Archive for the ‘Mobile Technology’ Category

Going Native: iPad use is on the rise and event planners see the advantages

January 9, 2013

It’s no surprise that attendees are using the iPad more than ever at conferences and meetings.  Apple sold 11.8 million iPads during the first quarter of 2012, according to apple.com.   The device is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing mobile technology products in history.

The platform of the iPad makes it a perfect choice for meetings.  The at-a-glance aspect, screen size, ease of use, portability and speed of device all contribute to its popularity.

“The increase in iPad usage at our clients’ events is dramatic,” said Wendy Phillips, vice president of sales and marketing for Gather Digital, a mobile event app company.  “In May 2011, the iPad represented 0.8 percent of mobile device usage at our corporate and association events,” she said.  “In May 2012, iPad usage had risen to 36.5 percent.”

Because of increasing iPad usage, meeting planners are becoming more interested in event apps that are native to the iPad.  “Planners know their event attendees are using iPads more and more,” Phillips said.  “And they want to give them a native app to offer the best possible experience.”

Having a conference app that is native to the iPad takes advantage of the faster syncing capability, the enhanced graphics and the larger screen size.  Going native also allows the ability to seamlessly use other applications, such as email, as part of the conference app.

Dr. Virginia Schmith, a clinical pharmacologist and chair of pharmacometrics with the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, generally attends three conferences per year and prefers using her iPad when an app is available.  She appreciates the note taking feature that some apps offer.  “Many times you have to write a trip report,” she said. “Taking notes in the iPad is faster than writing notes.”  Schmith used an app recently that also organized the notes by session and allowed her to email them to herself for printing or saving to her desktop computer.  “And the name of the session automatically shows up in the notes.  It probably saves an hour’s worth of time,” she added.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, a meetings technology consultant and speaker is enthusiastic about the potential for iPads and tablet computers at events. “The instant-on, intuitive interface with screens large enough to manage documents, makes iPads and other tablet computers a natural for meetings and tradeshows. They provide benefits for all parties involved: attendees (rich media, interactive conference programs, networking and way-finding tools); exhibitors (for interactive kiosks, easier lead exchange systems, appointment scheduling and survey tools); hoteliers (an intuitive, portable sales tool); and meeting planners (paperless conference binders eliminating the need to carry around 4” thick, 3-ring binders full of paper).“

Ball feels that “mobile technology will likely change events more in the next five years than technology has in the last twenty years. We are in the golden age of app adoptions for events. Very soon, if you do not have an app for an event, attendees will wonder why the event is so behind the times.”

A good native app will allow the planner to have control of content, including images, text and corporate branding.  It should also offer sponsor opportunities within the app, high attendee usability with options like messaging, one on one meeting functionality, immediate schedule updates, maps, customized my schedules, note taking ability and a social media aspect, according to Phillips.

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6 of 13 Meetings Technology Predictions for 2013

January 3, 2013

6.  Event Wi-Fi problems will get worse before getting better.

This demand for Wi-Fi at events is growing by high double-digit numbers each year. Tablet computers, on average, use 400% more bandwidth than other mobile devices and are becoming the fasted adopted technology hardware ever. Attendees have multiple mobile devices and expect the same broadband experience they receive at home and office – even though there may be thousands of people trying to access the Wi-Fi signal simultaneously. The recent Dreamforce Conference 2012 in San Francisco had over 10,000 simultaneous Wi-Fi users. The London Olympics logged more than 1 million Wi-Fi accesses on the BT network during the games. 5,000 attendees at the London Frieze Art Fair consumed more than t terabyte (1 thousand billion bytes of data).

The good news is that the technology exists to provide very high density delivery of Wi-Fi. Xirrus provides Wi-Fi arrays that can handle up to 1,792 simultaneous users from a single access point.
The bad news is that the equipment and bandwidth is expensive and many meeting venues are lagging far behind in the ability supply the increasing tsunami of demand. Both meeting planners and venue sales people need to educate themselves and, at times, each other on this very important, but technologically complex, issue. Two articles that can help are: Understanding the Internet Landscape at Hotels and Convention Centers — A Primer for Event Organizers and How to Discuss Your Event’s Wi-Fi Needs — A Primer for Event Organizers.

Meetings & Tradeshows– There’s A Mobile App for That!

December 30, 2012

In 2000, I made the following prediction at the CIC Forum in Washington DC:

“Mobile phones will morph into ‘widgets’ (wireless internet devices for geo-positioning, ecommerce and telecommunication).”

I went on to forecast that our phones will become web browsers, “Walkmen” (iPods were not invented yet), still/video cameras, GPS systems, email managers, calendar/contact managers, micropayment systems and more.

Here is the actual slide shown at the conference:

What fueled my interest was the potential that mobile applications held for meetings. Meetings are mobile and inherently in need of mobile technology to manage event data!

What a difference a decade makes! All these predictions have come true and mobile apps are now the hottest line of software development. There are hundreds of direct applications for events, tradeshows, associations and venues.  Here are several of the significant ones.

Multipurpose conference applications:

These “Swiss army knife” applications provide multiple tools bundled in one application:

QuickMobile www.quickmobile.com

Quick mobile was the mobile application for the MPI MeetingDifferent and will be for the MPI WEC. It also used at major film festivals including Sundance and Tribeca. Features include: full conference schedule, personal agenda building, area guide (with Frommer’s integration), search capabilities for attendees/speakers/exhibitors, integration with social media including Twitter/Facebook/Pathable and messaging. They build apps for the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android and mobile web providing greater ease of use than companies that provide only mobile web versions.

Follow Me www.core-apps.com

Follow Me was the mobile app for the 2010 Consumer Electronic Show, one of the largest shows in the tradeshow industry. Features include a full conference schedule, personal agenda builder, maps, exhibit hall way-finding (you are a dot on the map), course notes/literature pick-up, session alerts, Twitter integration, and sponsorship revenue sharing. They also build native apps for the major smart phones ( iPhone, Android, Blackberry) and mobile web for the rest.

EventKaddy www.eventkaddy.com

Similar to QuickMobile and Follow Me, EventKaddy provide native apps for most  smart phones. Shows include the large 2010 Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, Features include full conference listings, customized attendee agenda building, attendee networking tools, interactive floor plans/maps, multimedia listings for exhibitors, digital coupons/brochures/course notes (in .pdf), conference alerts from show organizer to attendees, with extensive metrics.

EMA www.epromeetingapps.com

EMA provides multiple-platform mobile web applications (iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and mobile web) including conference agenda, exhibit directory, conference alerts, hotel information, local area resources, attendee messaging and social media integration.

Zerista www.zerista.com

Zerista is as an online networking/ business matchmaking tool, but as now put much of their emphasis on mobile networking apps. Their mobile community application Zerista Pro was used at the Mobile World Congress with more than 20,000 users. Features include mobile web meeting scheduler, attendee directory, personal profiles, attendee matching, social media integration (Twitter/Facebook), personal scheduler, full agenda, exhibitor directory, booth locator, virtual booths, floor plans, and local guides.  

Event Media Concept’s Mobile Concierge www.eventmediaconcepts.com

Mobile web applications providing conference agenda, exhibit directory, conference alerts, hotel information with GPS mapping/star ratings, local area resources with GPS mapping, attendee messaging and social media integration.  Mobile web applications tend to be slower and not as user-friendly as native applications built for specific phones. On the plus side, nothing needs to be downloaded to have it work.

