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Smarter venues, connected delegates and data-fuelled exhibitors: all in the IoT-enabled event space of the future.
Events contribute a huge amount to the Western world’s GDP but can often be the biggest industry no one’s ever heard of. For those working in events, event planning is a seriously rewarding yet frenetic job role that can involve a ton of logistics, reporting, people management and planning to get it done well. Since the Internet of Things (IoT) has been affecting all industries (including events and tradeshows), we’ve been excited to see not only what the future tradeshow will look like, but how the physical event space will change as a result.
In this article, we look at the benefits and effect of IoT and the connected event space on the event planner and how it might make their lives easier (or harder) as a result.
Today’s events and tradeshows are usually held in the same type of spaces; conference venues, tradeshow halls, hotels and so on that are practised in hosting events. The reason is obvious; when you have just one day or a few days to make your event a success you need a venue that is geared up to perform.
These venues have seating, lighting, power and space that all lends itself easily to events, regardless of audience or format. Yet with the rise of IoT, we foresee many spaces becoming more adaptable and fluid to event planners.
Not only will traditional spaces become more fluid, with aspects such as lighting, sound and heating all controllable, but non-traditional event spaces may become more accessible too.
Think of an office where every element is controlled by an iPad; from lighting to security sensors, to doors, digital screens and more. Outside of office hours, this becomes not just a static office but a great place to host an event. The event planner doesn’t need to worry about how they will adapt the space because the space is “on” and ready to adapt for them.
Event delegates are already led by smartphones which help them to navigate a tradeshow floor. As they become even more connected by other smart devices such as smart glasses, smart watches and even items of clothing, they become the ultimate connected visitor.
The connected visitor is not only more trackable (providing a detailed level of analytics on where they went and what they saw) but this also allows the event to adapt as a result. If you know that delegate one is interested in new IT solutions, you can adapt each screen they walk past to change its content as a result. If you know that delegate two likes decaff coffee, you can trigger the machine to know this as they swipe their watch.
A more personalized experience is often a better one and the connected visitor can be catered to much more easily in the event space of the future.
During an event, planners have a huge list of items they need to be able to manage. From delegates, to exhibitors, sponsors and staff members, as well as the venue itself. In the event space of the future, less management will be needed from event staff as spaces monitor and control their own amenities.
Air conditioning and heating systems can be adjusted automatically depending on how many people enter a room at one time. Fridges and food areas can be automatically restocked when running low, or digital menu boards adapted as a result. Lighting can change based on natural circadian rhythms and digital screen content can ensure absolute relevance as it adapts to audience and time of day.
As venues become living, breathing spaces equipped with sensors, smartphones, wearables and smart badges, organizers will have the ability to track individual delegates around a show space. Whether this is per person tracking (which could cause security concerns) or tracking via anonymous connection, it would give more insights than have ever before been possible.
Organizers could learn which areas have the highest footfall, the busiest times of day, areas that are missed out completely and the longest dwell time. This would help the event to adapt and plan for future shows, where the space can be optimized for a higher level of success.
As well as refined analytics on the show itself that tell exhibitors exact footfall, time spent at show and the profile of its visitors, the event space of the future can offer data on an individual exhibitor booth. Smart sensors placed around the booth will allow organizers and exhibitors to track who visited the booth, how long for and even where they stood.
This will allow exhibitors to map visitor journeys and to track the visitor in an unobtrusive way. Most tradeshows today rely on a scanning of a badge as a visitor enters the doors. In the event space of the future, IoT-led booths will ensure that each second of the show is visible and trackable.
Exhibitors will also benefit from IoT-enabled booths that adapt and change as needed. This could include lighting, sound, heating and digital screen content that changes dependent on who and how many people are on the booth at any one time.
Of course, with any new technology it’s not all easy riding and everyone’s lives getting easier. With all of the ease that IoT brings, there are also elements which will make the event planner’s life harder. Data and security being just two of them.
Tracking every inch of a visitor’s journey could be viewed as intrusive and how that data might be used in the future must be communicated and agreed. Some visitors will undoubtedly want to opt out of being tracked which could skew data and provide an unfair representation of the show.
Similarly, when every inch of a tradeshow is trackable, security must be considered. Like any area that uses a series of smart devices, thought must be given to what might happen if those devices were virtually broken into. Concerns over both physical and cyber security would need to be widely considered before the event space of the future becomes a reality.
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