The Effect of Near Field Communication on the Events Industry

Three Near Field Communication (NFC) Trends on the Event Industry’s Horizon

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a form of wireless communication that allows the flow of information between two devices. Wearable NFC devices are beginning to proliferate and have significant impact on the hospitality industry as attendees demand a streamlined response to their registration, payment and engagement needs.

In 2013, over 300 million NFC-enabled phones were shipped – note the date there. That means that right now, you may be the unwitting owner of a mobile device that is equipped to facilitate NFC applications. It’s like a little sleeping giant is cradled in your hand. Once the iPhone 6 goes on sale in January of 2015, that number will explode.

This shows that companies are positioning themselves for a massive industry shift – and the meetings and event planning industry need to be ready for adoption of these technologies. Here are three trends to watch out for:


Uber led the proverbial pack in mobile payment solutions for transportation by allowing users to connect their credit cards to the Uber app. Queue hysteria from the taxi industry followed by a too-late, inelegant scramble to implement credit card systems within individual cars. A good attempt, but let’s call a spade a spade: swiping a card is not nearly as attractive as having an automated receipt in an inbox 5 seconds upon arrival at a destination.

Now let’s pivot to public transit. The efficient and impatient side of me is always shocked when I arrive in a city and there are no mobile payment options for public transit. Take Washington, D.C., which forces you to pre-load $10 onto a plastic fare card or pay an extra dollar for a smaller amount on a paper (read: wasteful) fare card. NFC technology will allow your event attendee to swipe their phone over a reader.

So how do these two transportation options apply to the events industry? Consider the opportunity for partnership or cross promotion with Uber or a city with discounted pricing for transportation integrated into your event’s app. You bring economic dollars into the local economy by hosting an event.

Once NFC technology is capable of integrating with multiple parties, this could be a very real reality that enhances your attendee’s experience while generating additional monetary stimulus for both your event and your transportation partners.

Attendee Tracking

One major element that will gauge the speed NFC’s adoption will be the planner’s ability to understand the customer journey that will occur with the introduction of NFC technology. The goal of introducing these technologies is to enhance the customer experience. One such experience is the ever-awkward name badge.

Name badges exist for two reasons: reading one another’s names, and scanning a bar code for attendee tracking purposes. Name recognition is fine, but the bar code is not.

The problem with scanning someone’s badge is that it’s one of the most obtrusive, awkward things you can do to a stranger. “Oh, hello! Thanks for arriving at our breakout. If you don’t mind, let me just bend over and awkwardly point a laser beam at your sternum/belly button! Great, all set, enjoy the program!”

I mean, come on.

The future of name badges will be a combination of a wearable NFC device and a data collecting fortress. Take Disney’s MagicBands for example. These wearables allow park visitors to personalize their experience at Disney properties by using these NFC-enabled wristbands. Disney monitor’s this data to identify where crowd flow is heading and to predict guest’s actions based on history.

Imagine what you could do with that type of data. How about opening up another escalator when you see 90% of your event attendees are heading to one location and a back up is imminent?

Smarter Breakout Scheduling

Data can help you tell a story – your story, and NFC technology is about to take you into the next chapter. Conferences are always gauging how many seats are left in a room. First, we offset this problem by physically counting seats. Then, we got fancy and purchased clickers. Today, event staff are placed in front of doors with scanners for accurate calculations.

The room capacity recognition of tomorrow will be a nearly inconspicuous device that tracks entrance through a door based on the event app’s GPS beacon, notifying the staff member when the room can no longer accommodate another individual. It’s not intrusive. It will provide real-time data on attendee locations, and it will help planners immediately identify when a session needs to have an encore based on capacity gained over time.

As adoption to this ramps up, how do you think the event industry will react?


Written exclusively for Ungerboeck by Claire Harrington, CMP, Public Relations Manager at Social Tables 

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