VisionTree www.visiontree.com

VisionTree is a service company focusing primarily on the pharmaceutical industry.  They provide mobile handsets similar to an audience polling service which can be supplemented by attendees mobile phones.  Features include audience polling, text Q&A, feedback forms, conference agenda, speaker bios.

A2ZInc’s ChirpE www.a2zinc.net

A2ZInc has been a pioneer in web-based exhibit floor plan sales, mapping and management providing services for more than 600 shows per year. They are also developing a mobile application called ChirpE. This mobile web application includes a full conference agenda, event alerts, exhibit guide, exhibit floor plan, social media integration with LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter, and personalized agenda building.

A2Z has gone to great lengths to build a mobile platform that will work well with other mobile and web apps including strong matchmaking tools. They have also built some of the best social media integration and aggregation tools for mobile apps for the events industry.

Meetings2Go http://meetings2go.mobi/

This is another mobile web-based product with agenda, exhibitor information, basic surveys, searchable attendee list, basic city guide, and SMS alert sign-up.

Mission Software

http://event-master.com/mobile_phone_service_key_features.html

Mission Software, based in the UK, has Mobile Phone Service providing a range of mobile web and on-demand text services for events including agendas, exhibit information, travel info, SMS messaging, and SMS voting.

Text messaging event information services:

Text messaging has some advantages. It is cheap, is accessible on virtually all mobile phones. Here are two similar products incorporating this technology:

SNIPP www.snipp.com and XIPP www.xnip.comn

These two nearly identical products work like this: Identify everything of interest at an event (people, exhibit products, exhibit booths, course notes, articles, weblinks, etc.) with a unique ID code (e.g. A345B). Then text message this ID code to 76477 (S-N-I-P-P) for Snipp or 29292 (for Xnip). Then attendees can access the information collected anytime via a personal web page at the Snipp.com or Xnip.com websites. This provides inexpensive, paperless, and digital ways of accessing event information.

Audience polling and surveys:

Audience polling devices are a great way of stimulating attendee interaction and finding out what they are thinking. However, traditional keypads can be beyond the budget for many events (from $3-12/person/dar). Phone based polling/survey systems, although not as fast or capable as keypads, can be right for some events.

Traditional surveys methods are problematic. Paper surveys are inefficient in tallying and end in landfills. Web surveys often are captured days after the event when impressions are cold often resulting a low response rate. Alternatively, mobile survey tools are low-cost, low in environmental impact, efficient in data collection and capture the data while the impressions are fresh.

Here are several mobile survey products:

NearPod (www.nearpod.com)
iPod and iPad applications for surveys, data collection, prize give aways, presentation tools, and metric tools with applications for meetings and trade shows.

Validar (www.validar.com)

Validar is primarily an exhibitor lead management/intelligence company. Their SMS Survey product provides text messaging surveys at events. Ask attendees questions about the keynote speaker or solicit advice on which sessions met expectations and which fell short. Attendees can respond to surveys using any SMS-enabled device, such as a PDA, cell phone, or smart phone. This system has the capability to ask answer several questions with one text message, making it more convenient survey tool than those using a separate text message for every question.

Zuku (www.zukuweb.com)

Similar to Validar, Zuku provides low-cost text messaging (SMS) polling and Q&A. Responses can be projected live.

Plug and Poll (www.plugandpoll.com)

Plug and Poll is a Dutch firm providing similar SMS polling services.

PollEverywhere (www.polleverywhere.com)

PollEverywhere provides SMS polling and Q&A sessions. They also integrate with Twitter and mobile web responses, and, as with standard audience polling systems, results can be projected live. These polling questions can be integrated directly into a PowerPoint program making it easy for a speaker to use it. Try it for free for up to 30 responses.

Lead retrieval:

Traditional lead retrieval is one-way (from attendee to exhibitor), location bound (at the exhibit booth), and expensive for the exhibitor. Mobile lead exchange provides two-way, less expensive, digital ways to exchange contact information anywhere at the event.
DUB – Mobile Business Card Networking www.dubmenow.com
This app was used at the South-By-Southwest 2010 (SXSW), the same Music and Media conference where Twitter debuted two years ago. This app works with iPhone and Blackberry (with Android, and Window Mobile Media coming) to exchange electronic business cards. It allows you to locate people near you at a conference or send your card via SMS or email. This automatically syncs with your phone address book and updates to contacts are updatee automatically. It also integrates with LinkedIn and Twitter.

Bartizan’s iLeads www.bartizan.com/index.php?id=62

Bartizan has been a traditional lead retrieval service for more than 30 years. Their new iPhone app is a tacit admission that the traditional lead retrieval model is on the way out. iLeads is an iPhone/iPad app giving each attendee at a tradeshow a unique 4-6 digit code printed in 16pt.font on their name badge. Those with access to the iLeads database (usually exhibitors) log into a specific event on their iPhone, type in attendee’s 4-6 digit code, and then can see (and record) the full contact information. There are built in qualifier questions, seven standard action codes and an area for notes. All leads are date/time stamped and, using the phone cam, a contact’s photo also can be attached.

Digital show guides:

A primary focus for these apps are on the exhibitor information and floor plan:

Taptopia (www.taptopia.com)

Interactive maps, schedules, and exhibitor info for the iPhone and iTouch sold through the iTunes store.

Member management for associations:

Associations are moving to use mobile tools to provide member services. The major association management companies are expanding their product lines to include these options. Here is a stand-alone one:

VoracitySolutions: (www.voracitysolutions.com/products/mobilemembership)
A range of membership and association mobile web management tools including member directory with full contact info, member photos, personal contacts, special interest groups, staff roster/contacts, and member alerts.

Attendee management:

This will likely be a hot development area where meeting planners will be able to access all online event registration and housing data through their mobile phones.

Ooto (www.ootoweb.com)

Otto is one such example. Veteran designers from the pioneer meetings technology company SeeUThere have built a revolutionary attendee management/online registration product. It has full mobile integration so planners can access all attendee/housing data from an iPhone. The registration product is free for the first month and then only $49/month thereafter with no transaction fees.

Venue and Location Concierges

These applications are designed for the venues to provide to attendees or hotel guests:

SwiftMoble (www.imswift.com)

This nicely designed iPhone application helps conference attendees at convention centers. The “myBCEC” app designed for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center is a good example of what other venues could do.  The app contains a full, interactive venue map, local area restaurant/services information, the event calendar for the facility (with Twitter event hashtag links), transit information (including airport departures, traffic alerts, directions, parking information, subway alerts), a wide range of information about the venue (venue twitter feed, lost & found), and exhibitor information (utilities, AV, F&B, cleaning, etc.).

RunTriz (www.runtriz.com/hotel)

RunTriz is a pocket concierge for hotels. Hotel guests can order room service, view the drink menu, contact housekeeping, receive messages from the hotel front desk, schedule a wake-up call, arrange transportation, and view local shopping, restaurants and nightlife. If you don’t have an iPhone, participating hotels will loan you an iTouch.

Geovative GeoTours (www.geovative.com)
Geovative provides destination marketing using multimedia GPS tours with mobile apps.

Micropayment Systems/Near Field Communication:

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range (about 4 in.) wireless communication standard used in Europe. Primarily designed for making quick payments, residents of Estonia, for example, can tap their phones on a parking meter or at a rapid-transit turnstile, making a immediate and easy transaction form the ‘e-wallet’ stored on their phone. Nokia and Samsung are among the phone manufacturers that currently offer NFC and there are rumors that the next generation of iPhone will have it as well. NFC provides great potential for meetings including lead exchange, electronic ticketing, and micropayments. If the new iPhone adopts this standard, NFC will become huge in the tradeshow arena.

