The client needed a booth driver to draw in the crowds at an exhibition, to then capture data from them to be used post event. The client wanted a touchscreen game, which attendees could play after watching a certain amount of presentations or demonstrations on the stand. After each presentation or demonstration they would get a card stamped. When they had enough stamps they would then be able to play the game and be in with a chance of winning a prize.
As the client was a software company I suggested we ditch the coffe shop card stamping and switch to something a little more high-tech. I came up with the idea of using NFC wristbands. Staff on the stand would issue attendees with a wristband using an NFC enabled tablet, taking the attendees name and email address or selecting them from the list of pre-registrations. The attendee could then interact with the stand, swiping their wristband each time.
I started by researching which technology to use, initially trying an iPad in combination with a USB adaptor and NFC dongle. This proved to be unreliable as the iPad would periodically disconnect the dongle requiring it to be plugged and unplugged each time. Instead I opted for an NFC enabled tablet, the Google Nexus 7.
I then needed to source the tech for the swipe points on the stand. The dongle worked, but with a very limited range – the wristband had to hit an area the size of a finger nail and be within a couple of mm of the dongle, which was too fiddly. I instead went for a larger reader which had a surface area the side of a credit card and read the wristband from about 2.5cm away.
I found a .NET API that allowed me to create executable files that interfaced with the NFC reader. The application read the wristband’s ID and then sent that and the ID of the swipe point to the database. I created another application that used a TCP connection to communicate with the Flash touchscreen game. Swiping the wristband on the reader would start the game and load the attendees details to personalise the content.
To interface the tablets, swipe points and game I designed and built an API using CodeIgniter. The API provided end points for the tablets and .NET applications to access the database as well as providing an admin interface for debugging purposes. After creating the API I set about designing the tablet application that would be used to collect the information from the attendees. I then created a technical specification and managed a third party who built the Android application.
Finally I tested the implementation, and then installed and managed the solution onsite at the exhibition in Barcelona. The solution worked extremely well, and the technology itself was as exciting to the attendees as the game! Using the NFC swipe points meant that the client had detailed information about the movement of each attendee around the stand, and enabled them to send targeted post event communications based of the areas of the stand that each attendee visited.
This project was challenging on many levels but also incredibly satisfying. It was fantastic working with a client that wanted to raise the bar and do something new and interesting.