At any trade show, information that's important to your business flows as thick as the people navigating your exhibit tables and conference rooms.
Catching that information is key for you and your exhibitors and presenters, and the newest trend is making that effort faster and simpler.
Wearable beacons are becoming an integral piece of many events. The system uses Bluetooth technology to track event attendees and gather information that is useful to event planners and vendors.
A big benefit of the technology is its portability, according to Ian Twentey, vice president of sales and marketing for Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based TurnoutNow, which develops and markets the systems.
Less bulky than RFID-based systems, the beacon is about half the size of a piece of gum and attaches to an attendee's name badge. Receivers are about the size of a VHS tape can be placed anywhere in the exhibit hall without the need of special mounting equipment.
The receivers track beacons that pass by and relay the information to software that collects and analyses the data.
The information is monitored on a dashboard that adaptable to PC or mobile platforms.
While not a "Big Brother" system -- it doesn't collect an attendee's personal information -- it does track where people are and can reveal patterns in real time, which gives planners the ability to adjust things in order to maximize the overall event experience.
"It is meant to help show organizers make their shows better" Twentey said. "It can help with locating exhibitors as well ... is being near the food pavilion a good thing or a bad thing in terms of traffic?"
TurnoutNow's system also features a traffic "heat map," which gives a real-time image of floor traffic so that a show manager or meeting planner can check and make adjustments on the fly.
"If you look at a heat map and see one part of trade show floor was getting absolutely no traffic flow, you might find that there was a structure that needed to be moved or there was a lighting issue," Twentey said. "Or you might have a session that called for 50 people and 100 show up and you want to open up that other airwall."
Vendors can also use the data in lead retrieval. With a receiver mounted in an exhibit booth, a vendor can get accurate information about how many people passed by the booth and compare that data to leads they obtained through face-to-face contact.
"A beacon may come into the booth, but for some reason lead information was not gathered by the staff," Twentey said. "We can say to the exhibitor 'you had 40 people in your booth who never got swiped.'"
Sponsors can also get accurate traffic counts for their marketing tools, like signs.
"If we tell Pfizer that 3,000 people walked by your sign, and that's about 75 percent of the total attendees of the show, that's going to make Pfizer happy," he added
Show attendees also benefit from beacons through an app they can obtain, Twentey said. In addition to tracking what exhibits they had visited and sessions they attended, the device can make recommendations based on where the attendee had previously visited.
"It can be almost like Amazon. It can say you've attended these sessions and one exhibitor and you may want to attend or visit this," he added.
But, most of all, the information generated from wearable beacons can provide event planners with the tools to make their next event more powerful than the last.
"Nowadays everyone's trying to do things a little bit different, so if you can get a leg up and start understanding the behavior of your attendees and exhibitors, then that's valuable information," Twentey said.