ITN International (www.itn-international.com)

ITN, a high-end registration company, is a pioneer in using NFC for events and tradeshows. They provide innovated capabilities for attendee tracking, lead data collection, event micropayment systems and more.

Consumer mobile apps with event applications:

Although this article focuses on event-specific mobile applications, there are few consumer app that bear a brief mention:

Foursquare www.fourquare.com and Gowalla www.gowalla.com

These location-aware mobile applications allow people to check-in at a location to network with others and to share with friends. Although originally used in restaurants, bars, etc. these are starting to be used for events.  Both were used at the 2010 South By Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin.

Bump

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bump/id305479724?mt=8

iPhone app to share contact information and photos.

WebEx Meeting Center

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cisco-webex-meeting-center/id298844386?mt=8

iPhone app to tap into schedule, attend and start WebEx online meetings

Things

http://itunes.apple.com/app/things/id284971781?mt=8

iPhone task management

Google Goggles

www.google.com/mobile/goggles

Built for Android phones, this product holds great promise for augmented reality applications. Simply point your phone cam at a restaurant or other object, and get a link to the website. Take a picture of a business card and it converts it to data in your mobile contacts… And much more!

These are just a few! There are likely hundreds more meeting-specific applications on the way and tens of thousands of consumer mobile apps that can help attendees, meeting planners, exhibitor and meeting suppliers at events and tradeshow.  Finally, these ‘widgets” have become a reality and much more will come.


Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site:www.corbinball.com.

New Meetings Innovation Trends Highlighted with EIBTM’s 2012 Technology Watch

November 8, 2012

©2012 Corbin Ball, Chair of the EIBTM Technology Watch Judging Committee

The EIBTM Technology Watch is the most significant and longest running technology award for the meetings industry. The goals are to recognize technology innovation and to highlight significant trends impacting meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors at events.

The winner and five honorable mentions for were selected from a tie-breaking record 56 applications. Six judges with experience in the meetings industry and technology but not currently selling any technology product scored the entries based on innovation, completeness of concept, and the value to the meetings industry.

The companies selected highlight several paths of technology innovation including the impact of video, event content curation/distribution, electronic course note/presentation file distribution, gamification, HTML5, indoor positioning and mobile matchmaking.

EIBTM TechWatch 2012 Winner: BOBtv
This year’s EIBTM Technology Watch award winner for meetings technology innovation goes to BOBtv from bXb Online, a global online event platform designed specifically for events and associations. It is a standardized way of making event content available to remote attendees either live or on-demand. Endorsed by major meeting industry associations such as PCMA, ASAE and IAEE, this vendor-agnostic platform will curate event content and make it readily available to potentially a much larger global audience.

The judging committee felt that two significant trends were shown in this entry: the move toward video as an event communication vehicle and the increasing ability to provide event content remotely for hybrid meetings. In essence, BOBtv, or similar technology, has the ability to become the moderated “YouTube” channel for event communication.

Honorable Mentions:
Additionally, five finalists were included by the judging committee honorable mention pointing to additional significant technology trends:

ATIV Software’s EventPilot is very robust interactive conference program/show guide mobile app built for large, complex scientific meetings with thousands of presentations and poster sessions. Provided in multiple native platforms including iPad, tablets and phones, it has a host of features to improve the attendees’ experience including a complete and searchable conference schedule,  personalized agenda builder, rich social media integration, mapping, networking, QR code integration, and sponsorship advertising opportunities. Similar features are found with a number of event apps.

The differentiator is the ability to for the attendees to read and take notes on presentation slides during the presentation. Similar capabilities can be found with posters and other documents. The presentation slides with notes then can be emailed to the user or other interested parties. This ability to attendees to see and take notes on presenter slides increases retention of the material and bridges a significant gap where events have gone paperless and no longer provide presenter notes in paper form.

MERA Labs NiceMeeting also provides presentation slides to attendees electronically with some additional features. The product turns attendee’s mobile devices, such as iPad, iPhone, Android tablet as well as notebook computers, into a full-featured personal presentation slide display units by enabling real-time presentation screen mirroring, chats, polling and files exchange between delegates. Speakers can use personal iPads and other devices to manage presentation, get questions from the audience and do polling. Event organizers can place sponsor’s adds in the service interface and grow their earnings from sponsorship.

Unlike EventPilot, NiceMeeting operates as a service rather than an app using local WiFi networks.

EventMobi is included for honorable mention for their pioneering work using HTML5 to produce rich, multipurpose apps for event attendees. With a few limitations, HTML5 is a simpler, faster and cheaper development app development model compared to building native apps and is reflected in lower costs and faster turnaround time.

EventMobi Fusion is the industry’s first ever event app that works across all devices and continues to function without an internet connection, allowing attendees to access their event app whenever and wherever without worrying about an unreliable internet connection.

Also recognized as part of EventMobi’s effort is their GamifyApp which consists of three different games, each designed to help meet different event objectives. They include Scavenger Hunt used to enhance team-building, Session+ used to enhance the educational experience at sessions, and Expo Game used to drive traffic to exhibitor booths. The use of mobile games to engage attendees, enrich the event experience and increase attendee retention is felt by the judging committee to be a very important trend. GamifyApp is one of the best examples on how this can be implemented for events.

Zerista is yet another multi-featured event app and web platform including attendee information, conference agenda, interactive mapping, surveys, social networks, exhibitor collateral, and matchmaking tags.

What stood out was Zerista’s very strong match making and social media integration. Included are:

  • Hyper relevant personalization and matchmaking for attendees.
  • Personalized Digital collateral libraries for session content, multimedia offerings, and exhibitor marketing documents
  • Automatic qualified lead generation and sales intelligence data for CRM systems for exhibitors.

Sherpa has consistently been an innovator for the meetings and tradeshow industries. A past winner of the EIBTM Technology Watch, Sherpa’s entries this year included three important advances.

WaveLocator is a unique indoor positioning system using ultrasound. Since GPS does not work indoors, and Wi-Fi-based systems can’t work on the iPhone, Sherpa came up with a new twist. Combined with ActivTouch, Sherpa’s mobile app, the microphone of the user’s SmartPhone receives specific codes used to help attendees to quickly identify their current location in the venue and map routes to discover different events, products, or exhibitors. Even better, users can quickly locate their friends and business acquaintances. WaveLocator, thanks to its quick set-up and accessibility via many types of mobile devices may be the best option for precise geolocation for events.
ActiveMetrics, is a unique attendance measurement system using the Wi-Fi signals transmitted by the attendees’s smartphones to generate heat maps to determine traffic patterns within an exhibit hall or meeting venue at a lower cost and more efficiently that previous methods of determining traffic flow.

Finally, Sherpa’s new version of their robust convention and exhibit guide apps (and winner of the 2010 WWTW Award) — ActivTouch V2, shows significant refinements from their previous version including advanced analytics, new customization options, and several new key modules like SmartReview, SmartRoute and ActivContact, all designed to help attendees better prepare their participation, manage their time on site and meet their business contacts.

This year’s tie for record number of entries:
The large number of entries (56 entries) points to the vitality of the meetings and trade show industries and how technology is increasingly used to improve the way events are managed.

