SmartSource Rentals Blog


Summer Events, Part 1: Elevate Attendee Experience and Engagement with RFID Technology
May 04, 2016 by Michelle Bruno

When it comes to summer events, radio-frequency technology—whether it’s RFID or NFC—is the new black (or tie dye). Whether you’re planning a music festival, a maker faire, or a lawn and garden show, wearables with embedded RF chips or tags open up a world of possibilities for organizers and attendees.

The Basics: RFID vs. NFC

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC) work similarly:

When Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is used, information (usually a unique number) is transmitted from an encoded memory chip (known as a “smart tag”) via an antenna to an RFID reader. The reader triggers an action. The tag can be embedded in a wristband or credential that has been activated, i.e. associated with a specific individual. At events, readers can detect RFID tags up to 30 feet away so that movements can be tracked even if wristband wearers don’t swipe or tap a reader.

Near field communication (NFC) is a type of high-frequency RFID but only works when the reader and the tag are no more than an inch apart—a feature that also makes it more secure. NFC chips can also be embedded in wristbands and other wearables. The chip is activated when the wearable is tapped or swiped on a reader (usually when the attendee enters the event for the first time) and is associated with the wearer. RFID and NFC differ from beacon technology because they don’t require a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.

RFID and NFC are used differently. RFID is better for tracking individuals that are merely within the vicinity of the readers. With RFID, an event planner could, with the right software, monitor the traffic flow of a crowd to make sure there are enough restrooms, seating, and food. NFC, on the other hand, is better for payments and check-ins. The short-read range ensures that the swipe or tap of a wristband is intentional.

Adding the Fun Factor

So-called “smart” wristbands and badges are especially appealing to a young generation of digital natives who are accustomed to getting what they want with a swipe. Regardless of the mechanics, imagine that using RF technology is a very simple, automated, and entertaining way for your attendees to perform tasks in and around the event, including:

  • Voting—by tapping a wristband on a screen (Android tablets and iPads make great readers), attendees can register their votes for a product, a band, or an artist.
  • Payments—with the involvement of payment software, attendees can use their wristbands as electronic money for merchandise, food, even beer.
  • Engagement—from participating in the ubiquitous scavenger hunt to coming within range of a sponsor and qualifying for swag, RF technology lets visitors get in the game.
  • Stuff—RF-enabled wristbands let wearers apply discounts, obtain set lists, download free music, or get product information.
  • Social media posts—the wave of a credential can send a photo or a #hashtagged message directly to Facebook.


Greasing The Wheels

There are several reasons why event planners would want to offer RFID or NFC wearables in place of, say, money or paper forms or manual processes—especially when the readers are connected to Cloud-based software.  First, it’s easy and convenient for attendees. Cashless payments, for example, are much faster than using paper money or credit cards. Second, it’s an efficient way for planners to track attendee movements, behaviors, and preferences (potentially in real time)—data that’s useful for planning the next event.

Radio-frequency technologies don’t require wireless access to the internet in order to function; however, when a stable wireless infrastructure or local area network is available, the capabilities—real-time crowd monitoring, cashless payments, and swag distribution, for example—amplify. With WiFi, the readers can send data to the cloud and initiate tasks, such as reducing an individual’s account by the amount of his or her payment for a burger.

Today, RF tags can be embedded in almost any wearable, even a paper badge. The cost of the tags is becoming cheaper by the day. What event planners really have to think about is the strategy behind the technology—how it’s being used, why it’s being used, how it will be deployed, and where all the data will go. A good technology partner can help you parse through the many options.

Hackathons 101: The New Way to Meet
hackathon, SmartSource Rentals, event planning
Mar 29, 2016 by DeDe Mulligan

Computers and Collaboration Produce Results


What is a hackathon? Historically, it has been an event where computer programmers, graphic designers, and project managers collaborate intensively for 24-48 hours straight on a software project. Think of it as Red Bull meets computer geeks with the outcome of a new software offering or update. Often times, there is a significant dollar prize associated with the best team design.

In the last eighteen months, hackathons have gone mainstream and are now multiplying into a new way to bring interactive learning to conferences and meetings.

Listed below is the who, when, where and why associated with hackathons that you may wish to take advantage of at your next meeting or conference.

Components of a Successful Hackathon


Who might participate in a hackathon?

