Event badge with NFC and Android Logo

Near Field Communication – A Game Changer In Event Technology

About the guest author: Marc Knoll is an online marketer, blogger and technology enthusiast. His blog trendblog.net focuses on digital marketing and technology. Follow him on Google+.


With more and more smartphones coming out equipped with Near Field Communication chips, or NFC, more people are getting aware of the existence of this promising technology. But only a few actually know what exactly NFC is and that it can be used for many things – including events.


What Is Near Field Communication (NFC)?

To keep it short; NFC is a short-range wireless technology that uses inductive circuits to exchange data between two NFC capable devices. NFC is a special form of the known RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification) with the difference that NFC has a working range of maximum 10 centimeters (4 inches) and can be set up for one- or two-way communication.



Where is NFC being used?

NFC has been around for a while already but in terms of consumer acceptance and implementation in consumer electronics it is still in its early stages. Only few companies and tech-savvy people are using NFC today. But more and more are recognizing the huge potential of NFC and start investing in that technology. It will be used especially in the mobile payment and mobile ticketing industry. On top of that it offers many possibilities for marketers to get consumers more engaged with brands.


Event organizers can be pleased with the great possibilities that NFC offers for events. Some events already use smart wristbands and badges with NFC mostly for entry management and attendee interaction, but with the spread of NFC capable smartphones, they’ll be obsolete.


NFC Reader Terminal at Event


NFC Trends And It’s Potential For Events
(Now & In The Future)

Higher engagement level of attendees

With the help of NFC, event organizers can make their events much more interactive. There are countless creative possibilities to do so. Terminals with NFC readers could encourage attendees to take a picture and automatically share it on social networks, for example. NFC devices are perfect voting and rating tools and could be used to determine the tastiest bottle at a wine tasting or the most desired product at trade fairs.


These are just some of the many examples and once the vast majority owns an NFC capable smartphone, the realization will be inexpensive since NFC tags and readers are quite affordable.


Easy entry management and access control

There are already some innovative ways, such as Apple’s Passbook, to offer ticket buyers an easy way to enter an event. However, NFC-based entry management might have more value because it can make the whole entry process even easier. The ticket buyer wouldn’t need to get his e-ticket into a ticketing app. Only a NFC capable smartphone is needed and an NFC reader at the event to match the participant’s data with the data in the event organizer’s database.


During an event, the same principle can be used to control restricted areas by giving each participant a certain access code.



Organizers can use check-ins to track attendance of keynote presentations and workshops for their own statistics. Check-ins can be used perfectly to communicate live figures of available seats in certain areas during an event. That way, attendees could easily check on screens or in a mobile event app, which keynote presentation or workshop still has available space. This would enhance the event experience significantly.


Mobile Payment

NFC capable smartphones will be used to pay for goods and services in a couple of years from now. Already today, numerous startups are emerging offering mobile payment solutions to businesses. Event organizers can use mobile payment to make it extremely simple and convenient for attendees to buy food, merchandise or other products with a simple tap on an NFC reader.



Especially at business events, trade fairs and conferences, networking is a very important activity for attendees. A lot of business cards are being exchanged and some might get lost. With NFC technology, this whole process can be handled digitally. Digital business cards (vCards) can be exchanged by tapping two smartphones at each other. This could also work with NFC name tags containing contact details.


Digital event badges

For some events, organizers already use smart event badges with either an NFC chip or an RFID chip – NFC’s older brother. In about three years, traditional event badges will be replaced by digital ones on smartphones, says Bob James from ITN International.


“Attendees will identify themselves by touching their phones to other phones and to mobile and stationary readers. Their phone-resident badges will allow attendees to enter conference sessions, exhibit halls and social events.” – Bob James


NFC Event Application Best Practice: Digital Cream Shanghai 2012

At the Digital Cream Shanghai 2012, a roundtable forum for China’s digital and brand marketers, NFC played a big role. By using NFC capable wristbands and various terminals with NFC readers, attendees were encouraged to share pictures and check-ins on facebook, twitter and on a special event feed.


The video below shows some impressions of that during the Digital Cream Shanghai.


Future Outlook

Although NFC hasn’t turned into a mainstream technology yet, there are already great uses for events using NFC capable badges or wristbands. Once it becomes a standard in modern consumer electronics, smartphones will replace them and function as a universal digital badge, which will be used for access control, entry management, mobile payments and social interactions.


NFC will take event technology to the next level and, if done right, will make events much more interactive and increase attendee engagement and satisfaction.



Myriam van Alphen-Schrade is a Marketing & PR expert and currently holds the position of Senior PR & Communication Manager at XING EVENTS.
Having worked in various management roles for fashion & lifestyle products for many years she is now enjoying being part of the meetings and events industry.

Myriam has published various studies including the Social Media & Events Report 2012 and 2013, which has become a must read among event organisers and is considered as an important source of information on the subject of social media in the event industry.

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