The Return of Smart Badges

Skift Take

Wearables and smart badging technology are coming back. New solutions have the potential to support a seamless attendee experience while providing organizers with valuable data.

Tech is not a silver bullet, but…as we’re constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. Our search for innovative approaches almost certainly involves technology, in this case, smart badging technology.

Event management platforms form the backbone of every in-person event. Download the Skift Meetings Event Technology Made Simple 2023 report for a full breakdown of these tools. A total of 69 tools are included in the guide, with 61 compared and contrasted in full feature tables.

Planners looking to catch up with the latest event technology may want to look at smart badges. The buzz around beacon and RFID (radio frequency identification) solutions peaked in the mid-2010s, but has since died down. For example, Loopd was a wearable beacon solution that used Bluetooth LE connectivity. It was acquired by Aventri, then known as etouches, and now part of Stova, in 2017. The technology was initially integrated into the company’s offering, but it has since sunset it.

More recently, during the Covid pandemic, the majority of event tech companies allocated their resources towards developing virtual event platforms and froze development in other areas. Badging was not top of mind as they pivoted to virtual. However, some companies never pivoted, while others have since shifted their focus away from virtual events and are now developing smart tech products for in-person events. 

This article showcases some of the smart badging solutions that have caught our attention. This is by no means a complete overview, as we’re always on the lookout for more.

An Independent Throwback Solution

Captag is bullish on its Badgee smart badging solution. The Paris-based company, active since 2011, exhibited at CES in January as part of the French Pavilion. It followed this up by opening an office in Las Vegas and was the winner of the Event Tech Live Vegas Launchpad competition.

The device looks like a throwback to the early 2000s before apps on mobile devices took over from hardware solutions. A black-and-white display and four buttons are enough to power access control, networking, and voting. The system is constantly synchronized with an event management system.

While the hardware may feel like a throwback, it addresses a present-day challenge, keeping attendees engaged at the event. “It’s not a good idea to always use your smartphone to interact with the event. When you are at a physical event, you’re there to meet other people and not spend time on your phone,” said Captag CEO Antoine Bouchet.

It also offers data collection capabilities nearly on par with virtual event platforms. “It’s a cool eco-friendly display, but there is also something else: a data collection [device],” said Bouchet.

Captag also cites 100 percent user adoption, speed of usage, and no compatibility issues, as advantages compared to mobile event apps. Taking away the need for badge printing is also a major benefit. In the future, Captag is looking to integrate advertising features into the device.

Currently, the price of renting devices ranges between $22 to $33 (20 to 30 €) Euros, which includes the event registration and management system as well.

An Integrated Option

Bizzabo is one of the few other companies offering smart badging solutions. It acquired Klik for $13.5 million in November 2021. One year later, it relaunched the product as SmartBadge™.

Feature-wise, the offering looks slick and integrates into the fully-featured Bizzabo ecosystem. A small light-emitting beacon unit attaches to plus-sized name badge holders, enabling attendees to exchange contacts and access sessions, all while organizers collect valuable attendee data.

Voting is not available directly on the badges. Instead, the system relies on integration with Bizzabo’s event app, which offers a wide range of audience response features. SmartBadge™ also integrates with Bizzabo’s lead retrieval app for exhibitors to obtain maximum return on investment.

Other Smart Badging Options

Noodle Live is a UK-based company offer a wide range of RFID and NFC solutions. The company takes a custom approach to projects based on client needs is RIFD touch points that enable attendees to scan their badge or beacon to access content or for practical uses like coat check. Noodle Live is led by CEO (head of pencils) Clemi Hardie, a recent guest on the Skift Meetings Podcast.

Beamian is a Portugal-based company with offices across Europe. It offers both smart wristbands and smart badging solutions connected to a custom event management system. The smart badging functionality is limited to access control and check-in using devices that capture attendee taps.