While most hackathons have been very technical in nature, many of the most recent successful ones (i.e. Happiness Hackathon) have included the following types of participants:

  • High School & College students
  • Software Developers
  • Computer Programmers
  • Scientists
  • Engineers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Policy Experts
  • Executives
  • Vendors
  • Customers

In essence, the individuals that participate don’t necessarily need to be technical in nature but they do need to be vested in the outcome.

When should you hold it?

Most hackathons occur on a Friday or Saturday. However, it should be held when most of your vital attendees can be there. If it is part of the conference, you want to hold a mini-hackathon or give attendees enough time to sleep before they have to board a plane or get behind the wheel of a car.

Where is a good location?

While it may not seem like the norm, many hackathons occur in the following locations:

  • Museums
  • Retail establishments, typically large coffee shops
  • Libraries
  • Hotels and conference centers
  • Colleges

The keys are to have space for everyone to comfortably congregate in teams, provide individuals with high-speed, secure Internet connections and tablet or laptops rentals for those who do not have their own devices.

Why Hold a Hackathon?

According to Inc. Magazine, from a business prospective there are three major benefits. A hackathon:

  1. Bonds attendees and increases morale because individuals are together for 24-48 hours at a stretch.
  2. Enforces the right values because individuals are working hard, fast and toward a common goal.
  3. Leaves lasting ideas and products because a clear goal is conveyed at the onset; a new product, service or idea that wasn’t considered before will come out of the process.

In addition, PCMA Convene identified two others:

  1. Experts from different areas share content, feedback and help to define and solve specific problems in a group setting.
  2. Attendees who are not comfortable with technology can learn more about it from the experts in the room.


In summary, hackathons allow creative, smart people the ability to come together for a period of time and do amazing things because they are driven by innovation, incentives or improvements in the current product or service offerings. Although I have never personally participated in this type of event, I look forward to coordinating or participating in one in the future.


SmartSource Rentals Can Help with Your Next Hackathon

With fully-staffed and equipped branch offices in 22 major metro markets, SmartSource Rentals has the largest national footprint in the computer and audio visual rental space. Give us a call at 800.888.8686 to learn about ways we can help you!

Wearable Tech for Events
Wearables for Events
Feb 17, 2016 by Anonymous

Wearable technology has been flashing in and out of the news for a decade or more—leaving most of us feeling . . . intrigued. Ideas that once only existed in science fiction movies and comic books are now on the shelves—available to anyone willing to buy them. However, many of us are still asking whether the technology is honestly practical or if it’s just a “flash in the pan”—grabbing attention for introducing thought-provoking design, influencing manufacturers’ stock prices, and creating fascinating tech magazine articles, rather than wearable technology truly being a product that consumers believe they need.

One thing is certain: wearable technology is the leading edge of a user interface that is more completely integrated—a step toward machines that are truly like a “part of us.” Integration is a driving focus in the development and advancement of technology; appropriately, integration is also a critical part of business events!

Some Unexpected Facts about the Future of Wearables:

  • An estimated 17.1 million smartwatches were sold worldwide in 2015. ²
  • Shipments of Smart Wearable units are expected to increase from 27 million (in 2014), to 116 million in 2017. ¹
  • $53 billion is the projected market for wearable devices by 2019. ¹

How Can Wearables Benefit Event Planners?

As with any technology, event planners should only employ a tech option if it brings a genuine benefit. In the case of wearable technology, many of the choices CAN make sense for event planners. Even at their most basic, wearable devices offer hands-free connection, and event planners have their hands FULL (often literally).

Many of the most successful wearables focus on lifestyle and health (helping users to track their steps, monitor their heart rate, and prevent sun-damaged skin, for example), but wearables can provide many benefits for event organizers and exhibitors. Here are a few products that may make work easier for event professionals:


  • Google Glass and GlassUp – although Google Glass has had a somewhat sketchy reception from the general public and the product is currently in a state of transition, there are definite advantages to headsets and eye wear. The optical head-mounted display can allow:
    • News
    • Facial recognition
    • Hands-free photography and videography
    • Photo manipulation
    • Email
    • Translation
    • Sharing to social networks
    • Connection to apps
    • Reminders and scheduling
    • Voice recognition
    • Voice activated search results and queries

Indeed, GlassUp intentionally avoids the futuristic appearance of Google Glass. The company offers headsets that look like regular glasses but are designed to offer personalized connectivity and notifications for travelers and exhibition attendees (including integrating customized apps for business events and shows). The translation capabilities alone are enough to make these options valuable for many business events!

