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Data grows up: what data trends look like in 2019

By Wilson Tang


  • More event technology innovations means more data generated
  • Increased data means more challenges for security, privacy, and more

What’s ahead for event technology in the next year? This first installment in a five-part series takes a deep dive on what we see becoming important for event professionals to consider in 2019.

​Data is the future when it comes to innovating experiences.

It has the potential to drive everything, from determining deeper audience needs to developing a highly personalised event strategies to proving how events are driving revenue.

As event technology becomes smarter and more embedded in all aspects of an event, there are two things happening: more data is generated in more ways; and there is an increased need for security, privacy, scalability, and data analysis.

Within these two categories, a number of trends are rising to prominence that will become increasingly important in the next year.

More data means more opportunity

With every new event tech-related innovation comes a new mountain of data that can open up valuable insights into attendee behaviour, preferences, and event logistics. Some data opportunities are crossing over from the consumer side into the event space, and some existing technologies are growing in application and scope. These are the five data generating opportunities we see being key for organisers in the next twelve months:

Trend #1: Always-on connections

Attendees are constantly connected and generating data. Mobile devices, tablets, computers, and more are a goldmine of information for advertisers and developers — and connected devices can also offer a unique look at how attendees interact with an event, even passively. More and more, venues and locations are adding the ability to track locations through WiFi networking, giving marketers valuable behavioural data.

Trend #2: Wearables

From Fitbit to Wear OS to Apple Watch, wearables are another data-generating possibility that have gone mainstream. And just like with mobile devices, wearables offer a unique interface opportunity for events that takes advantage of the daily technology attendees are already accustomed to using. They can be harnessed for interactive or tracking purposes that not only make things easier for the attendee, but even have the potential to generate a new type of data set, like biometric sentiment sensing.

Trend #3: Internet of Things

More and more devices have the ability to be connected and controlled via the Internet — and more and more things interface together to be programmable in unique ways. But this doesn’t just stop at turning on your lights remotely or locking your back door — it opens up a whole new world of data gathering at events, as well as new creative experiences for attendees utilising connected devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

Trend #4: Proximity, location, and RFID

Utilising proximity and location-aware technology is a passive way for organizers to track attendees, provide access controls, and generate leads without any direct attendee interaction necessary. RFID chips can be embedded in attendee badges for use throughout an event, whether it’s entry into a session, checking in at a stand, or tracking attendee movements at the event to help understand more about their wants and needs.

Trend #5: Computer vision

Computers are smarter than ever, able to finally understand information coming from always-connected cameras. But they are capable of so much more than simply recognising faces — thanks to APIs that are capable of detecting and analysing human emotions and tracking positions within a 3D space, computers can now understand event sentiment and behaviour at scale. Computer vision can be used to track attendee paths, as well as their engagement, mood, and more. This may become an important addition to event security measures as well.

More data means more responsibility

The increased availability and amount of data creates another challenge that organizers will need to meet head-on in the months ahead — how to interface with it responsibly, from collection to storage to analysis. Privacy, trust, security, and integration are becoming bigger and bigger focuses for data in all industries, and these are the trends we believe will be most important for organizers in 2019:

Trend #1: Blockchain

What exactly is blockchain, anyway? It might sound high-tech and complex, but blockchain might be the next computing breakthrough (or it might be an over-engineered solution in search of a problem). The concept of blockchain centres around a shared, continually reconciled database of information that is never stored in one centralised location, which means it cannot be hacked or corrupted. This could finally solve the “trust” issue in computers to enable applications like secure payments and digital assets. However, it remains to be seen if it will work for the long term.

Trend #2: Event ordering and payment

Carrying cash at events has always been a dangerous proposition because of security, but mobile payment options like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay solve the security problem by making cash obsolete. Attendees can place an order for anything from a coffee to 10,000 units of a product at an event, all without pulling out cash or even a card. All they need is a mobile device with a payment service attached to their accounts.

Trend #3: Increased need for privacy and security

More devices equal more data, and more data equals more potential for data leaks. The power of personalised data targeting is changing the world — both for the better and for the worse — which means privacy and security issues are now everyone’s problem. Figuring out what you need to do to secure your event data is key. Some wider protections are already in place, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, so you should get used to data governance, especially if you have an international audience.

Trend #4: Integration platforms bring data all together

One of the biggest challenges event professionals encounter is a wealth of raw data coming from multiple sources, with no real way to make it work together. It is critical that events have a data integration strategy so that they can maximise the value of their data. We will see less of a focus on costly API development and more focus on developing better insights and reporting through integration platforms that create one single location for data and allow different applications and services to give a holistic, data-driven picture of event success.

Trend #5: Scalable insights through data reporting and analysis

The data deluge is making it harder to figure out what data is actually telling organisers — so how can they derive the right insights from what they have collected, especially when more than half of organisers don’t have a person dedicated to data and measurement? Expert-level consultation is necessary to help tell the insights story that will help prove the return on events — and visualisation is the key to breaking down the data and selling that story to the powers that be.

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