Technology trends highlighted:
A number of trends were highlighted in analyzing the entirety of entries. As in the past year, mobile technology innovation was dominant (15 entries or 26% of all entries had a strong mobile component. Other trends include: Lead exchange/OR codes  (12%) eRFP/sourcing (11%), social media/matchmaking (9%), room diagramming/floor plans (9%), gaming (9%), registration and/or abstract management (7%),.document distribution (7%), and virtual events/tradeshows (5%).

About the WWTW Judging Committee:
Chair: Corbin Ball, CEO, Corbin Ball Associates
Michelle Bruno, President, Bruno Group Signature Events
Ruud Janssen, CMM, CEO, TNOC | The New Objective Collective
Paul Hussey, Business Development Director, BSI Meetings and Events
Bruce MacMillan, President/CEO, Bandwidth Management and former President/CEO of Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
Martin Sirk, CEO, International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)

About EIBTM eibtm.com
EIBTM is one of the largest tradeshows in the meetings industry. The 2011 meeting had over 15,219 participants from over 90 countries. Included were 3,961 hosted buyers — top-level decision-makers bought to the event as part its Hosted Buyer Program. This year’s show dates are 27-29 November in Barcelona.

 

 

The Paperless Conference Binder – Using Tablet Computers and iPads at Events

May 3, 2012

Meeting planners need to track a myriad of details at events (catering orders/guarantees, room/AV sets, staffing, exhibitor requirements, registration numbers, decorator details, entertainment, speaker requirements, transportation details, VIP requirements just to name a few). Meeting planners also spend much time at an event on their feet without easy access to computer files.

Consequently, meeting planners have commonly printed out key logistics documents including contracts, BEOs, and supplier arrangements to carry around in thick, heavy 3-ring binders – sometimes call “event bibles” containing all the event details. Planners regularly consult these “bibles” to make notations such as changes in meal guarantees, actual meal counts, schedule changes, etc. in order to keep a clear record of all activities, changes and problems occurring at an event.

As paper documents are heavy, difficult to search, difficult to back-up, difficult to share with multiple stakeholders, and require chopping down trees, there is a huge need to improve this process for planners.

Fortunately, with the advent of tablet computers such as the iPad, Kindle Fire, Android tablets and more than 100 other tablet computer providers, this problem is rapidly going away. Tablet computers have a large, high resolution screens that are perfect to view spreadsheets, event orders, and other event documents. The touchscreens are intuitive and easy to use. They are sleek, light (the iPad weighs about 1.4 pounds/.65Kg) making them easy to carry around and access at an event.

And the best news is that there are hundreds of thousands of apps available, many of them for low cost or free. Many of them can help planners transition from paper-based to digital document management at events. Listed below are some of my favorites

Low cost apps to replace the paper conference binder at events:

DocumentsToGo
www.dataviz.com/products/documentstogo/

Originally developed for the iPhone, this app is much better suited for tablets with larger screens. With DocumentsToGo, tablet computers users can:

  • view, edit and create Microsoft Word, Excel PowerPoint files
  • view Adobe PDF files
  • view, edit and sync files stored in Google® Docs, Box.net, Dropbox, and cloud-based storage systems.
  • view and edit email attachments
  • use automated 2-way file synchronization with included desktop application with version revision history.

The downside is that this product requires an internet connection access the documents.

Price: US$9.99 for both iPad and Android OS.

iWork Pages
www.apple.com/iwork/pages
This streamlined word processor allows user to open, edit, save and email Microsoft Word files or convert them to RFT, PDF or .EPUB files. It also allows you to share your work on the web using iWork.com cloud storage. Instead of printing out the Word document to carry around, Pages allows planners to access and edit them on the go using tablet computers.

Price: US$9.99 for iPad only.

iWork Numbers
www.apple.com/iwork/numbers
Numbers does the same thing for Microsoft Excel spreadsheet as Pages does for Word allowing users to edit, save and email Microsoft Excel files or convert them to RFT, PDF or .EPUB files. Spreadsheets can be great project management tools to use at events. Numbers will allow planner immediate access to them at an event.

 

Price: US$9.99 iPad only.

PaperPort Notes for the iPad
http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/paperport/paperport-notes/index.htm
PaperPort Notes is a very robust, free note taking tool for the iPad. Features allow users to:

  • take typed and/or free hand notes quickly and easily
  • use Dragon voice recognition to capture ideas and notes simply by speaking
  • use annotative tools to quickly markup documents
  • add audio page-by-page comments within the written notes
  • combine full documents, individual pages, content from the web and notes into a single document.
  • employ powerful search, copy/paste, reordering and bookmarking tools allow you to quickly navigate your notes while staying organized
  • access and share content using your favorite cloud storage services

This product is especially strong to annotate Adobe .PDF documents – the type of file that iPad natively handle well.

Price: Free, iPad only

Evernote
www.evernote.com 
This great note taking tool syncs seamlessly with your computer, phone, tablet computer and the web.  Features include the ability to:

  • sync all notes across the computers and devices you use
  • create and edit text notes, to-dos and task lists
  • save, sync and share files
  • record voice and audio notes
  • search for text inside images
  • organize notes by notebooks and tags
  • email notes and save tweets to your Evernote account
  • connect Evernote to other apps and products you use
  • share notes with friends and colleagues via Facebook and Twitter
  • take photos and link to these notes

This app is perfect for a site inspection, using the iPad to take photos of the meeting rooms with voice notes and text annotation and is very useful as a general note taking tool as well.
Price: Free for iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, and WebOS

Total
www.alamode.com/appraiser/mobile/
Designed for real estate appraisers and agents, this tool could be used by planners during a site inspection. It allows for very precise room dimension diagraming. You can take notes, attach photos, and use a free-hand drawing tool as well.

Price: Free for iPad, iPhone, Android, and Tablet PC

Dropbox
www.dropbox.com
This file sharing and synching utility allows users to create a sync files connecting all of your devices. The 
free  version starts at 2.5GB of storage which can be increased by inviting your colleagues to use it as well.

To use, simply drag the files you wish to sync into the Dropbox folder (as you would any other file folder on your computer). Any file dropped in this folder will sync automatically with the Dropbox folders installed on your other devices.

You can allow others access selected components of this folder if desired, making it very easy to share large files or to collaborate on documents together.

All standard Word, Excel, PowerPoint and .PDF files in a Dropbox folder can be viewed (but not edited) using the iPad or several other mobile devices.

I personally drag my PowerPoint deck and videos for my presentations to Dropbox before I fly out as a simple, easy backup in case of lost or stolen computer problems as these files are also accessible via the Dropbox web portal.

Price: Free for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, Android, Blackberry systems

eTask
www.e-task.net/
Task is a simple online, mobile project management tool with features including the ability for you and your teammates to:

  • track leads
  • maintain client information
  • manage projects
  • track tasks and time
  • establish and maintain employee timesheets

Project management tools are a natural for events that have lots of timeline and project elements. This is one many emerging tools to help with this.
Price: Free for first month, $10/month/user thereafter for iPad and iPhone

Dragon Dictation
www.nuancemobilelife.com/apple/dictation.html
Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to speak into the microphone of your mobile device instantly converting your voice to text content. This can be used for note taking at events, dictation and other options. The recognition accuracy rate is quite high if you speak clear, accent-free English in a relatively quiet environment.

Price: Free for iPad and iPhone

These are just a few of the many apps available to help meeting professionals. There are many, many more to come with increasingly specialized applications for event professionals emerging daily.  Already, there are companies such as Ootoweb (www.ootoweb.com) and Active Network (www.activenetwork.com) providing iPad apps to integrate with their online registration and attendee managements systems. Many more are coming! Increasingly, meeting planners are trading in their thick three-ring binders full of paper for tablets and are coming into this century in how to manage event data while running events.


Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a speaker and independent consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com and followed at: www.twitter.com/corbinball

1980-2012 – A 30+ Year Timeline of Meetings Technology Innovation

March 21, 2012

Technology changes in the past three decades have been astonishing for both the meetings industry and for society in general. To see how far we have come, I felt it would be helpful to put together this chronological list of significant technology milestones with societal technology events in “black” and meetings industry innovations in “red.”  These list is far from comprehensive. Send me your major meetings technology milestones to include!

1980
Worldwide, the number of computers in use is 1 million.

Conferon develops a system of wireless headsets and beepers for meetings that is designed to improve on-site communication. This is before the widespread use of portable radios.

Several registration companies (Galaxy Information Services, CompuSystems, and Registration Control Systems) offer basic computerized badge production and lead retrieval (via embossed plastic “credit” cards) to the trade show industry. Before these cards, exhibitors wrote down attendees’ badge numbers, which the registration company later matched to the contact information.

Galaxy provides the first computerized on-site registration. Using 12 registration stations transmitting over one 1,200-baud modem, this innovation eliminated the need for an on-site mainframe computer.

Ray Shaw of Intermedia in Brisbane Australia imported U.S. computer components to build a CP/M computer. He wrote “Camputer” which lead to Version 1 of EVENTS which eventually became Amlink. A 400-person conference was run on Events V1 during the year. The original program was a flat database, produced nametags, rooming lists, reports and confirmation letters. It took about a week to set up the software for each conference.

1981
Commodore VIC-20 hits the market — the first color computer for less than US$300 — and sells more than 1 million units. The monitor was a TV set, the storage was a cassette tape, and the “killer apps” were video games.

IBM releases the first personal computer

MeetingPro, the first database software for the meeting industry, is released for continuing medical education events, enabling personalized confirmation letters, big-print name badges, accurate attendance lists, and basic market tracking. This product was later renamed as PeopleWare.

1982
Compression Labs begins selling US$250,000 video conference systems with US$1,000 per hour line charges.

1983
Eric Orkin launches Delphi Management Systems, the first comprehensive meetings and group sales, marketing, and catering software for the hospitality industry. It became Newmarket Software in 1985.

Events V2 (which eventually became Amlink) was rewritten in PL1. This reduced the customization time to less than a day per event. This was run on a 24-user MP/M computer which connected to a Compugraphic typesetter to produce abstract books, conference publications etc.

1984
Apple releases the Macintosh Computer, the first widely produced computer with a mouse and a graphical user interface.

Galaxy ran 120 tradeshow registration workstations from a single microcomputer built by Digital Systems Corporation

Events V3 (which eventually became Amlink) was demonstrated a Technicongress in Paris. This was the first meeting planning software suite seen in Europe.

1985
Microsoft releases Windows 1.0 in is initially sold for $100.

CD-ROMs is released with the ability to store 270,000 papers of text on a single disk.

The first Internet domain name symbolics.com is registered by Symbolics, a Massachusetts computer company on March 15, 1985

Phoenix Solutions releases MeetingTrak 1.0, another very early meeting planning relational database product.

The first badge making software, PCNametag, is introduced at MeetingWorld in New York. Using a dot-matrix printer, it could produce 120 badges per hour. Attendees lined up three deep to see the product.

1986
The first IBM PC virus in the wild was a boot sector virus call Brain.

The first commercial mailing list program called LISTSERV is developed by Eric Thomas.

Compaq introduced the first 386-based PC compatible computer.

MeetingMatrix, the first room diagramming software created and released by E.J. Siwek.

Meeting Industry Microcomputer Users Group is formed by Judith Mathews. For several years, MIMUG met before the annual meeting of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). The tabletop software displays were among the first technology education for the meeting industry.

1987
The first association focusing on meeting technology is formed. The association, its name lost to history, lasted about two weeks before being co-opted by MPI to become the Computer Special Interest Group.

PowerPoint 1 (originally called Presenter) is released. It provided only black-and-white images, had only one transition, and ran only on Macs.

1988
IBM and Sears joint “videotext” venture starts operation under the PRODIGY name.

1D barcodes emerge as the first generation of paper-based automated lead systems for tradeshows.

Sixteen hotel chains contribute $100,000 each to fund a startup company, The Hotel Industry Switch Co., to electronically link the global distribution system companies, such as Sabre, with hotels’ computerized reservation systems. THISCO eventually became Pegasus, and now processes more than 300 million transactions per month.

1989
From 1987 to 1989, the global number of fax machines more than doubles to 2.5 million units.

The number of computers in use worldwide reaches 100 million units.

The Internet bulletin-board system Quantum Computer Services acquires a new name, America Online (AOL). From 1989 to 1998, AOL grew from 100,000 members to more than 14 million members.

PCNametag and LasersEdge develop software for laser-printer badges.

McNametag, one of the few meeting-industry software programs ever written for the Macintosh computer, is released.

1990

Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web.

1991
Computer companies introduce notebook computers with advertisements showing happy users with their “freedom machines” by pool sides.

PlanSoft begins development of Ajenis, the first attempt to standardize meeting specification communications between meeting planners and hoteliers. The software eventually rolls out in 1995 but is not widely adopted, in part because of rising competition with early web-based tools.

School Home Office Products Association is the first group to use smart cards (plastic cards with integrated computer chips) for lead retrieval at its trade show.

1993
At the start of 1993, the web had a total of 130 sites.

America Online and Delphi started to connect their proprietary email systems to the Internet, beginning the large scale adoption of internet email as a global standard.

Apple computer introduced the first PDA (personal digital assistant) called the Newton.

MPINet, the first online discussion group for meeting professionals, is created as a forum on CompuServe. The formation committee of 16 people met in December 1993, and the service went online the following month. It grew to more than 2,600 members before closing in 1997 losing ground to web-based forums.

1994
Laurence Canter sent the first spam e-mail — “Green Card Lottery 1994 May be the Last One!! Sign up now!!” — creating a huge uproar in the internet community. As a result, Canter lost his job, and his Internet service provider cancelled his subscription.

To keep track of Web sites of interest to them, two Stanford students created “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” which soon was renamed Yahoo!.

The first software product to track meeting spend and sourcing is introduced by McGettigan Partners (now Maritz). This evolved into Core Discovery, originally provided only to McGettigan clients. In 1998, the company released an upgraded version with a web interface to the general public under the name Real-Planner. In 1999, this became a separate company, StarCite, with a package of Web-based sourcing, attendee management and spend-tracking solutions.

Registration Control Systems and Galaxy provide magnetic stripe cards for trade show lead retrieval.

1995
The number of U.S. homes with one or more personal computers increased by 16% in 1995 to about 38 million households, up from 33 million in 1994 and 25 million in 1993.

Conferon creates a separate entity, PlanSoft (later known as Mpoint), the first comprehensive searchable meeting facilities online database and RFP (request for proposal) engine. This was a unique consortium of a privately held company (PlanSoft), two associations (MPI and the American Society of Association Executives), and three hotel companies (Marriott, Sheraton, and Hyatt). Plansoft.com came online in 1997.

Reed’s InterMedia trade show is the first to use two-dimensional barcode paper-based lead badges, allowing exhibitors to extract full contact information directly from a badge.

Holiday Inn opened the first hotel Web site with online purchasing of sleeping rooms.

The first online meeting-registration tools emerge — all hand-coded by programmers.

