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Gadget Freak Case #278: How to Hack an Electronic Trade Show Badge

Are you sick of the same boring badges at every trade show? The ESC 2016 Conference in Boston is featuring an electronic one you can use to play games, control robots, meet new friends, or build your own custom hacks.

If you attend Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Boston, happening April 13-14, 2016, you may be lucky enough to get your hands on one of the collectible “Hello There!” badges being given out at the show. These interactive electronic badges aren't your typical trade show ID badges. The Hello There! Badge allows you to broadcast your area(s) of interest (Analog, Digital, Hardware, Software, STEM, and IoT) to meet other attendees. You can also play games on it and even control robots. The badges are also open and hackable, so there's no telling how far attendees will go with them.

David Ewing, CTO at Synapse Wireless, who spearheaded this whole thing, was kind enough to share the build instructions for the badges with our Gadget Freak readers. Those of you attending the show can get a leg up on your peers and the few of you who opt to stay at home can try making one for yourself.

[Join thousands of technical professionals and embedded systems hardware, software, and firmware developers at ESC Boston, April 13-14, to learn about the latest techniques and tricks for reducing time, cost, and complexity in the embedded development process.]

The open-source hardware is built around Kicad EDA Tools for schematic capture and layout, and all the design files and sofware are freely availabe on GitHub. A Synpase SM220 module handles the networking duties and the board features a display made from a LED array and an 8-position switch that lets the wearer indicate their interests to others (as well as unlock hidden game modes). The badge also features an accelerometer and some pushbuttons for added controls. And for that all-important hackability the badge supports most 3.3v compatible Arduino-shields and can be programmed directly via Python.

Those of you who will be in Boston should make sure to attend the conference session, “Introducing the ESC 2016 Hello There Badge” and the Hello There Badge Meet-Up to share your hacks with fellow attendees.

And for more information on how to get a badge of your own check out Max Maxfield's blog.

We also want to see what cool hacks or tricks you pull off with your badge before and after the show.

Drop us a line in the comments and share what you came up with!


To program the badge yourself you will need to download the Portal IDE.

You may also find these other links helpful as well:

Do you have a cool, original, homemade gadget collecting dust in your garage? Give us the details at, and you may receive $500 and entry into our Gadget Freak of the Year contest!

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