How We Did An NFC-Social Media-Twitter Mash-Up

March 12, 2012 by Dave Haynes

One of the big things we wanted to accomplish at this year’s Preset Group DSE Mixer was to fully integrate digital into the event, and that meant more than just getting some digital content looping on the venue’s available screens.

I was contacted, separately, by folks at two different companies, and with the help of some others who chipped in, we put together something I’m not sure has ever been done in this or any sector.

Briefly, we did a mash-up of:

All that was put together to welcome people to the event, announce their presence, and let them download information on the sponsors and tech partners. The event was an annual cocktail party Preset puts together each year in Las Vegas, just ahead of Digital Signage Expo. We did it this year at the Golden Nugget casino on Fremont Street, in old school downtown Las Vegas.

Wobbly Internet, 300 name badges and sleeves that needed to get stuffed in what seemed like three minutes, and a crush of early arrivals, meant the flow of what we did was less than ideal. Turns out, 280 people in a room who all have WiFi enabled phones crushes even the most robust WiFi plans. But it all actually worked, and by mid-party, we hit our stride with what was going on.

Here’s what what we did:

When people registered online for the event, using EventBrite, we captured names, companies, specialties and, when they had them, Twitter handles. That data was pulled by the guys at Blue Bite – who enable proximity and mobile digital out of home marketing/advertising – to assign a unique ID to each registered attendee, as well as encode each registered user’s personal vCard information.

NYC-based Blue Bite developed and printed name badges that had two NFC chips embedded in them, and an identifying number string associated to attendees.  One NFC chip contained the actual vCard information from each pre-registered guest (which could be stored to any NFC-enabled phone at the mixer) and a second chip that launched the Insteo web/display service corresponding to each unique ID.

Long Beach, California-based Insteo – which does dynamic content for the digital signage, digital OOH and event industries – used the Blue Bite-massaged information to develop a service that dynamically announced the arrival of people at the event as soon as they got their badges and were scanned by an NFC-enabled Google Galaxy phone.

Just holding the back of the phone to the badge, briefly, read it and registered with an Insteo web service, which added that attendee to a display queue.  By tapping the next NFC chip with the Galaxy give-away phone, each user’s information was automatically added to the phone’s contact list – with a random winner chosen at the end of the night.

Insteo’s service then reached out to Twitter’s API to capture that person’s profile picture, or if they didn’t have a twitter account, their company logo.

The big NanoLumens‘ 112-inch flexible LED screen brought in for the showed the attendees Twitter avatar, name and a preamble about who who they were. In some cases, it just read a standard script of Say Hi to Bob from Brand X. In many cases, we wrote custom, often cheeky greetings mapped to companies or individuals.

In a funny twist, the Nano screen was light enough (90 pounds) to actually have a couple of guys hump up a set of stairs and into the venue.

The sheer crush of people at the door and Plan A and Plan B internet connections that weren’t reliable meant we weren’t having much luck scanning or displaying badges right at the door. But through the evening we had just about everyone scanned in and attendee announcements showing in a rotation on the big screen.

The name badges had QR codes on the back that allowed attendees to scan information and contacts for all the event sponsors and tech partners.

Interestingly, though we stated on the badges that they had NFC chips in them, most people were flipping their badges over – expecting the QR code to be scanned. It shows how new NFC is to North America.

Coordinating all this across time zones was a bit of a chore, and we’d recommend anyone trying this to first dry-run the connectivity (and go wired, not wireless, if you can) and have someone dedicated at the door to do nothing but scanning.

But overall, we thought this was very cool and it has possibilities for people running tech-driven events.


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