Lee Travel took over Internet World Tradeshows to managing housing. They provided the first housing web site in 1996 to track room blocks and real time housing inventory. From Lee Travel grew b-there.com in 1998, one of the major pioneering attendee management, housing and meetings consolidation products. Their product was originally called ERS – Event Reservation System and was one of the first template-driven housing and registration products. B-there was later purchased by StarCite.

Microsoft NetMeeting, a web collaboration tool, is released with Windows95, allowing people to use their computer to “meet” and work together from remote locations. It was soon joined by WebEx (1996), PlaceWare (1996), and others to provide audio, slides, screen-sharing and file-sharing collaboration capabilities.

1996
The San Francisco Miyako Hotel (now the San Francisco Radisson) provided the first online request for proposal, built by Cardinal Communications.

Passkey, one of the first online housing companies, is founded by hotelier Bob Motley and Brian Layton. The first Passkey-enabled single property meeting was for the New Orleans Sheraton Hotel for 900 people in 1998.

Cardinal Communications creates the Meeting Industry Mall, the first Web-based interactive meeting industry portal. From this grew the MIMlist, the first listserv for meeting professionals.

1996-1997

Most of the major hotel corporations and meeting industry associations developed web sites.

The first template-based meeting registration tool is released by RegWeb by Cardinal Communications. This allowed planners to set up semi-customized registration pages without a web designer. This is the precursor to the thousands of meeting industry application service providers to follow.

1998
Google opens workspace in a Menlo Park California garage in September and is recognized as one of the “Top 100 Websites” by PC Magazine in December 1998.

ExpoCardWeb started allowing exhibitors to access leads via a web-based tool.

AllMeetings.com provides a free online meetings cost-analysis tool.

Lee Travel provided the first generation of an online integrated housing, registration, and air-booking product that incorporates zone fares.

In April 1998, the Open Source Summit event was held. This was a pivotal event significantly boosting the idea of free, publically developed (open-source) software. This has grown into a much lower price and faster software development model including the Linux and Android operating systems and hundreds of thousands of mobile applications.

1999
Several pundits predict total a computer system collapse because of the Y2K bug (the inability of older computers to distinguish between the year 1900 and the year 2000). Almost no problems are encountered in the New Year, but fears lead to major system upgrades throughout the global corporate environment.

HotDatesHotRates.com became one of the first websites to offer “distressed inventory” — hotel meeting space and sleeping rooms — usually at short notice and at discounted rates.

September 1999 – seeUthere.com launched one of the event planning application service provider (ASP) products (renting web-based applications versus software installed directly onto a computer), with online credit card acceptance for registration fees. Evite.com at about the same time launched a consumer-oriented site, which was eventually purchased by Ticketmaster.

2000
Sixty percent of U.S. households own at least one computer.

The LoveBug worm/virus infects 2.5 million PCs and causes an estimated $8.7 billion in damage.

Application service providers (ASPs) explode onto the meeting planning scene, fueled by enthusiastic venture capitalist funding. Several of these companies do not last past the bust in 2001.

The first virtual trade show, ExpoExchange, is held.

SpotMe presented its mobile networking device in London, allowing attendees to see pictures and contact information of people standing within 30 feet (10 meters). Session information, audience polling, surveys, attendee lists and more were later added. This was the precursor of many mobile event apps seen today.

GetThere Direct Meetings provided the first online group space reservation tool. This is followed in 2003 by other group room block reservation tools such as Groople and Hotel Planner, primarily for small meetings.

APEX (Accepted Practice Exchange) initiative is started by the Convention Industry Council, the first voluntary standards initiative for the meetings industry. 

2001
Apple released the iPod, which became the most popular MP3 player in history leading to a disruptive and sweeping change in the music industry.

Wikipedia, the largest and most popular general reference site on the web was launched in 2001. It now has more than 17 million articles written collaboratively by volunteers around the world.

Use of online meeting and collaboration tools such as WebEx and PlaceWare (now Windows LiveMeeting) spiked after September 11 terrorist attack in New York.

November 12th: seeUthere.com and TRX ResAssist offer the first online, real-time group air-booking products.

StarCite offers the first Web-based, two-way, real-time RFP tool for meeting space and rooms.

Growing numbers of attendees search online travel site such Expedia (launched in 1996), Travelocity (1996), Orbitz (2001), and others — to find low-cost hotel accommodations at events. Booking “outside the block” creates significant attrition problems for planners. In 2004, to combat the problem, Hilton launched its Group Reservations Identification Program, allowing planners to compare registration lists with hotel guest room reservations and thereby account for all attendees staying at the hotel.

2002
Hyatt rolled out E-mmediate Meetings, an online meeting-booking tool designed for small meetings. From this came E-mmediate Response, the first real-time, two-way connection between an RFP site (in this case StarCite) and a hotel sales system.

Web-based business meetings matchmaking programs are developed. The first was Columbia Resource Group’s Rio product. Others to follow were IntroNetworks and ExpoExchange’s Smart Event.  Similar to the widely used social matchmaking programs, these programs assisted attendees to find people of like interests at meetings. These were the meeting industry precursors to Facebook and other social media sites.

Mobile web logs (MoBlogs) are first used in a meetings setting with technology companies leading the way.

2003
Intel incorporated Wi-Fi (wireless internet receiving capability) in their Centrino chip opening a floodgate of wireless internet adoption in the next few years.

Web services standards were developed making it much easier for different online programs to share data through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).  This allowed online databases and software to become much faster and easier to develop.

In May, the amount of SPAM e-mail exceeded the amount of legitimate e-mail for the first time.

A number of strategic meetings management programs (then known as meetings consolidation products) were developed and refined.

Intellibadge was the first to use RFID (radio frequency identification) to track attendee movements in the exhibit hall and meeting rooms for IEEE meetings.

Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) wireless high speed internet access is deployed in more than 6,000 hotels,

The first product from APEX (the online glossary – http://glossary.conventionindustry.org/) was delivered. Many more products (voluntary standards) were later released including meeting history standards, site profile, requests for proposals, housing/registration, and green meetings.

2004
Google indexed more than 8 billion pages on the web.

Facebook (limited to Harvard students only) started this year.

The number of online bookings for Hilton Hotel exceeded those of their call centers for the first time.

Two of the major meetings technology vendors, PlanSoft and SeeUThere, merge to form OnVantage  

2005
YouTube, the first video sharing site came online in 2005 and has grown to one of the most popular sites on the web. YouTube used more bandwidth in 2010 than the entire internet did in 2000.

The two oldest meeting planning software firms (Peopleware and Amlink) merge under the Amlink name. 

2006
Twitter, the micro blogging site opened with 140 characters maximum per message.

iTunes downloaded its billionth file in May of 2006.

Web 2.0 technology (later to be called social media) started to be used by the meetings industry including blogs, video blogs, and wikis (interactive web sites).

The two largest meetings consolidation technology vendors, OnVantage (a merger of PlanSoft and SeeUThere) and StarCite (a merger of StarCite, b-There and RegWeb) merge.

Mobile phone technology providers such as LogOn develop products for meetings including a variety tools such as product directories, networking functions, schedules, and audience voting via standard cell phones.

2007
Apple introduces the iPhone in June revolutionizing the mobile phone industry. More than 74 million iPhone were sold in the next 4.5 years.

Google releases GoogleDocs providing free web-based spreadsheets and word processing tools.

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin Texas became the tipping point in of popularity for Twitter increasing tweets from 20,000 to 60,000 per day (in 2011 this grew to 200 million tweets per day). 