  • Smart Contacts – options such as the iOptik Contact allow many of the benefits of smartglasses, with a wider viewing range and without affecting the wearer’s appearance.
  • Daqri Smart Helmet – this wearable option protects the wearer’s head, keeps a person’s hands free, and projects augmented reality that can display materials such as schematics, diagrams, and instructions that offer valuable assistance at job sites, in training sessions, or for demonstrations.


Once worn only by Dick Tracy, smartwatches are now readily available. Although it was expected that 4 out of every 10 wristwatches would be smartwatches by 2016 ³, many of us may still be hard-pressed to find anyone wearing one. However, smartwatches make a LOT of sense for event planners and exhibitors.

Whether you choose the Apple Watch, Pebble, or Android Wear, smartwatches can make it simple to connect with your phone, apps, contacts, and the Internet. Smartwatches offer built-in connectivity and conveniences—such as:

  • GPS
  • Standalone phone
  • Internet connection and data service
  • Speakerphones
  • Emailing
  • Instant notifications
  • Tracking

Something to consider: most smartwatches work best (or even require) a connected smartphone.

Moving Forward with Wearables

Wearable technology is still unusual and novel enough to help trade show displays and event exhibitors make an impact. “. . . Currently, the market is friendlier toward cheaper and simpler wrist-mounted devices that only offer notifications and tracking as opposed to full-fledged mobile operating systems boasting a range of apps (like the Apple Watch).” ² Although headsets and smartwatches may not appeal to the masses just yet, event planners are an ideal candidate for this technology—people who need information and constant connection, hands-free and on-the-go!

How Can SmartSource Help?

SmartSource Rentals can provide the technological foundation for any business event. Our nationwide network of branches can provide your event with the lighting, staging, sound, digital signage, servers, and software that create successful events! You’ve got enough to do—let US take care of the tech! Give us a call today at 800.888.8686

(Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at
Future Trade Shows Will Include Many Technological Features
trade show technology, future trends, SmartSource Rentals, virtual reality, augmented reality, geofencing
Feb 05, 2016 by DeDe Mulligan

Cool Options Are Around the Corner


Trade shows are the perfect place to use specific technological gems – partly because the contained space is perfect for testing new apps and partly because every exhibitor is looking for something new and cool to bring precious attendees streaming to their booth.

Today’s blog post will focus on the breakthrough applications on the horizon: Geofencing, 3D Printing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Drones.


You are probably already familiar with geofencing, but don’t call it by that name. This is when push notifications are sent to your smartphone or iPad rental exactly when you are within so many feet of a trade show booth.

This message is meant to lure you into the booth to see a demonstration, register for a giveaway or gain points toward a loyalty program.

Geofencing is also about what is happening at the moment. For example, if a speaker is holding a book signing in a booth for two hours, that message would be received only during that time and only by individuals that are close by.


3D Printing

This technology allows booth exhibitors the capability of producing prototypes that are personalized to each attendee.

For example, OREO debuted 3D printer vending machines at the South by Southwest Interactive trade show. The machines served up personalized cookies based on which flavors were trending on Twitter. Users share their favorites using the hashtag #eatthetweet and the cookies were made in less than 2 minutes.


Virtual Reality

This technology allows event marketers the ability to tell their story in a more immersive way. VR allows users to feel like they are in a different place. Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and Vrse provide the virtual reality experience to attendees, from a headset, a reader or even a mobile app.

Besides being cutting-edge, this offering reduces the cost of shipping, assembling and storing your products. You can immerse the user into an environment where they can understand your product use in a variety of settings.

Augmented Reality

Where VR is about transporting users to another location, AR is about bringing digital objects into the real world. To view great examples of AR, check out the Magic Leap website.



According to Global Experience Specialists, drones are here to stay and they are providing valuable touchpoints at events. Drones can livestream video, analyze foot traffic and provide better brand awareness for exhibitors.

