SpotMe or SpyMe?

At the Creativity World Forum this week, all attendees were given SpotMe devices: The All-In-One Participant Communication Tool (I got that last bit of their website obviously).

“Spotme combines social networking via a searchable photo database, messaging, people radar, unique “Spotting” function and electronic business card exchange, with audience response, Q&A sessions, messaging, lead retrieval, attendance tracking, electronic feedback forms (and more) to create the only all-in-one communication service for events of all sorts – from 200 to 5000 participants.“

And here’s a video of the gizmo:

Hey and I like gizmos so I was very curious about this after I found out the CWF would make use of it. And truth to be told, it has some interesting features, and first thing after I checked into the conference and retrieved my SpotMe device, I started toying with it and started looking in the contactlist for people to ‘spot’, people I wanted to meet. It didn’t take long for the first alert that someone I wanted to meet was in my neighborhood… according to the device, as I couldn’t find that person. Nor could I the next time that happened.

But you can also send each other messages, something I soon found out was not actually real time as it would ‘queue’ the message for you so worthless to say “come and see me by the stairs on the left” if that message would only be sent maybe 10, 15 minutes later. You just don’t know.

There’s also some practical issues. SpotMe has a nicely designed interface, but pretty much everybody assumes it’s a touch interface and it’s not. I’ve also seen plenty of people (especially in the beginning) that have no idea there’s a keypad underneath the screen. And lastly, I’m not so sure about the ‘rubbing devices’ idea for sharing business cards, nor ‘shake it’ idea to send live feedback about what’s on right now.

I also started wondering about privacy. You exchange business cards electronically with the people you meet using SpotMe, which they are supposed to send after the event. Sounds good to me, but what else would they track. I’m not sure if they do (although the description above implies they do at least to some extend) but the technology would allow to track a lot. It allows them to see where you have been all day? Plenary room, reception area, expo, … for how long, who’s been around you, who you wanted to meet and who you’ve actually met, … A whole bunch of data comes out. Some quite harmless, but probably not all. Very curious about that.

Last but not least, why didn’t it offer internet access? Or even better, why a different device anyway? I know it uses RFID, but isn’t there any way we can solve this same problem using our cell phones in some way? For me the SpotMe device became a large digital program, something that a lot of conferences today already offer as a mobile webpage.

Overall, I’m glad I could check it out, I do believe it helps solving a problem but I’m not convinced it’s doing that the right way yet and I would wish to find out more about the privacy questions. Fact is that CWF was great on content but I wasn’t able to do good networking (other than with people I already knew) and SpotMe didn’t change any of that.

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