, it could change the way we connect at all levels forever in both social and business environments.

'Any networking event is hit and miss in terms of meeting the right people and this significantly improves the chances," said Lester, who introduced his own analogue technologies to networking events four years ago in a move which enhanced the relevance of networking.

The B2B Caf' system involves the wearing of different coloured nametags; blue for innovator/entrepreneur, red for investors and yellow for intermediaries. Lester sees the nTAG system as being a significant improvement on the relevancy theme. "This is heaven on a stick for people like me. The whole issue of networking is getting enough information to see there's a common ground and nTAG does that at the same time as providing an anchor for conversation.

'NTAG enhances the free flow of information and minimises the chaos aspects of networking'It also breaks barriers and minimises the shyness aspect of people - if you want to find a partner, this could be the icebreaking application.

'The application of this technology is beneficial to the event host through the value add and beneficial to participants for obvious reasons."

Attendees rate nTAG highly

Late in 2003, nTAGs were used at gatherings held by General Electric and the University of Virginia Business School and at the Pop!Tech and Digital ID World conferences. Based on exit polls conducted at those events, nTAG users said they would like to use nTAGs again for a number of reasons. For example, at one of these events, the evaluation survey responses indicated that:

70% of attendees said that with the nTAGs, they made better connections with other people at the event 95% said they preferred reading the event agenda on their nTAG 67% said they preferred using the nTAGs to swap business card information 84% said nTAGs made the event more fun 91% said they were eager to use the nTAGs again At another of these events, nTAGs were used for audience polling. 91% of attendees said that nTAGs were a highly effective way to conduct audience surveys.

How nTAGs work

The attendee arrives at registration and is given their nTAG. The event host selects, in advance, which applications will be used with the nTAGs. These applications can be pre-loaded onto the tag to facilitate immediate use. The attendee's personal information will be retrieved when the nTAG is brought to a nearby kiosk. The attendee enters (name/6 digit id number) and confirms the personal information, which he/she had provided through a pre-event web form. The attendee places the nTAG (where) that automatically loads it with the personal information that will be the core of networking facilitation. The process can take as little as 30 seconds if there are no data changes or additions. Attendees can update/change their information at anytime at one of the event kiosks.

nTAG benefits for attendees

Enhanced Networking

facilitate interaction between strangers easily begin dialogue with potential business contacts based on common interest shared through nTAG screen prevent foot in mouth syndrome help identify people whose time you want that match your business needs easier to exchange contact information (swap/beam) identify when one attendee has recently met someone that would be of special interest to the other elect to remove someone's ability to access your contact information identify people you've met before (you do not remove, you initiate, it is permission based, you solicit follow up) provides insight on your own networking behavior/prowess avoid unnecessary 'small talk' maximize time at events

Event Logistics

consolidates contacts of all people attendees have met and sends complete list via email following event track who you met with and for how long receive messages from event host retrieve messages from event host via nTAG (blinking light signifies message is waiting) access conference schedule retrieve full report of contacts made, downloadable in multiple formats (email version - web version pending) enter ideas at a kiosk or through a web form which gets downloaded to your nTAG amend data for their nTAG on site

Attendee Input

input an idea that gets shared among attendees allow you to vote allow you to answer multiple choice questions and give opinions on ideas and decisions accept or reject others' ideas manually on the tag - impact policy, decisions, direction input specific business objectives

nTAG benefits for Event Organisers

Event Logistics

streamline multiple aspects of event logistics provides up-to-date event information to individual attendee or all attendees (exhibitor lists, speaker bios, schedule changes) in real time or designated time, effectively replacing unwieldy paper handouts enhances event security and admissions process sell and market tag space to sponsors and vendors repurpose information in existing databases (nTAG user's information is retained for future access) utilize as digital ticket for entry to invitation only events; can not be duplicated enhance security

Enhanced Networking

help attendees accomplish goals - connect with others for meaningful business idea and knowledge sharing and viral spreading of ideas can program specifically and creatively to help people connect (capabilities, categories, topics, favorites, hobbies - limitless number of ways

Polling

facilitates customized event activities (speaker feedback-) up-to-the-minute results and data gathering for opinions, voting on ideas, policies, and decisions disseminate ideas/themes by programming tags according to business needs or whimsy, and records results eliminates need for costly and burdensome paper survey distribution

Tracking

identify where attendees can be located at eventmonitor attendance (overall, specific sessions, tracking of attendees networking, presence, behavior, analyze attendance to see which sessions are best attended) see who's networking with whom see how many people each user is meeting compared with other attendees at eventidentify area of highest traffic

Key Data

enables analysis of attendee behavior data can be centrally collected and disseminated during and after the event feed key data/stats to attendees (how many people they are meeting relative to others, results of surveys, etc-)

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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