2008
Amlink merged with Certain Software in April 1, 2008.

Active Network acquired two major online registration companies: RegOnline and WindgateWeb.

Cvent launched the Cvent Supplier Network, the largest free marketplace that connects event planners with venues. More than $7 billion worth of group business flowed through the system in the next four years.

2009
Digital television became the broadcast standard in the U.S. and other parts of the world, opening the door to web-based TV services.

Seasite.com launched:  the first web-based RFP tool designed for meeting professionals to source cruise meetings and events.

2010
Apple introduced the iPad, another revolution in portable “tablet” computing.

There are 4.7 billion mobile phone subscriptions (2 out of every 3 people on the planet). There are more people with mobile phones that have running water or toothbrushes.

Skype provieded high-definition video conferencing. This gave planners the ability to stream good quality video signal for free at events.

Mobile apps specifically for events and tradeshows saw explosive growth with hundreds of new companies providing services emerging.

2011
Amazon releases the Kindle Fire tablet computer/eReader in October and sells more the 25 million by the end of the year.

There are more than 600,000 iPhone/iPad apps and 400,000 Android apps.

More than 5.6 million iPhone apps are downloaded daily.

There are more than 800 million Facebook users (more than 1 in 10 on the planet).

Major revolution occurs in the Middle East kindled by mobile phones and social media.

1.2 billion mobile apps were downloaded over the Christmas 2011 holidays.

FutureWatch 2011 Survey and others indicate that more than 80% of meeting professionals use smartphones and other mobile devices in their jobs. Yet, relatively few planners (9%) have used mobile applications yet for their own meetings.

The first “virtual wine tasting” occurs at Event Camp Europe using Google Hangouts (a free multiple location video conference product). Attendees at the main location in London, and pods of attendees in Poland and Sweden, were all provided wine. Using this free video conference too, attendee in all locations simultaneously heard/saw the description of the wine from the host, felt the wine glasses, saw the color and legs of the wine, smelled the bouquet and tasted it.  All five senses were engaged.

Cvent received a $136 million investment, the largest round of funding in the history of the meetings and events technology industry.

2012
Active Network acquires StarCite.   Previous merges of these two companies include some of the major pioneers of meetings technology: RegWeb, b-there, seeUthere, PlanSoft, OnVantage, RegOnline and WingateWeb — another step in the consolidation of major meetings technology companies. 

This list is far from comprehensive. Please send in your meetings technology milestones to include.

——————

Thanks to the following meetings technology pioneers whose contributions and fact verification made this article possible: Janet Christodoulou, Coleman,  Bill Duncan, Doug Fox, Bruce Harris, Deb Huffington, Peggy Lee, Mike Malinchok, Rodman Marymor, John Pino, Jeff Rasco, Elaine Rickman, E.J. Siwek, Bruce Small, Ray Thackery, Ed Tromczynski, Nick Topitzes, Robert Walters, Dick Zeller

——————————–

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com and can be followed at www.twitter.com/corbinball

 

Wi-Fi: The Lifeblood of Events – Should It Be Free to Attendees?

January 14, 2012

©2012 Corbin Ball Associates

As the use of mobile event apps continues to explode, there is an increasing demand by attendees to have easy-access, barrier-free and, hopefully, cost-free Wi-Fi in the meeting space and in sleeping rooms. Consider these statistics:

  • Free in-room Internet access ranked as the most desired guest-room amenity. — Synovate survey, 2011, 6,300 people, 10 countries
  • 47 percent of respondents said a hotel must cater to their technology needs before they book it, with wireless  access a top priority. — Synovate survey, 2011, 6,300 people, 10 countries
  • Internet access is at the top of things most guests care about hotels (including luxury, upscale, mid-scale full-service, economy/budget, and extended stay properties) — J.D. Powers Survey, 201
  • Free Wi-Fi affects the choice of venue (64% yes; 31% maybe/depends on other factors as well; 5% no) – InStat survey, September 2010

Increasingly, meeting attendees are carrying around one or more wireless internet-enabled devices. They are business travelers and expect to check email, use social networks (40% of all tweets are mobile), and wish to take advantage of a wide range of mobile meeting and travel apps. For international attendees, the cost of roaming fees is often prohibitively expensive. Wi-Fi is their lifeline to stay connected. 

With this growing need and demand by attendees, planners are pressing venues for free event Wi-Fi and are making this a key criterion for venue selection. Associations such as ABPCO (Association of British Professional Conference Organisers) have a country-wide initiative to promote free basic conference Wi-Fi for attendees (see www.theconferencecloud.co.uk for details). 

The Challenges:

There are many issues involved:

  • 60% of travelers in the US, Europe and Australia indicate they already have had a poor hotel downloading experience because the system was slow. — Ttnooz, Nov. 2011
  • Many facilities are unable to keep up with the demand. The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (the world’s largest technology show) asked attendees to turn off their phones and Wi-Fi to enable access for the keynote presenters.
  • The demand for broadband is exploding for many events. For example, 5,000 attendees consumed one terabyte (one thousand billion bytes) of data via Wi-Fi in four days at the London Frieze Art Fair, Oct. 2011. This is one example of many.
  • 90% of meeting professionals have smartphones and/or iPads/tablet computers and 62% use their apps constantly throughout the day (M&C Research Survey, December 2011).
  • A November 2011 white paper by iBahn, a major hotel internet provider, notes that 25% of devices on their network are iPads. These video streaming and media consumption devices use 400% more data that the average iPhone,
  • 25 million iPads have been sold as of June 2011 (UnwiredView) and an amazing 5 million Wi-Fi only Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are estimated to have been sold in the last three months of 2011(J.P. Morgan, December 2011).
  • This explosion of iPad and other tablet computer is driving bandwidth requirements to what is felt by some hotels to be unsustainable levels. To quote David Garrison, iBahn CEO in the November 2011: “The iPad is the final nail in the ‘all internet is free’ coffin.”
  • There is a big discrepancy between event organizers and venue managers on whether attendees should receive free Wi-Fi: 90% off organizers say yes while only 48% of facility managers replied favorably (IAEE Survey, July 2011).
  • 64% of venue managers and CVB stakeholders feel that show managers have unrealistic expectations when it comes to what they want and are willing to pay for regarding event Wi-Fi (Red 7 Media, Summer 2011).

Some solutions:

The facts are that the Wi-Fi at many venues is not satisfactory (it sucks!) and with increasing bandwidth requirements things are getting worse. What can or should be done?

Here are some recommendations:

  • Meeting venues need to plan on high double-digit annual growth in Wi-Fi bandwidth requirements at least for the next five years. The good news is technically this is completely feasible. According to Ian Bull, Head of Sales Business Development for the Wireless Technology Group for Cisco, there is “significant growth potential for Wi-Fi using micro cells and Wi-Fi Hotspot 2.0 technology. Even very large venues with thousands of simultaneous users can be managed in a way that good quality wireless internet signal can be provided.”
  • Venues must step up to the plate and build the infrastructure for this growth. This will increasingly be the deciding factor in venue selection.
  •   Meeting venues should provide detailed assistance to meeting planners to help them determine the Wi-Fi and internet requirements. It is not enough to reply “yes we can provide Wi-Fi.” Many questions need to be asked, such as: Wireless internet for how many people simultaneously? On what devices? For what apps? In what locations? How much bandwidth is needed? Venues must know their capabilities and limitations well and communicate them to clients.
  •   Meeting planners also must educate themselves as well to the specific needs of their attendees, their expectations, their internet requirements, and must be very clear to venues about what they expect in detailed requests for proposal.

