Coolest thing at MIT conference is the badges?

I’m still getting around to see a bunch of cool things here in Boston as I attend the MIT Emerging Technology conference but the coolest thing just might be the badges. They are electronic devices made by nTAG Interactive. First of all they got the visual part right. You can read people’s names from a good way away. It’s amazing how many conferences get that simple thing wrong.

Underneath the name badge is a device that’s a little longer than an iPhone. It is connected via wireless to a home server. They know which sessions you’ve attended and they can ask you survey questions (speakers can use the devices to get feedback in real time from the audience). But you can also use them to exchange an electronic business card. My device shows me I’ve exchanged cards with eight people so far. It’s weird, I don’t like using the device for that as much as just gathering a paper card. Partly because you have to hold the devices together to exchange cards.

Anyway, the coolest thing is that you can study how audiences interact with each other. Over on the NTAG blog they have interesting posts about whether men or women are better networkers or how people from the same company hang out together at events around the world and lots more.

They’ve also done a quick analysis of the people at the MIT conference.

Also on the device you can send messages to other attendees, plan your schedule, and more.

The one problem is that events are too short. Just when you figure out how cool the device is and how useful it might be you need to turn in the device and head to the airport, which is what I’m doing after I finish this post. We’re flying from Boston to San Francisco tonight.

Oh, and why doesn’t this add data to Dopplr and other services? Also, any photos I took could be matched up with data from this device to make tags on Flickr or other photo sharing service. My friends think I’m geeky when I ask for such things, but someday our devices WILL talk to such services.

One last thing: privacy is dead. Get over it. Off to the airport now.

Comments

  1. I hope you are wrong. Privacy isn’t dead and it shouldn’t be dead. Yes, if you “choose” to attend a conference with that type of technology you know that you are being tracked.

    But that’s permission based. I sure hope that people, even people on the bleeding edge such as Scoble, realize that a key part of freedom is the concept of personal privacy.

    When they come out with the brain chip Robert that does all that tracking in real time and stores every move you’ve ever made, will you be the first Alpha/Beta tester?

  2. I hope you are wrong. Privacy isn’t dead and it shouldn’t be dead. Yes, if you “choose” to attend a conference with that type of technology you know that you are being tracked.

    But that’s permission based. I sure hope that people, even people on the bleeding edge such as Scoble, realize that a key part of freedom is the concept of personal privacy.

    When they come out with the brain chip Robert that does all that tracking in real time and stores every move you’ve ever made, will you be the first Alpha/Beta tester?

  3. I just returned from a Disney Travel Agents conference where these nTag devices were used – they are awesome! It lead to a lot more networking than I may not have normally done.

    FYI – they do have a range of about a 30 inches?, maybe – at dinner one night, my nTag device kept talking to the person across the table from me, every time we leaned in to take a bite of food! (in other words, they don’t need to be put right next to each other)

    Enjoy!

  4. I just returned from a Disney Travel Agents conference where these nTag devices were used – they are awesome! It lead to a lot more networking than I may not have normally done.

    FYI – they do have a range of about a 30 inches?, maybe – at dinner one night, my nTag device kept talking to the person across the table from me, every time we leaned in to take a bite of food! (in other words, they don’t need to be put right next to each other)

    Enjoy!

  5. I agree with you that the definition of public and private is changing as a result of technology. However, it’s easy to be blase about the “death” of privacy when your work or activities do not put you at physical risk. A political dissident or abortion provider, as two examples, may have more at stake in terms of keeping the details of their lives private. Because it makes other protected activities possible by reducing coercive pressure, privacy is worth protecting, even to the extent to which it hobbles “cool” technology.

  6. I agree with you that the definition of public and private is changing as a result of technology. However, it’s easy to be blase about the “death” of privacy when your work or activities do not put you at physical risk. A political dissident or abortion provider, as two examples, may have more at stake in terms of keeping the details of their lives private. Because it makes other protected activities possible by reducing coercive pressure, privacy is worth protecting, even to the extent to which it hobbles “cool” technology.

  7. Sorry, but if conference organisators would built a great portal with all the informations an NTAG could bring, you wouldn’t need something like that.

    I’ve not been to many conferences, but the one I have been were poorly organized in term of networking capabilities.

    First, if you are interested to network during a conference, this should begin before the conference. You should check on the conference web site (if you registered and gave the others the ability to see your profile and contact you) the others persons that are attending based on their business, sector, personnality, etc.

    Second, we are all real time connected. So our notification system is either our laptop or our mobile phone.

    I love the geeky stuffs, but in the same time, I’m always wondering if they don’t try to solve something that can be done in another way.

    Just think of the “The billion-dollar space pen”
    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/613/1

    The story goes like this: in the 1960s, NASA astronauts discovered that their pens did not work in zero gravity. So like good engineers, they went to work and designed a wonder pen. It worked upside down. It worked in vacuum. It worked in zero gravity. It even worked underwater! And it only cost a million dollars!

    The crafty Russians used a pencil.

  8. Sorry, but if conference organisators would built a great portal with all the informations an NTAG could bring, you wouldn’t need something like that.

    I’ve not been to many conferences, but the one I have been were poorly organized in term of networking capabilities.

    First, if you are interested to network during a conference, this should begin before the conference. You should check on the conference web site (if you registered and gave the others the ability to see your profile and contact you) the others persons that are attending based on their business, sector, personnality, etc.