For example, Pepto-Bismol implemented a Twitter campaign called #TweetforRelief and when people did tweet that hashtag, a drone would drop off the tablets to that person as long as they were in the confines of the event.


SmartSource Rentals Speaks Up About the Future

SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals helps businesses be successful by being the chosen technology solutions partner to over 400+ trade associations and thousands of corporate events and user conferences. Take advantage of our experience and knowledge by requesting a quote  or calling our sales team at 800-888-8686.

Onboarding Session Technology
Feb 02, 2016 by Anonymous

Many businesses recognize that it saves money to retain good employees. The costs of hiring can include advertising, recruitment, travel, relocation, and training—not to mention hours upon hours of time spent sorting through resumes, scheduling interviews, deliberating, following through, and negotiating salaries and benefits.

Indeed, studies show that many companies lose a significant amount of time and money in headhunting, hiring, and training new employees. Many companies realize—too late—that it’s worth the extra effort to try and retain current team members rather than to replace them.

Optimal ROI from Onboarding

A recent Aberdeen Report defines onboarding as an orientation process involving:

  1. Forms management
  2. Tasks management
  3. Socialization into the company culture

The report suggests that companies will achieve “optimal ROI” from their onboarding process by incorporating those three elements.  The research demonstrated that onboarding and socialization techniques lead to several positive outcomes for new employees, such as:

  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Better job performance
  • Greater organizational commitment
  • Reduced occupational stress

Onboarding Sessions Can Improve Employee Retention

Once hired, new employees benefit greatly from onboarding sessions. These informative presentations help bring employees on board with orientation and training that help to give them an appropriate view of their new work environment.

Onboarding sessions are a useful HR tool—incorporating both training and management to deliver the knowledge and skills that help individuals successfully join into a new team, project, branch, or company. The Wall Street Journal article, “Employee Retention – How to Retain Employees,” suggests the following tactics:

  • Explain the expectations
  • Communicate your business’s mission
  • Create open communication between employees and management
  • Outline your perks and benefits package
  • Coach employees
  • Foster employee development

Onboarding sessions may involve:

  • Formal orientations
  • Mentoring
  • Role clarification
  • Presentation of organizational culture
  • Skills practice
  • Development programs
  • Team building
  • User training
  • Case work
  • Exercises

Effective onboarding . . . can be one of the most important contributions any hiring manager, direct supervisor or human resources professional can make to long-term organizational success . . . onboarding done right can improve productivity and executive retention, and build shared corporate culture.(1)

Technology that Helps Incorporate Employees

Onboarding can include formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials, computer-based programs and group sessions. Smaller, more personal meetings are also a good technique for helping bring new employees into the team. Consider the following technology options as you create an ideal onboarding campaign:

Networked iPads, or laptop rentals, and presentation software are an excellent choice for onboarding sessions. With linked iPads, laptops, or tablets and the right software:

  • Event managers can distribute materials in a common presentation format
  • HR, management, and training session leaders can instantly capture each team member’s work
  • Presenters can quickly and easily adapt materials to suit the specific session members
  • Speakers can easily implement crowdsourced content, present surveys, and run Q&A sessions

A Mobile App is the ideal digital organizational tool—helping to connect your audience to exactly the materials they need. In the case of onboarding, use a customized mobile app to:

  • Present interactive maps for campus orientation
  • Offer an E-Literature library of digital documents
  • Connect to social networks for work teams, mentors, and support staff
  • Provide downloads of benefits information and employee handbooks

Projectors and Screens are a traditional foundation for delivering the videos, charts, graphics, and slide presentations that will help in orientations.

Sound Systems are important for boosting the audio of your managers, speakers, and educators as they help orient your new team members.

In conclusion, the onboarding sessions that welcome recruits are a valuable technique in familiarizing new employees to the expectations and culture of their workplace—helping businesses increase their recruitment ROI and gain a more educated, acclimated, and successful workforce!

SmartSource Rentals has the experience and inventory  to help you create effective orientations, staffing events, or corporate training sessions, anywhere in the U.S.! Call us at 800.888.8686 or get a quick quote today!





Thinking Outside the BOX for Trade Show Event Tech
Jan 26, 2016 by Anonymous

Trade show exhibitors and event planners are perpetually looking for fresh ways to promote their business, products, services and ideas. Businesses are always in need of unique ways to distinguish themselves from the competition and help draw a crowd off the showroom floor. Industry professionals know that the success of trade show exhibits often relies on technology—from the basics of sound, lighting, and lead retrieval, and moving up to leading-edge event technology that sets new standards.

