No matter what industry you work in, you are likely to attend some tradeshow, user group or other meeting. You learn about trends, make connections, and network with your peers.
Today when you go, you probably expect that the agenda, speaker bios and contact information are all available on an app through your mobile phone. In the near future, information finding and connection features will also be standard fare with three new technologies poised to ramp up the mobile experience.
Beacons and iBeacon, which is Apple’s proprietary name for this technology, are powered by Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) and transmits small bits of information to compatible Apple and Android mobile devices. Small beacon transmitters allow for new types of interaction with your smartphone. They can interact with your device, a mobile app or other beacons, sending information to these objects when its presence is discovered.
In the events industry, Bluetooth beacons could automate the following:
- Attendee check-in at registration desks, sessions, meals;
- Networking with like-minded participants based on session attendance and/or location;
- Tradeshow floor and session navigation;
- Content distribution based on session presence;
- Lead generation based on booth proximity and length of time spent inside.
In your everyday life, beacons could facilitate mobile payments, offer you location-based coupons and more. Imagine downloading an app on your phone and then walking within range of a beacon at your favorite coffee shop. Based on information in the beacon and on your mobile app, the beacon can signal the barista to offer you a loyalty discount (or free) coffee when you order.
Using your phone camera to identify images or objects in the real world, app makers will then provide supplemental information around what the camera sees. You could be walking down the Champs Elysees in Paris using your phone as the tour guide. In the events world, imagine being on a tradeshow floor. Point your camera at the logo on a vendor booth, and the event app will provide more information associated with that exhibitor.
Here are a few other ways we think you’ll experience visual search triggered apps at events.
- Capturing an image of the first slide of a presentation automatically downloads the presentation to your device
- Using visual cues to identify locations across the venue
- Downloading a registration form on your device simply by pointing the camera at the registration sign
- Estimating attendee satisfaction of a presentation by the number of smiles on their faces as they leave
Of course, images and objects are everywhere – not just at trade shows – so this technology will augment many parts of our lives. My local paper is using visual search to provide enhanced content through an app called Layar. I download Layar, hover over it with my camera phone and boom there’s more information – often multi-media based, which a physical newspaper cannot deliver. Travelers can take advantage of visual search with apps that act as tour guides. Today, you can point at the dome at St. Paul’s in London and access a plethora of information using AcrossAir.
Visual search apps generate higher reach than QR codes, which have to be produced and distributed. Expect to see many new services using visual search during the coming months.
When it comes to events, we’ve often thought, “wouldn’t it be great for participants to communicate with each other without burning their cell minutes or relying on spotty wifi coverage?” Mesh networking allows you to do just that. Instead of relying on a single broadcast point through which all communications run, mesh networks are ad hoc and rely on all nearby devices to relay data to and from each other. Your phone hooks up with all the other mesh-enabled devices and they can ‘talk’ amongst each other.
There are several applications currently leveraging mesh networking, for both the iOS and Android operating systems. Among them is FireChat, which allows you to interact with others at events like concerts, festivals and conferences using ad hoc networks. At events like Burning Man or Coachella, where Internet access might be limited, being connected to your neighbors creates a new kind of community.
The value of mesh networking in public places like conferences has not yet been proven because they require a high degree of user adoption and present security and privacy concerns that require resolution. However, mesh networks could make a lot of sense in a home environment where WiFi-enabled devices could communicate with each other without an Internet connection or router. So we think you’ll experience mesh networking at home before you run into it at a conference.
These technologies are at different stages of development and adoption, and they demonstrate that mobile continues to evolve. If any or all of them become widely adopted in the meetings and event industry, you can anticipate they will have a dramatic impact on engagement and will transform our experiences.