Top Event Tech Trends of 2013; What's Ahead for 2014
In 2013, perhaps no aspect of the event industry changed as drastically as its technology. We reached out to Corbin Ball, a technology specialist who regularly shares his insights on the latest trends at industry conventions (think ICCA and PCMA).
“There is so much happening in this space!” Ball said. For events, the major app developers--including QuickMobile, CrowdCompass and DoubleDutch--are all well-funded and are “constantly evolving” and coming up with new options, he added.
Apps can be a boon in many ways to a range of events, from small- to large-scale. “There are a wide range of pricing options from free to high-end that can fit any budget,” Ball said. “We need to quick chopping down trees and move to a much more efficient way of providing event agendas and other items. However, the larger the event, the more they will need an event app.”
With many apps available for different kinds of events, Ball cites GenieConnect for deep data analysis and sales automation; Topi and TapCrowd for geofencing; DoubleDutch for its social integration and analytics; QuickMobile for covering multiple events; Sherpa-Solutions for exhibition management; and AtiveSoftware EventPilot for large, scientific conferences. “Just to name a few,” he added.
But while apps and online event content can be very helpful for sharing information and reducing clutter, Ball notes that the bring-your-own-device trend has its downsides as well. “Tablet computers specifically are video streaming devices,” he said. “An iPad on average uses 400 percent more bandwidth than an iPhone. Event participants are expecting to have the same high quality Wi-Fi as they do at home from the multiple devices they are carrying around.
“However, this explosion in bandwidth requirements is pushing performance limits at many venues. This will sort itself out in the next few years as facilities catch up, but this is currently a problem for many events. Both sides--planners and the venue suppliers--need to educate themselves on this issue, and the facilities need to realized this is a make-or-break requirement for many planners.”
Looking Ahead to 2014
Next year, Ball expects apps to become even more ubiquitous at events. “I am particularly interested in more robust use of the data analytics that can be generated onsite using mobile devices,” he added. “Every touch on an app is trackable. Using these data to provide a better experience, or to see the hot topics, speakers, exhibitors, etc. can yield a goldmine of data to improve events.”
Beyond schedules and sharing contact information, social tools in some apps can be used to bring people together at events more effectively. “Apps can provide a much richer alternative to chopping down trees to make paper programs that go out of date as soon as they are printed. The ability to access and annotate thousands of document on the go using a tablet computer. The list goes on and on.”
With the very rapid pace of change, Ball acknowledges that one can easily feel overwhelmed by the wide range of technology choices and options. “The good news is that technology is getting less expensive and easier to use every year,” he said. “The biggest barrier to adoption rests between our two ears – it is the natural human resistance to change. Those that understand and embrace technology will likely be more competitive and efficient than those who don’t.”
However, Ball acknowledged what he called “systemic challenges” with the explosion of change. Significantly, the reliance on Internet access for event apps and streaming programs at events means that spotty coverage or weak signals can become a significant problem. “I would like to see high-quality, easily accessible Wi-Fi available at all events and hotel sleeping rooms,” he said when asked what he hoped the biggest tech development would be for 2014.