Create Connections before the Event

Use social media, games, and apps to extend your exhibit’s reach beyond the booth—building excitement for your exhibit beforehand and helping to create a virtual space to engage your customers and help them to interact with your brand.

One award-winning social media campaign used gamification, social media, smartphones and devices, interaction, and QR codes to create a remarkable promotion! Their campaign succeeded above others by incorporating the following aspects:

  1. Creating a custom-made app that introduced the company’s product.
  2. Encouraging guests to download the app and game before the event or allowing them to connect to it quickly through an eye-catching QR code station onsite.
  3. The app allowed guests to select and customize gaming personas, helping to create a fun and interactive community and networking potential.
  4. The app used a scavenger hunt that encouraged competitive teamwork.
  5. The scavenger hunt involved locations in the event’s host city, not just the event facility—creating a broader event experience for attendees (while also cleverly limiting the time that attendees wanted to spend at competing booths).

The company’s campaign opted for smart phones, social media, and Quick Response (QR) codes, believing that customers were most comfortable with these technologies. Backing up this concept, research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that:

  • 61% of online Americans now use social-networking sites daily
  • 62% of gamers engage in game play with others (either in person or online)
  • 33% of gamers play on their smart phones

Trade shows can be work—help to make them feel like fun!

Expand a trade show booth with sights, sounds, and a more tactile approach to exhibit display!

Every trade show exhibit revolves around a physical display area. While a successful exhibit should utilize social media and virtual engagement, the booth itself cannot fail to draw in guests and help form face-to-face interaction as well! Here are our top five suggestions for event technology that can help your business’s trade show booth expand beyond its footprint and reach out to guests!

  1. Beacons – if your trade show is offering an event app that enables Beacons, take advantage of this unique opportunity to connect directly to attendees through their own devices. Beacons can “enhance a visitor’s experience by delivering improved customer service and offering digital content through event-specific mobile apps.”(1) When an app enables Beacons, it can allow:
    • Check-ins
    • Contactless registration
    • Ticketing
    • Signups
    • Location-based services
    • Push notifications
    • Proximity marketing
    • Time-sensitive promotions
    • Personalized deals and offers
    • Rewards programs
    • In-app discussions and feedback
    • Content delivery
  • Virtual Reality – virtual reality displays and VR headsets add the elements of novelty and fun to your trade show booth’s promotional videos and demonstrations. At the low end of the pricing scale, Google Cardboard uses apps, smartphones, and a bit of cardboard origami to provide a 3D immersive viewing experience that can give visitors an excuse to stop, look, and linger for your sales demonstrations and content.
  • Sound Shower Directional Speakers – directional speakers mount from nearly any angle and offer highly-targeted sound directly to your guests. They offer an excellent opportunity to give visitors a uniquely layered and dimensional “surround sound” auditory experience, as well as being an ideal method for competing with the noise of the showroom floor!
  • Video Projection Mapping – similar to the searchlights used at grand openings and movie premiers, the right lighting can stimulate interest and intrigue! In the case of trade show booths, video projection mapping can break up the monotony of box after box of exhibitors—helping you extend your business’s appeal beyond the 10×10 foot “pre-defined area.” Video projection mapping can allow you to project images, logos, videos, or lighting effects over the walls, floor, and furnishings in your booth—including any wall surfaces, tabletop displays, fabric draping and panels, and rigid or semi-rigid substrates—distinguishing your display from your competitors.
  • Curved Screens – monitors are always a good choice for exhibits. Not only do they deliver valuable video content, but they fit easily into a trade show booth design. The latest 4K UHD curved screens are extremely useful for presenting crisp, eye-catching images, and the screens still possess the novelty that helps a booth make an impact!

About SmartSource Rentals

SmartSource Rentals has over 30 years of experience in trade show technology and technology rentals. With our coast-to-coast network of branch locations and our multi-million dollar inventory, SmartSource is ready and able to provide any rental technology your business or corporate event requires—all backed by the support of our expert technicians! Give us a call today at 800.888.8686 or contact us for a quick quote!




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