CES Badges Get Smart

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The so called Internet of Things is expected by industry watchers to be among the major themes at International CES in Las Vegas. More everyday objects are becoming "smart" and that extends to the trade show badges attendees wear at the annual consumer electronics industry gathering.

The badges are embedded with a near-field communications (NFC) chip for the first time this year. The intent of the smart badges with wireless chips is to ease information exchanges in situations such as checking in at booths and events as well as storing information like lunch tickets for media attending the show. In the past, QR or bar codes were used for this process.

"We have new badges for the 2014 International CES that will result in greater ease of use, shorter lines and improved badge functionality for attendees and exhibitors by employing NFC technology," said Tara Dunion, senior communications director of the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces CES. "The NFC technology allows us to 'load' each badge with specific event information that pertains to that specific attendee. For example, each press badge has a press lunch coupon 'contained' within the badge."

NFC is a communication technology standard used for smartphones and other mobile devices to establish two-way radio communication between endpoints when they are in close proximity.

On the day prior to the show's official opening, media attendees were among the first to use the NFC badges to claim the backpacks and box lunches given to press.

"The lunch line will be a great way to test," said Ronald Kaplan, a media attendee and partner in SICons, a Los Angeles-based systems integration and computer forensic consulting firm. "In the past, they used a paper ticket. That's where paper shines - 'take the ticket.'"

Kaplan also noted that the badge scanning process appeared to be challenged by distance.

"I thought the proximity was a little too close," said Ronald Kaplan. "It might be a limitation of the technology."

That a technology-centric event was using the smart badges was refreshing to at least one media attendee.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Dylan Kaplan. "It's important for CES to use the latest technology."

The NFC chips embedded in the CES badges were provided by NXP and the badging system was developed in collaboration with ITN International and Smartrac. The badges are sponsored by Qualcomm.

According to the CEA, users' private information associated with each badge cannot be picked up by other NFC devices that do not have the proper credentials.

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