IBM Uses RFID to Track Conference Visitors

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PC World reports that IBM is deploying RFID name tags for visitors at its Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas. It is no secret to registrants, who are offered the option of a non-RFID enabled tag via large signs. The chips’ data is gathered using systems from AllianceTech (Austin, Texas), and will generate a lot of raw data, some of which IBM doesn’t even know what to do with yet.

The chips themselves contain 24-character identifiers including the name, title, and company of the attendees. Data is logged by RFID readers as visitors walk through doors into sessions and meal rooms, and sent to on-site DB2 collection systems in real time. (More details at report.)

The implications of this illustrate the very 1984-ish oversight RFID could provide if misused. Personally, I’d probably opt for the non-tracking name tag, if only for privacy’s sake. If IBM offered me access to my own log data, with an option to review it for a certain period after the conference and delete unwanted data before they analyzed it, I might be much more comfortable with the tracking. Supposedly, only about 2% of the visitors didn’t want to be tracked, but some of the takers just might not have noticed. This technology is getting somewhat scary.


I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.

One Comment:

  1. I attended my company’s annual sales conference in Las Vegas back in August. RFID was used to track all the sessions – the technology was provided by Convention Strategy (Wash, DC). I loved the experience of being able to walk freely in and out of the rooms. A few years ago they had people standing at the doors scanning you in and out, which was a pain. I hope we continue to use this and recommend it!

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