Dealing with Costs:

A major challenge is cost. Meeting venues are for-profit entities and the demand for internet services is growing exponentially. How can these costs be offset or limited?

Here is my view:

  • Venues should provide basic, mobile-friendly Wi-Fi internet access (512kb/s) throughout the entire facility (sleeping rooms/lobby/meeting rooms/exhibit hall) for free without the need for extensive log-in procedures. 512kb/s is fast enough to check email, tweet, and do some basic web browsing but not fast enough to stream HD video, download audio files, etc.
  •  Provide a reasonable rate “premium service” for attendees who desire more speed.
  •  Charge reasonable rates for specialized services: dedicated bandwidth, dedicated IP address, VPNs, specialized exhibit services, etc. As an example, the Las Vegas Convention Center (one of the largest in the world) in November 2011, launched their internet service plan: free for basic service, $13/day for premium service, and $100 for exhibitors.
  • Another option to offset costs is for meeting planners to solicit internet sponsorship. Internet access and mobile apps have many opportunities for splash page or banner ad sponsors. These page views are completely trackable and can provide great visibility to attendees using a much desired service.
  • With the increase in smart phones and tablets, cyber-cafes are going the way of the banks of pay phones. Divert the sponsorship funds and other monies spent on these services to help offset the cost of attendee internet access.
  • Venues should also look for sponsors.  Meeting attendees spend money at nearby establishments. Many of these businesses would likely be willing to pay for advertising space on conference Wi-Fi services to gain visibility.
  • Planners, exhibitors and attendees should expect to pay for premium internet services. Venues are for-profit entities and have every right to charge to cover costs at the minimum.  However, planners and attendees should not be gouged with exorbitant fees.  Hotels, convention centers and other venues should not consider internet services a major profit center any more that they consider providing lights and water for attendees and guests – Wi-Fi has become an expected utility.
  • The price gouging employed by a number of upper mid-scale and luxury hotel properties (i.e. US$9.95/day/each device) must stop! Planners and hotel guests commonly will be making venue decisions based on fair policies for internet access.

Wi-Fi challenges will likely get worse before they get better. The increasing demand will exceed the supply as venues struggle to upgrade their internet infrastructure. It will be incumbent on all venues to gear up for these increased bandwidth demands. It will also be important for planners, exhibitors, attendees and venues to educate themselves on the issues and help each other find the optimum way for providing Wi-Fi for events. As Wi-Fi increasingly becomes the communication life-blood of events, we will all need to work toward optimal solutions.

__________________________________

This article with hundreds of other free articles, dozens of free software tools and thousands of categorized meetings technology links can be found at: www.corbinball.com.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a consultant, writer and speaker focusing on events and meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. He has been named by MeetingNews Magazine for four years as one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry. He has also chaired the judging committee for EIBTM Technology Watch for meetings technology innovation for the past eight years. He can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com and followed on www.twitter.com/corbinball. Subscribe to TechTalk News, the meetings industry’s longest running and largest technology newsletter sent every other month to over 9,000 subscribers in 70+ countries: www.corbinball.com/techtalk.


12 of 12 Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: “Indoor Positioning Systems” will assist in event and trade show way-finding and navigation.

November 29, 2011

This is the twelfth in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows:

12. “Indoor Positioning Systems” will greatly assist in event and trade show way-finding and navigation.

Standard GPS does not work indoors. Standard Wi-Fi triangulation only gets to about a 100 foot (30 meter) accuracy — not good enough for precise tracking though an exhibit hall, venue or for person-to-person finding at an event.

New technology from at least two companies (Wifarer.com and Sherpa-Solutions.com) promise to overcome these challenges to provide very precise positioning (as fine as 1 meter) by tracking Wi-Fi enabled smart phones, carried by an increasingly larger percentage of the population. These tools will be able to provide:

  • precise positioning
  • personal navigation through a venue/exhibit hall with optimized routing
  • friend/contact finding and networking (with permission)
  • location-based content delivery (exhibit discounts or video as examples)
  • optimized exhibit hall viewing by product category
  • exhibit hall “hot spot” and traffic flow analytics
  • several other features will likely develop from this exciting technology.

In addition to venues and convention centers, this technology holds great promise for shopping centers, airports, hospitals and museums. A short video demonstrating the application in a museum can be seen below:

Wayfarer Indoor Positioning System

Check in next week for a bonus trend and a summary of the impact of technology innovation for events.

11 of 12 Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: Free, easy to access Wi-Fi is increasing expected by meeting planners

November 23, 2011

This is the eleventh in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows:

11. Free, easy to access Wi-Fi is increasing expected by meeting planners

Free basic Wi-Fi broadband internet access is expected by planners for attendees in the meeting room, guest rooms and the lobby. Although some luxury properties are clinging to internet fees as a profit center, internet access is viewed by attendees as a utility similar to lights and water. Planners are saying “do not nickel-and-dime us with add-on charges for basic internet access.” If “Motel 6” can provide free Wi-Fi, so should meeting hotels and venues.

However, the does not mean unlimited access. Internet bandwidth can be expensive and most venues cannot handle unexpected, very large demands.  If 500 event attendees pulled out their iPads to access HD video simultaneously, there are few venues in the country that could handle this without making special arrangements. If a group needs dedicated bandwidth, a dedicated IP address or other internet services, it is reasonable to charge for these. But basic, throttled access (with a minimum of 500kb/second download — fast enough to access email and limited video streaming) should be free.

Additionally, venues need to make logging onto the Wi-Fi network easier. Opening the browser and clicking “OK” is all that should be required.  As mobile devices are being used for internet access with greater frequency, make the logon screen readable in smaller formats as well. Better yet, use autosensing technology and provide a mobile web log-in page optimized for a smaller screen.

See more on the advances of hotel guest room technology at: http://ow.ly/6kJqx.

10 of 12 Meetings Technology Trends to Watch for 2012: iPads and tablets will provide a new medium for accessing data at events.

November 16, 2011

This is the tenth in a series of 12 weekly blog postings covering the major technology trends affecting conferences, events and trade shows:

10. iPads and tablets will provide a new medium for accessing data at events.

The iPad is the most recent of the long-running, game-changing innovations from Apple.  The Mac brought the widespread use of the mouse and graphical user interface to portable computing (1984); the iPod changed how we listened to music (2001); the iPhone revolutionized mobile phones  (2007), the App Store is changing the software procurement model (2008), and the iPad (2010)/iPad2 (2011) is having similar long-term ramifications.

The iPad and other tablet devices represent new ways to access information. Light weight, highly mobile, highly intuitive. The larger screen allow for bigger fonts, easier readability and more real estate to display material in a page-like format. The navigation is intuitive (with your fingers instead of a keyboard and mouse).

Tablets are a natural for events as our industry is a mobile one:

  • We do business away from our offices and from our “large screen” computers on a regular basis.
  • Most of us don’t carry around notebook computers at events for a number of reasons: weight, security, the inability to access easily while standing, etc
  • We constantly need to manage a wide range of data at events. For lack of a better way until now, much of these data have been in the form of paper.

Tablets will increasingly be used at events for interactive conference programs, course notes distributions, surveys, interactive exhibit floor plans, product displays, information kiosks, lead exchange, speaker Q&A, onsite blogging/social networking and more.

See more on the impact and benefits of iPads and tablets at: http://ow.ly/6jdGw