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NFC, RFID and BLE – contactless technologies that will shake up and wake up events

You might have heard of them before but actually understanding what they mean and more importantly how they can be used to shake up your event is an entirely different matter.

I have been working in events for the last 10 years and now more than ever I am so excited to be in this industry because we have the hottest technology at our finger tips. Forget QR codes and barcode scanners, we are way beyond that now. We should welcome NFC, RFID and BLE with open arms as these technologies will change the events industry for good and enrich the overall event experience for visitors, exhibitors and event organisers.

So let’s take a practical look at what these acronyms mean and how we can use these contactless technologies at events.


RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID readers can scan large areas searching for RFID tags on name badges. Visitor data stored on the tag is then transmitted to the cloud in real-time without needing a person to be involved.

The technology has been around for decades and is typically used for supply chain management, asset management, and inventory control. And you may know that RFID is used at athletic events like the London Marathon to accurately time athletes during a race.

So imagine you have hundreds or thousands of people attending your event, many exhibitors and multiple seminars happening at the same time. With RFID you can track the exact entry and exit times of your visitors, understand the flow of traffic around an exhibition space and know which seminars they have attended. You don’t need event staff scanning badges, this all happens automatically and seamlessly as visitors come into range with an RFID reader and you can access the data in real-time.

With RFID there is a huge opportunity to understand visitor behaviour and use the information intelligently for post-event marketing and planning for future events.


NFC stands for Near Field Communication fulfils a similar function to RFID except you use your NFC enabled smartphone or an NFC card to initiate a wide variety of interactions that require no more than a simple touch against an NFC reader. The Oyster card and contactless debit cards are well-known examples of NFC.

Even though NFC has been around for a while, only a few companies have unlocked the true value of the technology. But more and more are recognising the huge potential of NFC which is primarily about bringing customers closer to businesses and vice versa.

There are many creative uses for NFC at events e.g. mobile ticketing, event entry management, visitor interactions with exhibitors, check-ins, on-site feedback, social interactions and mobile payments, coupons and loyalty.

Your entire event can be personalised with NFC by providing visitors with an NFC tag (which may be a name badge). Because the NFC tag is paired to a specific individual, each time they interact with an NFC reader the experience is personalised and the audience will feel more engaged. The great news is that NFC tags and readers are quite affordable. And as soon as the vast majority of people own an NFC enabled smartphone there will be even more opportunities for NFC.

NFC and RFID technologies are a perfect match for creating frictionless, professional connections and enriching the visitors’ overall event experience through increasing levels of interaction and engagement.


BLE stands for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and is a type of technology that enhances location-based awareness and services. This can involve BLE compatible mobile phones which when in range of a beacon can receive content.

The devices on the market that are currently BLE enabled are iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S. Later this year Android is releasing their 4.3 update and 4.4 (Kit Kat) update which means that every smartphone running Android will also be BLE enabled.

By combining the use of mobile apps and location-based services, B2B and B2C marketers are able to reach out to their customers in the right place and at the right time with targeted content to help increase engagement and drive conversions.

So what does this mean for events?

By placing small transmitters, also known as beacons, around an exhibition space, or in a specific seminar room, personalised content can be pushed to a visitor’s mobile device as they walk past various beacons.

We’re still at the very beginning when it comes to using Bluetooth Low Energy as an events marketing tool and we are really eager to engage with the bold and the brave in the events world to start capitalising on this exciting technology. The opportunities are limitless…

So, are you the one to shake up and wake up events?

We are living and working in exciting times and we have the opportunity to do things differently within any kind of event. These technologies are flexible, affordable and allow you to be even more creative. But most importantly it’s about enriching the experiences of visitors and exhibitors so that they keep coming back. And the great news for the event organiser is that you can unlock much richer information and insight to measure event success.