Digital signage screens + iPads = better events

January 20, 2011 by Dave Haynes

I was very surprised to sit down this morning, fire up TweetDeck, and see the RiseVision iPad contest winner was … me.


The company, based here in Toronto, put out a call for entries on Twitter and in its blog for ideas for a digital signage application that bridged technologies and made good, effective use of large format digital signage screens and tablets, like iPads.

The trade-off, if you want to call it that, is that if the company writes the app it will open source it. No biggie for me, as I’d just like to see the idea come to life, as I could use it in four weeks (wishful thinking) at the Preset mixer in Lost Wages.

There were not a pile of entries, but like me the RV team saw this idea as something that’s badly needed out there:


Business rationale: A more integrated, efficient way to handle certain types of events that are focused on networking or re-connecting people. Revenue generation through running the platform and facilitating set-up.

Attending events such as trade shows, conferences and seminars requires showing up and getting checked off a list, or having a ticket or pass of some kind. The organizer has a base means of counting numbers of attendees, and not much more.

The attendee gets in, and not much more happens digitally. They end up with papers and booklets and other crap they really don’t want to lug around at the show.  Suppose a hybrid of digital signage, interactive, tablet and mobile made that much more interesting, efficient and useful to everyone involved.

Here’s the workflow:

Event is promoted online, via email push and where it makes sense through digital signage.

Attendees register online using whatever tools are available and appropriate. This could, in theory, integrate with an API from a company like EventBrite.

When someone registers for the event, they have the optional but highly encouraged ability to add additional information about themselves and their company, including meta data tags/descriptions and industry codes. They can include URLs, social contact data and more conventional contact information. By adding more info they are by default agreeing they want to share this information with other attendees.

EventBrite or other platforms issue a registration receipt as well as a QR code that can be printed and/or kept on a smartphone

At the event, attendees check in by using this QR code. A reader scans the code and pops the registration info on a touch screen. Attendee confirms this by pressing the touch screen and has the option to announce he is here. If yes, a related screen on the DS network pops a full screen quick profile saying Bob Smith is here, with company name and perhaps photo and logo

If the attendee forgot the QR code, someone at the entry who is monitoring checkins can look up that person and confirm who it is via iPad, and then do the announcement thing.

Once inside the event, assuming there are preambles and breaks, a separate screen provides an interactive component that allows attendees to see who else is there and sort by industry, industry sector, interests, etc. People can select full profiles of people, and use the reader to activate their own profile, and drag information in to their folder/profile.

So, this screen enables a person to gather all the business contacts of people with shared business interests, without running around trying to get cards. This data can be pushed to an account and to a mobile device or tablet. An IM component would make it possible to arrange meetings on the event floor, saying “Hi, I am Bob Smith from XYZ Interactive. Can we chat during the coffee break?”

The main DS board would also allow people to select and pull down copies of the presentation, speech notes or whatever is made available. It could also have a message board component, saying people are informally gathering at a bar after to chat some more, or flag a future event.

The idea is to make an event far less anonymous and more connected. We all go to these kinds of events intending to meet certain people or types of companies, and failing because of the way the events are done.

The same sort of technology and workflow could be done for events such as weddings and reunions, which would allow a signage and interactive platform to gather photos and data in advance – making it possible to promote who came from furthest away, youngest, oldest, stories and on and on.

All this could then be pushed out by the organizer as an iPad album at the event end, or via other means.

Some of the check-in stuff is now done by companies like EventBrite (they have iPhone and Android bar code reader apps for mobile) and MIT has an in-house project that does some of the sharing things on a touch screen. But I checked with Chaki Ng and it is limited and not commercially done by anyone. The requesty was for a mash-up, and this indeed a mashed idea.

What do you think?

By the way, if you don’t already you should follow what Rise is doing via its blog, mostly written by founder Byron Darlison. They are huge on open source and doing some very interesting work to cherry-pick a lot of great online tools and services to make a fully open, extensible platform for digital signage networks of pretty much any size. Cloud-based stuff scales pretty much infinitely.

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