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RFID: Tracking every step of a conventioneer

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May 13, 2006

RFID: Tracking every step of a conventioneer

Stephen Baker

I've spent the last couple of days at a Marketing Metrics conference in Austin. The theme, which we sounded in the math cover, is that data analytics are growing more crucial every day in marketing. For better or worse, it's moving from a realm of fuzzy ideas to domain of hard numbers.

Consider trade shows. How much do companies learn about the people visiting the booths? Can they convince them to fill out a form or submit to a swipe of the bar-coded badge? Sometimes. But Art Borrego, ceo of AllianceTech, described at the conference how radio identification tags (RFID) will increasingly be embedded in trade show badges. This will enable companies to track the movement of thousands of individuals. They will learn what a person is interested in, how long he or she stayed at a certain booth. Match this with info provided upon registration, and they'll have loads of geographic and demographic data--about us.

They are using this data to generate marketing leads, to figure out people's interests and suggest other booths to visit. This is a little bit like Amazon's book recommendations. They're able to analyze the human flow through the convention, as if it were a Web site, and they can make adjustments. They can optimize. And with the data from the visitors in their bank, they can continue to ply them (if the visitors have opted in) with targeted e-mail.

Think ahead. If this technology works at trade shows, it will likely spread to political conventions, to retail stores (with RFID tags on customer loyalty cards). Yankee Stadium, perhaps? Where else will we be tracked, modeled and optimized?

09:00 AM

marketing, society

We have to get you guys up to speed! This company ( ) has been into this tech for like 5 or 6 years. I don't doubt there are plenty others.

Also, that tracking technology goes way beyond what you're touching here. We'll track both people and objects (both spimes - the real - and kirkyans - the real *and* virtual). Those systems will be tied to applications not too unlike Google Earth and will be fed by an array of sensors, including those that track cell phones for advertising (Heather will remember my comments on that, I suspect).

We'll have reputation systems both tied to our activities and embedded in these objects (as wonderfully outlined recently by Dave Chiu and Didier Hillhorst) and some will be mashed into online payment systems (ala Jane Siberry's method). People will pay because either some "smart" object demands a certain fee for use (free for nice people; $100 for the jerks of the world) or because it records and reports what a cheapskate someone is - and that adversely impacts their overall reputation (tracked through something like iKarma).

Imagine some college grad going into a job interview. He's spent four years downloading music off of a site like Siberry's and never given a cent. He's well known for this behavior, because it's been tracked, recorded, and reported. And he's never really cared because "Hey, I'm not stealing anything or hurting anybody". Now he arrives at the job site and looks for a (wirelessly connected) parking meter. He's in a rush and pulls into a space, gets out his electronic payment card to pay... only the meter refuses him. In fact all the close ones on the street refuse him and threaten to contact the police if he doesn't move his vehicle. So he has to move his car to a parking garage that actually lets him park, but charges him 10x's the rate bc of his lousy reputation ("I see that you didn't support Ms. Siberry - you know that my owner is a big fan of hers...").

So now he gets to the office (late) and during the interview he's asked about his lousy reputation. What does he say? I *needed* the music??? Nobody wants a selfish bastard. Scratch one job.

Orwell predicted Big Brother but there will be plenty of other siblings to consider in the world we're creating.

Posted by: csven at May 13, 2006 03:17 PM

One of the nice things about Second Life is that its virtual economy can help generate ideas about where the real world is going. Some comments on the SL forums got me to thinking: Reputation will not be isolated to an individual. Just as in the real world, we will all be partially judged based on who our friends and associates are. Their poor behavior reflects badly on others. On all of us.

That kid having a hard time getting a job will also affect the job prospects of his friends by mere association. And it's not like there's much doubt anymore as to whether these patterns can be tracked!

I wrote something more explanatory on my blog ( ) in the event people don't see how this works.

Posted by: csven at May 15, 2006 10:54 AM

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