TECHED: RFID Palava

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UPDATE: I changed some wording slightly – the term ‘tracking people’ was misleading – see comments for more details :-)

It’s going to be interesting to see the reactions of attendees to the RFID tag palava at this year’s TechEd in Sydney.

For those who missed it, the dudes at Breeze (Mick Badran and Scott Scovell amongst others) have been working hard for the last few months putting together a whole bunch of RFID infrastructure for TechEd (they even got some press).RFID tag

RFID is a very convenient way of registering attendance of people (it sure beats having to wait for door staff to scan the bar code on your name tag) and it opens up a whole range of data mining options. Each delegate will have an RFID tag in their name badge which can be scanned at any of the 56 RFID readers around the event (and no, they aren’t putting scanners in the toilets!). The information is collected and can be linked to attributes (but nothing personally identifiable) about the delegate to allow some nice data patterns & trends.

Give privacy concerns the boot

But before we go any further, please note, this is not a big brother kind of thing. You can opt out. You can chuck away your RFID tag. In fact all you have to do is put your hand over the RFID tag and it won’t be picked up. So let’s give the boot to any silly privacy concerns that might rear their ignorant heads. You are in control folks! [UPDATE: Mick has an excellent update calming any concerns you may have]

I’m a fan… now

This might sound strange coming from someone who blogs about personal stuff from time to time, but I have to admit I was nervous when I first heard about the RFID tag plans. I’m actually pretty private and like to carefully control what is revealed about me (heh! and you thought I was totally open about everything on this blog – think again :-))

But now I’m a big fan. And here’s why… as a consumer your user experience is going to be better.

An improved Conference experience

The advantages of noting (in real time) the attributes of people who have turned up to a particular session are going to be immense. There’s plenty of benefits for organisers, but the main benefit I see is how presenters will be able to view stats on their audience and tailor the experience to suit.

I’m not sure what level of feedback will be provided at this year’s event, but you can see the potential. Imagine you are in a session and the presenter is able to know that most of you are experienced IT Pros. The coding might get reduced and the configuration increased (just an example).

Start thinking about all the possibilities…

(See also Shane’s post for details of the UX ideas)

6 comments

  • Nice post Craig – we’ve been working hard.

    ‘Track’ means different thing to different people – from a tracking perspective, our system replaces the people at the doors that used to individually scan barcodes one at a time.

    By automating this with RFID, delegates now have much more information available to them.

    We designed the system primarily for Delegates & Speakers :)

    I’ve also explained more details about the system, hereby addressing any privacy concerns that someone may have.

    http://blogs.breezetraining.com.au/mickb/2008/08/26/RFIDTechEd2008UpdateYourmyPrivacyConcerns.aspx

  • Nice post Craig – we’ve been working hard.

    ‘Track’ means different thing to different people – from a tracking perspective, our system replaces the people at the doors that used to individually scan barcodes one at a time.

    By automating this with RFID, delegates now have much more information available to them.

    We designed the system primarily for Delegates & Speakers :)

    I’ve also explained more details about the system, hereby addressing any privacy concerns that someone may have.

    http://blogs.breezetraining.com.au/mickb/2008/08/26/RFIDTechEd2008UpdateYourmyPrivacyConcerns.aspx

  • Hi Mick,
    Thanks for the comment.
    I’ve actually gone back and removed the term ‘tracking’ because as I read over the post again I could see that it might give the impression tags were being tracked throughout the entire conference floor (ie you could track a person walking around) which of course you can’t.
    I can’t wait to see it in action.
    Cheers,
    Craig

  • Hi Mick,
    Thanks for the comment.
    I’ve actually gone back and removed the term ‘tracking’ because as I read over the post again I could see that it might give the impression tags were being tracked throughout the entire conference floor (ie you could track a person walking around) which of course you can’t.
    I can’t wait to see it in action.
    Cheers,
    Craig

  • Like you, I watched a few of the videos and news magazine reports particularly the Verichip site http://www.verichipcorp.com/content/media/audio_video about implanted devices and although "warning bells" sounded, essentially the implant is switched on then read by the scanner and it then transmits a number, but this is MANUALLY entered into the hospital database and the patient records are accessed. But what if the number was incorrectly entered – is there some cross-check such as an image of the persons face for quick assurance they have the right patient. The news items particularly around 2006, are doing their usual scare mungering in asking the obvious question "Can a hacker access the patients data".

    I wish there was a word that could replace tracking as these news items instill the idea of "chip tracking" and that is the idea the public will know it as. But this is definately an issue to keep track of. As with all technology, you have to weigh up the benefits against privacy. The benefits outweigh in the long term but with privacy factored in. I always feel happy to see activists keeping the authorities honest.

    The Tech-Ed experiment is worthwhile and it will be worth reading Mick’s report post Tech-Ed.

  • Like you, I watched a few of the videos and news magazine reports particularly the Verichip site http://www.verichipcorp.com/content/media/audio_video about implanted devices and although "warning bells" sounded, essentially the implant is switched on then read by the scanner and it then transmits a number, but this is MANUALLY entered into the hospital database and the patient records are accessed. But what if the number was incorrectly entered – is there some cross-check such as an image of the persons face for quick assurance they have the right patient. The news items particularly around 2006, are doing their usual scare mungering in asking the obvious question "Can a hacker access the patients data".

    I wish there was a word that could replace tracking as these news items instill the idea of "chip tracking" and that is the idea the public will know it as. But this is definately an issue to keep track of. As with all technology, you have to weigh up the benefits against privacy. The benefits outweigh in the long term but with privacy factored in. I always feel happy to see activists keeping the authorities honest.

    The Tech-Ed experiment is worthwhile and it will be worth reading Mick’s report post Tech-Ed.

About Craig

I'm the co-host of HubShots and the CEO of XEN - helping mid-large B2B companies with their digital marketing and lead generation.

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