    Second, we are all real time connected. So our notification system is either our laptop or our mobile phone.

    I love the geeky stuffs, but in the same time, I’m always wondering if they don’t try to solve something that can be done in another way.

    Just think of the “The billion-dollar space pen”
    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/613/1

    The story goes like this: in the 1960s, NASA astronauts discovered that their pens did not work in zero gravity. So like good engineers, they went to work and designed a wonder pen. It worked upside down. It worked in vacuum. It worked in zero gravity. It even worked underwater! And it only cost a million dollars!

    The crafty Russians used a pencil.

  9. What is is that we’re trying to solve?

    : Meeting people?
    : Exchanging business cards?
    : Provide a method for the event to track my where-abouts?
    : Giving intrusive vendors the ability to contact me about products I’m not interested in?

    And, at what cost? How expensive are these things to rent and what happens when all of them don’t make their way back to the event at the end of the show? Am I charged for not returning it?

    You want your name to be big on your badge, tell the organizer to PRINT THE NAME BIG…?

    At a company I used to work at we had a saying “cute once, annoying forever”. I’d have to see some real value in an nTag, more than ‘geekifying’ the thing that I’m already able to easily do using Twitter and business cards, for the hassle of dealing with the thing.

    I’d think that a much simpler device, perhaps an audience response tool that enables networking, would be a much easier and less costly approach.

  10. What is is that we’re trying to solve?

    : Meeting people?
    : Exchanging business cards?
    : Provide a method for the event to track my where-abouts?
    : Giving intrusive vendors the ability to contact me about products I’m not interested in?

    And, at what cost? How expensive are these things to rent and what happens when all of them don’t make their way back to the event at the end of the show? Am I charged for not returning it?

    You want your name to be big on your badge, tell the organizer to PRINT THE NAME BIG…?

    At a company I used to work at we had a saying “cute once, annoying forever”. I’d have to see some real value in an nTag, more than ‘geekifying’ the thing that I’m already able to easily do using Twitter and business cards, for the hassle of dealing with the thing.

    I’d think that a much simpler device, perhaps an audience response tool that enables networking, would be a much easier and less costly approach.

  11. It’s certainly worth pointing out that there are many cheaper, simpler solutions to the problem of meeting people at conferences than a device. Pathable (http://www.pathable.com/) is in the same space, providing social networking tools for conference attendees, but is closer to what Frederic is asking for (“a portal with all the information an nTag could bring”) without the expense of a hardware device. It’s a simple community and social networking service for “pre-conference networking” plus badges that include a list of people to meet and interests printed right below the easy-to-read name.

    Paper badges. Much simpler than a iPod-sized device. Robert’s note that he doesn’t “like using the device for that as much as just gathering a paper card” is consistent with other feedback I’ve heard about device-based experiences like nTag and SpotMe: who wants to be fiddling with a device when you’re at a conference? You want to be looking at the person you’re talking to and interacting with them!

  12. It’s certainly worth pointing out that there are many cheaper, simpler solutions to the problem of meeting people at conferences than a device. Pathable (http://www.pathable.com/) is in the same space, providing social networking tools for conference attendees, but is closer to what Frederic is asking for (“a portal with all the information an nTag could bring”) without the expense of a hardware device. It’s a simple community and social networking service for “pre-conference networking” plus badges that include a list of people to meet and interests printed right below the easy-to-read name.

    Paper badges. Much simpler than a iPod-sized device. Robert’s note that he doesn’t “like using the device for that as much as just gathering a paper card” is consistent with other feedback I’ve heard about device-based experiences like nTag and SpotMe: who wants to be fiddling with a device when you’re at a conference? You want to be looking at the person you’re talking to and interacting with them!

  13. For a few more findings from EmTech 08 based on the nTAG data, check out http://rick.ntag.com. As it says there, speakers like you need to circulate more at these events — the data shows that informal interactions with Scoble-types adds a lot of networking value.

    Thanks a lot for the mention.

  14. For a few more findings from EmTech 08 based on the nTAG data, check out http://rick.ntag.com. As it says there, speakers like you need to circulate more at these events — the data shows that informal interactions with Scoble-types adds a lot of networking value.

    Thanks a lot for the mention.

  15. The link you provided ends: “The Million Dollar Space Pen Myth is just that, a myth.”

    That doesn’t invalidate the point… many projects fail to account for the possibility that a manual or simpler automation will be more effective than the “wonder solution”. Systems analysis is supposed to account for that, but I find many who take on that task who think all systems are electronic.

  16. The link you provided ends: “The Million Dollar Space Pen Myth is just that, a myth.”

    That doesn’t invalidate the point… many projects fail to account for the possibility that a manual or simpler automation will be more effective than the “wonder solution”. Systems analysis is supposed to account for that, but I find many who take on that task who think all systems are electronic.

  17. Damn! That is creepy. I don’t want to be tracked. I hope this doesn’t become pervasive or I’ll have to up my hacking skills to learn how to disable these devices.

    I think it is awful to require participation as part of going to a conference. It should only be used by those who want to be part of such an exercise. Whatever happen to free consent?

  18. Damn! That is creepy. I don’t want to be tracked. I hope this doesn’t become pervasive or I’ll have to up my hacking skills to learn how to disable these devices.

    I think it is awful to require participation as part of going to a conference. It should only be used by those who want to be part of such an exercise. Whatever happen to free consent?