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Exhibition World | Technology27The progress of radio-frequency identification(RFID) technology into the global exhibitionindustry has taken a pause for thought, as techpioneer Fish Technologies announced its withdrawal fromthe tradeshow market.Fish's market exit comes after unsuccessful attempts tobreak into the UK exhibition industry by installing itstechnology in several large exhibition venues, none ofwhich came to fruition. The company blamed risk-averseventure capitalists for its decision to pull out of the UK, butsold its entire tradeshow and con ference market businessin the US to event measurement and analytics firm AllianceTech (AT). The company instead plans to focus onexperiential consumer brand projects. Fish and AT willcross-licence their products, allowing AT to use Fish's RealTime Measurement System alongside its 'passive'measurement technology."We are disappointed we were unable to raise theinvestment necessary to permanently install our technologybackbone into UK venues," said Fish Technologies CEOMichael Gilvar. "This was a difficult market to raise capitaland after spending over a million pounds promoting theventure, we have decided to focus on those markets thatprovide immediate and proven returns."Reasons whyDavid Pearson, MD of UK exhibition consultancy FineThinking, said Fish's technology was valuable but hadn'tbeen taken to market in the right way. "What they did was go to the venues first but without acommercial model behind it, it didn't work," he claimed. "InEurope and the US, venues run their own events, but in theUK they don't. The mistake Fish made was not properlyaddressing the difference between the two models."The registration companies could have helped Fish withaccess to the organisers, and promoted it to the exhibitorsto justify the increase on stand price." Pearson also blamed excessive caution on behalf of UKorganisers prevented take-up. "They didn't get the supportthey needed from organisers who want innovation butnever invest in it," he added. According to UFI's Delphi Study into global exhibitiontrends, RFID is expected to have a significant future as atool for entry systems, ticketing, guidance systems andonsite communications. Although the technology was dueto be field-tested at Defence and Security EquipmentInternational (DSEI) at the UK's Excel London exhibitionvenue, the trial fell through. "They kept pushing the install date back," said DSEIexhibition director Duncan Reid. "Obviously we keep aclose eye on who is using new technology but I wasn'taware of anyone actually trying it out." Reid speculated thatwith high hardware costs, the technology is likely to bebumped out by increasingly sophisticated smartphoneapplications. "Within two years everyone will carry aniPhone or a BlackBerry," he said. "What you're better offdoing is trying to create a solution that works across allthose systems. If you base your solution on a technologythat is already on the marketplace, you're on to a winner. "Technology changes so quickly," he added. "Theycame to the market a couple of years ago, and almostalready that technology is obsolete."Austen Hawkins, MD of the UK-based Association ofEvent Organisers, agreed that detailed, readily-availablevisitor data would be an asset for the industry, but believedup-front set-up costs hindered RFID uptake. Newsmartphone-based applications are increasingly offering acheaper alternative, he said. "With GPS technologiesevolving at such a quick rate, it might bring us the solutionsfor additional data capture," he said.Alliance Tech president and CEO Art Borrego says hiscompany will take a more holistic approach: "Our approachis to focus on B2B events where the objective is demandgeneration," he told EW. "We plan to offer customers theoption of RFID Passive, Active and RTLS solutions based onthe technology that best fits the scenario, environment andreporting objectives. Our focus is on helping identify salesopportunities, qualify, prioritise and nurture opportunities thatare not quite ready for sales follow-up."Although the UK market may be an especially difficultone to break in to, the high costs of installing the extensiveFish hardware is making smartphone apps look more andmore appealing to organisers.Against the current?THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET| January 2011|Does the withdrawal of Fish Technologies from exhibitions signal the death of RFIDimplementation? EWspeaks to people on both sides to find out.Mike Gilvar