The Internet of Things and its Impact on Tradeshows and Events

Hundreds of billions of sensors are deploying quietly. They will track our every move and monitor almost everything with which we interact. The Internet of Things (IOT) will transform society and will have a significant impact on tradeshows and events. As everything links with everything else, this will be the next big technology revolution!


IOT Defined
IOT is the connection of objects and people to transfer data over a network without the need for human interaction. Sensor chips in a myriad of “things” (appliances, thermostats, door locks, TVs, watches/bracelets, cars, buildings, roads, power grids, dams, livestock and more) will provide unprecedented efficiency and convenience. A broader term, the Internet of Everything (IOE), is perhaps a more descriptive term for this revolution that will be affecting us all in the near future.
 
Our Bodies
Most of us are already carrying a very sophisticated set of sensors and a sensor control panel in our pockets – our smart phones. They can track our every movement and can interact with a greatly increasing assortment of things. Other wearable devices (smart watchesNFC rings (requiring no batteries), smart beltsactivity monitors, health monitors (via bracelets/phones/watches), smart clothing, and much more will monitor our location, activity, health and interact automatically with other devices.
 
Our Home
Homes are a big target for IOT with connected sensors coming in thermostats, door locks, lights, TV/entertainment systems, security systems and appliances. Sensors will recognize us as we approach our homes to automatically unlock/open the door, turn on the lights, and start entertainment systems based on our preferences. Thermostats will recognize our patterns and control the heat accordingly. Appliances will have sensors to alert of pending equipment failures, proper use and even if we are running short on milk. Small items such as baby bottlestoothbrushes and bathroom scales track efficiency and health. It will be likely that, eventually, even mundane items such as a chair will have chips to track inventory and purchase details.
 
The World
Our bodies and homes are just the start. Connected cars, transportation systems, roadways, parking lots, buildings, power grids and city infrastructure systems are seeing similar explosive growth of sensors to increase efficiency in improve the experience of humans using them.
 
Applications for Meeting Venues
Indirect results of IOT are coming soon in a wide range of attendee experiences. The hotel room will become “smart” with mobile guestroom door locks and sensors to determine presence for AC adjustment/lighting. Smart TVs are already in many rooms.  Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors including iBeacons can track attendee movements throughout a meeting facility and local area to provide a wide range of assistance such as location-aware information and directions. The San Diego Convention Center and the downtown Gaslamp district is a great example of how this will develop (video at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep_xWJyKHVc).   
 
On a broader basis, hotels and other meeting venues will become more efficient as sensors help to manage lighting, signage, AC, parking, elevators, loss control, security, and crowd control. Smart lighting, in some cases, tune to any color with varying intensities with much lower energy consumption. A convention center, for example, could “paint” the exact show colors of the current conference on the building exterior using connected LED lighting.
 
Applications for Tradeshows and Events
In the way that smartphones are already transforming the attendee experience at tradeshows and events, other wearable smart devices will bring a new level of convenience avoiding the “fumble factor” of digging out phones from our pockets and purses.
 
Smart watches and other wearables will likely help event participants to:·         
  • receive GPS directions
  • receive directional indoor way-finding through a convention facility/exhibition hall
  • open guestroom doors
  • make e-wallet transactions that are faster and more secure than credit cards
  • receive conference alerts
  • exchange contact/lead retrieval information
  • use as admission tickets
  • make audience polling responses
  • enable automated check-in for registration/meeting rooms
  • record and track continuing education unit (CEU) credits and much more
 
Smart phones have changed society greatly in the past seven years. In the next seven years, IOT will take this change to a completely new level affecting many aspects of day-to-day life, hotels, meeting venues, events and tradeshows.

As Technology Changes Events, These Five Things Will Likely Stay the Same

We are living in a time of unprecedented technology change. How will these changes affect meetings and tradeshows? Will events remain a central form of education, networking and marketing? Will virtual meetings and other communication technologies replace the need for face-to-face events and exhibitions? Although there will likely be very significant changes in these next few years, there are some strong drivers that bode well for the future of events.

Here are five constants that will keep meetings viable in the future:

1. Human gregariousness

Humans are social animals. We like to get together. Indeed, there is a biological imperative to do so!  This basic drive will continue to bring people together for face-to-face events of some form for as long as we roam this planet. 

2. Social connectivity -- the desire to meet with people of like interests

Meetings can be considered the original social media and associations the original social networking platforms. The rise of social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, enhances our ability to connect with people of like interests – the same goal of many events!  As our social network expands, this continuing desire to connect with these colleagues will keep meetings as an important method of doing so. Social media may expand our contacts; meetings will provide the opportunity to meet them face-to-face!

3. The value of tradeshow and exhibitions as important marketing vehicles

If a product is a commodity, there are opportunities to automate the sales process online. However, there are many businesses that are highly service oriented (such as the hotels, convention centers and meetings management) – they rely on people to deliver the product. Tradeshows and exhibitions afford a great way to meet these service providers and gather information in a condensed, time-efficient and cost-efficient manner. 

4. People like attractive destinations and are enriched by the travel experience

Travel broadens horizons and provides great ways to experience cultures, cuisines, new ideas and much more. Meetings often afford the opportunity to get away from our day-to-day business routine and to experience new horizons.

5. Live face-to-face events provide a much richer experience than virtual meetings

Webinars and other virtual meetings are great for short information exchange. However, in today’s multi-tasking and often distracting work environment, attention spans are short. Thirty minutes to an hour is usually the maximum you can expect someone to pay attention to a webinar sitting in front of a monitor.

Meetings, on the other hand, take people to a more focused location with fewer distractions. As long as attendees are informed, entertained and fed, event hosts can keep them engaged for days. At the minimum, there is a social contract to at least look like you are paying attention at an event. This is very different than most virtual events. The opportunities for networking, brainstorming, and relationship building are usually far greater at face-to-face events than online. To put it succinctly, there is no such thing as a virtual beer! 

Meetings provide opportunities for people to connect. Our gregarious nature, our desire to meet with people of like interests, our curiosity to experience new locations and ideas will be constant driving forces to keep meetings a viable means on connecting, educating, and bringing people of like interests together for the foreseeable future.

The True "State of the Art" is In the Infrastructure

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