Hi folks – over the last week or so I’ve had many requests about what’s happening
around privacy and what does it mean to get a “Tag” this year.
Reasons for Building the System
1. Breeze designed, built and owns the ‘Breeze Event’ System. I am talking first hand
(and am happy to share details with you). A variant of the idea originated years back
when myself and David McGhee worked on a very cut down alpha variation – together
we cut the code and got about 5 mins of RFID activity from the devices we were using
before our battery died.
Stepping forward to the current system, once we presented MS with the concepts of
what we wanted to do – many folks gave some sensational support (such as Marcy Larsen
& Rahul Garg) in integrating this new piece with ‘TechEd proper’. We got there
in the end and for me – it’s a real eye opener to see how big TechEd is and how much
planning goes into it.
2. As a speaker/delegate/MVP at many TechEds and other conferences my motivation was
all about giving you the Delegate (& myself as a Speaker) a better TechEd experience.
Taking the pain out of a lot of things. For example:
TechEd to me is about experience technology, not just hearing about it. Here’s your
chance to play and experience some cool technology.
Being able to see when rooms over capacity before you get there only to be told to
Be given online evals just for the sessions you attended (currently we set ‘attended’
to be at least 15 mins within the session)
I might be a new developer, what sessions do I go to? You could have information such
as 80% of other ‘new developers’ went to SessionX. Great I might go to that one.
A big one for me is that at the end of the conference Delegate’s get a boxed DVD Set
of sessions in other TechEds with thousands of hours of material on it. Wouldn’t it
be great to be given such things as ‘80% of other new developers have these sessions/webcasts
etc as their top 10 list‘ – that way I’ve got targeted viewing.
As a speaker – they will know the cross section of interests and technology tracks
in the room. (there’s a chart display we’ve created). So the classic question of ‘How
many developers are in the room? How many ITPros?‘ no longer needs to be
asked AND as a Delegate the speaker will be able to have more information
to tailor their material to the interests of the audience (hopefully reducing the
amount – ‘that just went over my head’)
Planning – future conferences/sessions and material will now have direct influence
by the Delegates. What sessions you valued, and got the most out of.
As you can see, we’ve designed the system with us (delegates & speakers) in
I digress…..Ok onto the main items……
Privacy Concerns – yours and mine
I wanted to fill you in as much as possible about the system (this is eating into
my sleeping time 🙂 so there is a clear understanding about the what is going on.
Some Details on How the System Works
1. Your tag – holds a number e.g. 1234 (we printed it on the plastic
surface of your tag) end of story. Nothing else. These tags are ‘EPC Gen II’
UHF Tags and operate between 920-926MHz.
Here is the actual Tag itself (it will be stuck onto a card to make it look beautiful
- The tag is known as a Dog Bone by the way the metal aerial is shaped.
Just above the barcode, there’s the number and above that there is an indent the size
of a ‘pin head’ in the middle – this is the chip.
- The tag is a passive tag (as opposed to active –
such as your E-Tags in cars) which means radio waves need to be sent to it, to excite
the tag and so the tag can transmit its number. This distance in our case is around
2-3m. If there’s no waves, then nothing is transmitted.
What this generally means is that you should be able to walk straight through into
sessions, rather than people scanning your individual barcodes as was in previous
- The Barcode is there so we can integrate with your established Registration
process. We printed the barcode there as a fall back mechanism.
The barcode number is the only piece of information written onto your tag. (Printing
the barcode + printing to the Tag at the same time doing around 5000 tags took a bit
of development and H/W)
In other Systems, things like temperature readings are frequently written to the tag,
so that when the fish is delivered to the restaurant, they know the freshness and
quality of it.
Generally speaking in RFID based solutions there will be no sensitive information
written to the tag (if it gets lost, crushed, drowned etc etc)
Tidbit – the amount of data you can write to these tags is in bytes
(like 96 bits), but other tags can store around 64KB!!!! (that was the total sum size
of my Apple II as a kid!!)
2. Readers – come in many shapes and sizes for different purposes.
Our Readers have a read range of 2m. There will be white pizza shaped ‘boxes’ mounted
and these are the antennae. The reader is connected to local pcs that drive the system.
There will be 56 Readers and 118 antennae mounted around Session/Breakout rooms doorways
and as I mentioned they have a range of 2m. This is designed to reduce the queues
(with reading a barcode) getting into rooms as you should be able to just stroll through.
(there have been some ski resorts in Europe implementing RFID ski passes – ski straight
3. Local PC – each room with have one a PC where all the Readers
are connected to. We designed our system so that if we have a network meltdown, each
room will (hopefully 🙂 still be running. In fact each Local PC runs our solution
on top of BizTalk RFID Server to drive the walk-in and chart displays.
4. Network – there will be a dedicated network for the RFID component
@ Teched where these Local PCs and us will be connected to in isolation to the rest
of the network.
5. The Information captured – the information that your tag number
associates with in the back end is essentially the Conference profile information
you entered as part of the Registration process.
This enables things like 60% of people like Jazz in this session…..ideally we’re
really interested in aggregates of information to help improve your experience.
(I’m hoping to get MS and MVP information as well – so you as a Delegate may be notified
when a Windows2008 MVP is in the house)
Just quickly – we’re using SQL Replication to frequently replicate the information
from each Room back to our servers centrally.
Cause you read to the bottom of this post….here’s a reward…..
Now according to my team – this information is available on All Rooms,
or by Individual Room.
(my current challenge is how to expose these screens to you guys (approx
500-700 concurrent connections) without causing grief to our system…..nothing like
a challenge a week out from TechEd……)
Looking fwd to a very different TechEd….see you there….nighty night.