Winter Conference attendees voice support for tracking system

Attendees at the BICSI Winter Conference had generally positive things to say about its new RFID tracking system...

Attendees at the BICSI Winter Conference had generally positive things to say about its new RFID tracking system, which is designed to document conference session attendance.

“I like it,” said James Smith, a telecom engineer for E&J Gallo Winery (www.ejgallo.com). “It keeps people honest. If you’re getting the credits, you’ve gotta go through the classes.”

BICSI’s test of the tracking system is part of an overall effort to reexamine the association’s process for awarding continuing education credits. The test was held during the January conference at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, FL.

BICSI Executive Director Donna Dunn told Cabling Installation & Maintenance that the plans to test the attendance tracking system, using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, were part of ongoing efforts to better validate continuing education as part of the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD), Outside Plant Specialist (OSP), Network Transport Systems Specialist (NTS), Wireless Design Specialist (WD) and Installation designation process.

Organizations that achieve accreditation must be able to validate their continuing education credit (CEC) activities, including a demonstration that they represent time spent learning or sharing learning.

BICSI Winter Conference attendees seeking CECs were monitored via an RFID chip, which was placed in their conference nametag badges. The chips provided an electronic record of each time an attendee entered a conference hall to attend a session. The system is being described as an “assessment” for tracking at conferences.

Many of those interviewed by CI&M said they were not bothered by the experiment. “I haven’t thought about it,” said Richard Duffy, project manager for Arose Inc. (www.aroseinc.com). “I don’t see it as a threat to me.”

“I don’t have any problem with it,” agreed Gary Engesser, director of marketing and sales for TDI Power Solutions. “I think if it helps them plan and have better shows in the future and get better attendance, it’s a good idea.”

Still, despite all the positive comments, a few conference attendees said the experiment had an undeniable “Big Brotherish” feel to it. Timothy Goodman, a representative from GRG Inc. (www.grgce.com), said the chip in his badge made him feel like he was constantly being watched.

“I could see the aspect of knowing where everyone is, and keeping track of what events they are at,” said Goodman. “But one thing against it is you don’t feel like you are free to go anywhere.”

And Duffy, who paid for his own conference attendance fee and took time off from work to attend, said some of the presentations slated for the conference had been given previously. “There are reasons I would leave a session, as long as there is no penalty,” said Duffy. “If there were, I might have a problem with it.”

Despite these concerns, Mike Barnick, a senior manager for solutions marketing, global marketing team, for Systimax Solutions (www.systimax.com), said in the end, the tracking system may encourage more people to attend conference sessions that they might have otherwise skipped.

“Maybe this is how you encourage people to learn more about the industry,” said Barnick.

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