What Does Apple's WWDC Announcement Mean for Events?

Lauren Taylor on 6/7/17 2:45 PM

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Hiding behind Apple’s HomePod introduction at WWDC 2017 was an announcement that will transform the way technology is used during events: iOS 11 will include NFC support.

NFC-enabled technology allows event professionals to create a wide range of customized experiential activations—everything from streamlining event logistics to creating show-stopping tech. Until now, developers have had to rely on either Android devices or NFC-enabled wearables (or likely both) to create an NFC event activation.

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Now that NFC will be supported by both iOS and Android, it will be much easier to leverage the technology during events. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the specifications behind the iOS NFC capabilities, but here’s what we do know:

  • Only the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus support NFC
  • Devices must be running iOS 11 in order to enable NFC

Despite the fact that older iPhone models will not support NFC, some reports estimate that by the end of 2017 at least 250 million iPhones will be able to read NFC tags. In the same way that people expect a phone to have WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities, developers and service providers will be able to expect that consumers have an NFC-enabled device. This will likely transform how we interact with the digital landscape in our physical world, and it opens up a lot of possibilities for events.

It’s still not clear, however, what the extent of the NFC iOS capabilities will be. Here’s what we don’t know:

  • iOS will allow supported devices to read NFC assets, but there is currently nothing in Apple’s documentation about whether it will be possible to read passive NFC assets or only actives ones (active NFC can send and receive data, passive NFC can only send data)
  • Similarly, there is nothing in the documentation about writing to NFC assets

At the very least, developers will be able to use iPhones to talk to active NFC devices (like Androids) within a custom, native iOS app. For events with a native iOS app, this could open up a lot of possibilities in terms of how attendees would be able to interact with their physical event environment using the app. If the devices can only read passive NFC, however, attendees would not be able to send data to other devices using their phones.

The best case scenario is that the iPhones running iOS 11 would be able to read passive and active NFC, and would not require a custom, native iOS app to do so. This would give event professionals a lot of creative potential to develop unique experiential activations, and they would be able to do it all without having to purchase NFC-enabled badges or wearables.

Either way, Apple’s announcement will likely make NFC activations ubiquitous in events and experiential activations, and will change the event tech landscape while likely driving down costs.

To learn more about how you can incorporate experiential activations into your events, watch our webinar, The Connected Experience, now on demand.

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