IAEM (The International Assocation of Exhibition Managers) is the best conference I go to each year to see new technology developments. Tradeshows, due to their size and emphasis on marketing, have consistently been early adopters of tech tools.
Several trends were seen on the floor this year including the increasing use of wireless and PDA technology. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is beginning to make inroads. Web-based applications are becoming more robust with the implementation of web-services (.NET) applications.
Included in this article as some of products that stood out with novel or creative use of technology from the IAEM Annual Meeting last month (companies listed in alphabetical order):
This lead retrieval contractor's new Trakker system not only uses mag stripe lead retrieval, but also is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) enabled promising faster, contactless scanning of leads.
This Internet-based registration and lead management provider is offering a new wireless lead retrieval reader (the ShowLead Mobile solution) that uses the MS Windows Mobile platform. Not only are standard 2D barcodes scanned, it can capture photo images, read RF tags, and can link wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to a central lead database.
CSI, one of the major tradeshow registration and lead retrieval providers, showed a range of wireless PDA solutions for session access/control, ID verification, exhibit attendance tracking, and more. One of the intriguing products is FastLane, a wireless PDA system to expedite registration. As people are standing in the registration lines, a host using a wireless PDA connected to the registration database can help register people, que badge printing or direct them to the right registration location.
CDS, a registration service provider to the Tradeshow industry for more than 15 years, has expanded their e-marketing and a online survey capabilities to their registration platform. They have also recently converted to a .NET infrastructure making upgrades and interoperability to other online capabilities easier.
GES has been a pioneer in the online exhibitor kit and other technology for the tradeshow industry. The have taken the online exhibitor kit to a whole new level. This fully e-commerce enabled system allows exhibitors to order every service and product that they need to equip their booth and manage the show. More importantly, for exhibitors with multiple GES shows each year, clients can pull up their profile from the previous show and simply copy and repeat the requirements if desired. They can also track their total spend.
E-SoftSys’s Booth Tracker, is a tradeshow management software suite designed to automate the rental process. This can be managed on a desktop computer, over the web, and via mobile devices such as a wireless Pocket PC. This information collected then can be provided to attendees via web-based and Kiosk-based product directories.
The company provides a broad range of technology services: registration, housing, exhibition sales/management, floor plan tools, abstract management and a conference portal to access these services. One of the news items is that they are providing wireless technology to manage show sales.
Event Software, providing facility management and scheduling software was demonstrating both a Palm interface to this scheduling software and a new 3-D room diagramming software module (3D Event Designer).
Exgenex is a full-service registration, housing and lead retrieval company offering a range of services. They were promoting their Show Portal providing customized access for:
1. show managers (traffic pattern analysis, e-marketing, exhibit promotion)
2. exhibitors (lead capture, performance statistics, email follow-up, ROI measurement)
3. attendees (exhibit product directory, product inquiries, product information downloads).
ExpoExchange is one of the largest full-service registration and exhibit service providers in the industry. It would take a page to list all of their services. Their merger with Conferon has added significantly to their capabilities.
One of may favorite products at the show was their SmartEvent product. A structured “business matchmaking” function, it proves way to people of like interests to get together at the meeting. This system has a number of evaluation features that, through using the product, people can connect with potential clients, or colleagues of like interest that will help potential attendees and exhibitors justify going to a meeting. The matches are anonymous, until both sides agree to meet.I have long been a proponent of using technology to improve tradeshows and other meetings. This product definitely fits into this category.
This kiosk rental and sales providers offer quick, easy and stylish kiosks to be used for product directories, Internet access terminals, and information kiosks. They have units stored in the top 20 meeting cities in the US for rapid response and deployment for tradeshows.
The newly named ITN Intenational Inc. (formerly bCard) has taken a different approach to registration lead retrieval than most of the providers by using smart card technology. Each smart card has a chip to store lots of lead retrieval data. They are also venturing into using RFID for the same purposes. Aside from the capability of being able to store much more data, the unique aspect of the smart card is that is it is read/writable, meaning that additional data can be stored on the card as it is used. Applications would be for: tickets (the attendee uses it for admission to an event/meal function, and the use is noted on the card); if they pickup the registration packet, it could be recorded; if attendance tracking at specific events is needed, the readers can note entrance/exit on the card allowing the attendee to retrieve CEU credits from the data stored on his/her card.
J Spargo & Associates is also one of the major registration/lead retrieval providers. As with many of these providers, they are moving to wireless technology. Their “LineBuster” program will allow wireless cueing of badge printing to assist an expedite attendees standing in registration lines.
MapNetwork provides one of the best online and paper exhibit floor plan/city guides that I have seen and were a sponsoring partner for the IAEM show. The product is intuitive, graphically pleasing and easy to use. They integrate with ExpoCAD and other CAD oriented floor plan tools, but make much of their revenue from destination sponsors highlighted on the maps.
SmartCity was there in force, reinforcing what I have been predicting for the past few years that wireless technology is moving into the mainstream of Convention Center and hotel wireless broadband adoption. They are expanding their networks into a gigabit infrastructure allowing for increasingly faster data exchange.
With their tagline of “One card for every show. One card for life,” Synqware’s Synqcard offers an interesting idea for lead retrieval/order processing system. An attendee can: 1. Pre-register on the web and receive a bar-coded SYNQCARD printout, 2. Present this printout at registration for expedited entry and 3. Present the SYNQCARD at the exhibitor booths. Exhibitors can scan SYNQCARD printout for expedited information requests, speedy credit approval, and no-hassle order entry. They hope to establish a standard card that would be able to be used from show to show. This system also integrates with a Wi-Fi enabled Pocket PC that will read the barcode and expedite any requests for information and product ordering.
TMI has been providing computerized exhibit directories through touch screen kiosks for years. Their services have expanded to provide exhibit floor plan management, product directories, cyber cafes, show email systems, wireless and PDA connectivity, web design and onsite services.