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Pros and Cons

NYCC’s Gonna Track Us All With New RFID Equipped Badges

Okay, so it may not be the big deal that San Diego Comic Con is, but The Mary Sue’s biggest hometown con, New York Comic Con, has a special place in our hearts. It’s also approaching with a speed that has caused only a few moments of panic so far (stay tuned in the next few weeks for info on our meetup and our panel), and with an approaching con comes the shipping of badges. NYCC has a new trick up its sleeve to combat both overcrowding and counterfeit or scalped badges (notorious problems for the event): RFID tags. They’re also planning on using the badges to monitor traffic flow. In other words, if having your location within the Javits Center tracked creeps you out, you might want to read the instructions that come with your badge very carefully.

NYCC has been plagued with overcrowding for years, and if you’ve ever been, you’ll know that this isn’t a simple case of lots of people showing up for a popular event. The con has simply outgrown the Javits Center, but with very few other venue options within Manhattan capable of housing NYCC, moving the con is not in the cards. In attempts to expand, the Javits is always under construction to a certain extent during the days of the con, with little expanded space to show for it. Take a con that’s already outgrown its location, and add a widely patronized culture of badge scalpers and counterfeiters, and you wind up with an exhibition hall where even the areas outside the exhibition floor are routinely as densely crowded as my high school hallways between classes.

It’s no wonder, after years of complaints and likely also some considerable worry about crowding hazards, that ReedPOP has turned to RFID, but at least they’re offering some serious perks along with it. Once con-goers receive their badges (badges will not be available for pickup at the convention center this year), they’ll have to register them online. That will enable the badges to be tracked, but ReedPOP has prepared some incentives to register. “Social media perks,” which probably means downloadable Facebook banners and such, giveaways (including a car), and fifty free digital comics on Comixology.

It really says something about me that I’m way more into the idea of fifty comics than a car.

For those who are particularly skeeved out by having the movements of their badge tracked while within the Javits center are free to simply not register. They will still be allowed admittance to the event, but in the event that their badge is lost, it will not be replaced. The rest of us will have tabs kept on us like the sheep we are. Hopefully, the traffic data that ReedPOP will get out of this can be utilized to use the Javits center more efficiently, and the difficulty of counterfeiting or scalping this year’s badges will mean a less crowded, more pleasant con experience for everyone there.

(via The Beat)

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  • Anonymous

    If they really want to take advantage of this, they should offer RFID reader capability to the booths – get the mailing address of anyone that enters your booth automatically.
    And here the phrase “take advantage” has a couple meanings.

  • Selkiechick

    Hmmmm. This has interesting potential applications to me, as someone who works on Access Services (making conventions accessible to people with disabilities). Depending on how they handle their data, they could use this for people who need to bypass lines or get Line-of-Sight seating with minimal disclosure (ie, not having a sign around their neck) and they could keep track of how many who needed the services used it (or tried to) so they can plan for next year.

  • Robert

    I hope this really can improve the flow of people at the convention. There’s only so much you can do with that space but actually making sure people have real badges would be nice.

    Now if they could only improve (and by improve, I mean actually run) the weapons check so I don’t have to spend a lot of my time finding volunteers to say “Hey, someone’s walking around with actual metal hand tools/other hard, dangerous, and prohibited items as part of their cosplay,” that’d be great.

  • Sandy Alonso

    I’m in the industry (bar coding/RFID). RFID waves are most susceptible to two things: metal and liquid. We all know the human body is made up enormously of water. Don’t want to be read by the RFID reader? Just tuck your badge between one of your armpits. Blocks reading 98% of the time. Back in the day when the technology was new, at a trade show we would give out stickers that people could wear before taking a walk through our RFID portal (a pair of antennas). The idea was that the prospect walked through the portal, it read their name (which we encoded on the tag), and then a pair of speakers would say, “Hello, (name encoded)!” We’d forgotten about the whole “body’s made up of liquid” thing and it didn’t work if the person didn’t walk through JUST the right way.

  • Anonymous

    Last year they had Medical Access tags you wore with your badge. The Kid needed one, so we all got one. I’m pleased they made such a thing available.
    Tho I did find it ironic that the medical access entrance was only available via three flights of stairs.

  • blu girl

    “It really says something about me that I’m way more into the idea of fifty comics than a car.”

    I thought the exact same thing :)

    I hope this will make the crowd more manageable this year. Last year JJ was insanely packed but I still had a great time. But NYCC could definitely benefit from a larger venue. Hopefully there will be some progress on building a new convention center. Unfortunately the proposed project near the Aqueduct is dead for now.

  • Cy

    It depends on the car for me. If it’s a Prius I’ll take the comics but if it’s a Camaro I’ll take the car.

    It appears that it’ll probably be a Chevy Sonic. Eh…maybe selling the car to get comics would be the best choice in that case ;)

  • blu girl

    LOL I love it!

  • Jess

    I’m pretty sure RFID technology has advanced a lot since then.

  • Sandy Alonso

    They’re still susceptible to metal & liquid.