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Digital and Event Technology Predictions: 2018 and Beyond

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Learn how digital technology is expected to enhance your event next year

Technology provides new and exciting tools to plan, enhance, and measure brand experiences, making it easier to pinpoint what works and integrate it successfully.

And in the age of the digital transformation, new forms of event tech seem to be popping up nearly every day. How can event professionals keep up?

Here are our predictions for digital and event technology in 2018 and beyond. Be sure to read all the way to the end, where you'll be able to cast your vote for the prediction most likely to take off next year! 

Supercharged attendee tracking

Attendee tracking has been a hot topic in the event tech industry for years. In 2018, innovative vendors will overcome key logistics and infrastructure challenges, and the dream will finally edge its way into reality.

  • RFID and NFC to measure traffic

Mike Wohlitz, SVP, Event Services, Freeman AV

As costs continue to decrease, the use of RFID is on the rise. This helps track attendance, attendee traffic patterns, and facility usage while providing attendance statistics that can then be translated into ROI.

  • Geofencing to target attendees

Danny Lee, Associate Digital Producer, FreemanXP

Mobile devices are now an extension of our bodies, so collecting data and targeting attendees as they enter or leave specific areas provide amazing opportunities to engage. Geofencing allows event professionals to send specific and relevant content to an opted-in end user — directly to their mobile phone.

  • Facial recognition to measure emotion

Danielle Puceta, VP, Digital Office, Freeman

A bit newer, we expect this tech to come into mainstream acceptance thanks to the iPhone X. There are many places facial recognition can be used to measure attendee emotion and improve experience — from creating a streamlined registration process to measuring sentiment during a presentation or at a product showcase.

  • Bluetooth LE to improve wayfinding and data

Victor Paan, Director of Digital Services, Freeman AV Canada

Event apps will leverage Bluetooth LE access points to help attendees with more precise wayfinding through their smartphones. As venue infrastructures are upgraded, the ability to utilize and deploy these services will become a must-have for event professionals. Time and location mapping of experiences delivered to attendees will provide valuable data and insight to organizers, driving ROI.

Beyond basic event tech

Even the most foundational elements of AV will get serious tech upgrades in 2018.

  • Say goodbye to AV cables

Bill Mott, Director, Digital Services, Freeman AV

Network Device Interface (NDI) is a new AV protocol that sends signals over Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Manufacturers are increasingly building this new standard into projectors, switchers, cameras, streaming/broadcast equipment, audio speakers, and more. One day soon, all cables in a general session will be Ethernet cables, eliminating huge amounts of cost and complexity.

  • Increased prevalence of LED

Mike Wohlitz, SVP, Event Services, Freeman AV

As the cost of LED decreases, it will be used more as a digital skin to structures, allowing messaging in unique shapes and places.

  • Next-gen virtual events

Bill Mott, Director, Digital Services, Freeman AV; and Mike Schaiman, CCO, Managing Director, Helios Interactive

Requests for virtual presenters at events will see a huge uptick, leading to greater use of hologram technology in which the speaker appears as though physically on stage, while in fact virtually presenting to the in-room audience. The virtual event will also be reincarnated to more effectively capture and communicate an on-site experience, thanks to the advent of new depth cameras, VR headsets, and more.

Smart solutions

As artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, virtual assistants, and machine learning become the norm, their influence on brand experience will continue to grow.

  • Natural language processing and computer vision

Wilson Tang, VP, Digital Experience, FreemanXP

Advances in natural language processing will improve the ability of AI to understand voice and other chat-based commands, such as a request to play a certain song in a music playlist. AI will also become better at understanding context and intent; for example, learning that “When is the general session?” and “When is the keynote?” are essentially the same question. Meanwhile, computer vision will enable marketers to measure audience sentiment — meaning it will understand how an audience is feeling during a presentation.

  • AI chatbots

Danny Lee, Associate Digital Producer, FreemanXP

The consumer/workforce landscape is increasingly integrated with messaging apps. This sets the stage for chatbots that are mobile-optimized, connect seamlessly with social media marketing, provide real-time notifications, and ensure customer/attendee satisfaction.

  • Intelligent voice-powered applications

David Haas, Digital Solutions Director, FreemanXP

Look for voice-powered personal assistants at show sites and conversational assistants in booths that can answer questions, send information back to the office, and even take surveys. Programmable platforms, like Alexa and Google Home, will offer infinite possibilities to provide amazing experiences that can extend from the show site all the way back to the home.

  • (Near) Real-time insights

Richard Reid, Business Development Vice President, Freeman AV

Tech-savvy attendees increasingly expect real-time customization of their experiences. For example, "My registration profile states that I’m interested in Topic A, so tell me which sessions to attend or exhibitors to visit based on that interest." Or, "Because I attended a session on Topic B, tell me who else in attendance is interested in the same topic." Attendee tracking tools paired with AI can make this happen seamlessly.

Mixed reality

In 2018, we will see AR/VR being used to enhance and upgrade the user experience in several ways.

  • Slow build for AR

Mike Schaiman, CCO, Managing Director, Helios Interactive; Victor Paan, Director, Digital Services, Freeman AV Canada; and Ken Holsinger, VP, Digital Solutions, Freeman

With most of the big players in the mobile, hardware, and app industries now fully diving into the AR pool, we will see the deployment of purposefully designed experiences for live events. However, these elements will start small, slowly building up as AR becomes more integrated with our daily lives.

  • AR event wayfinding

Danny Lee, Associate Digital Producer, FreemanXP

Advances in AR technology will soon make possible an indoor, GPS-like visual positioning service (VPS) to help attendees navigate and interact with indoor spaces. Step-by-step directions will guide attendees through a venue, as well as enable gamification options, interactive booths, and display banners.

  • AI and AR/VR intersect

Mike Schaiman, CCO, Managing Director, Helios Interactive

Machine learning will have the ability to impact users mid-experience. As they’re viewing or interacting with an application, data will be captured, processed, and analyzed, and the experience will be altered based on that data — in real time.

  • 360-degree dome experiences

Bill Mott, Director, Digital Services, Freeman AV

One of the largest hurdles with VR is getting people to wear goggles. Look for an increase in dome experiences that utilize 360-degree projections — for instance, creating virtual operating rooms, space or nature explorations, and more. The possibilities are unlimited!

  • Streamed VR plus participants

Tom Vamos, Digital Development Manager, Freeman EMEA

In-booth VR is currently a limited experience for spectators, who can only stand by and watch the headset wearer experience the virtual environment. Soon, a live-streamable blend of the participant in their VR world will provide a more engaging spectator experience and booth draw.

Upgraded overall experience

Digital and event technology will work together in new and unique ways to transform the attendee experience.

  • Integrated technology

Danielle Puceta, VP, Digital Office, Freeman; and Ken Holsinger, VP, Digital Solutions, Freeman

As event professionals adopt even more event technology, it will be increasingly important for each technology to share data seamlessly.

  • Better ROI measurement

Ken Holsinger, VP, Digital Solutions, Freeman

There is tremendous pressure on organizers from sponsors and exhibitors to provide ROI data on activations and expo floor activity. Data integration, standardized metrics, and real-time decision-making will be the focus.

  • Personalization intensifies

Tom Vamos, Digital Development Manager, Freeman EMEA; and Richard Reid, Business Development Vice President, Freeman AV

Advertisers and brands will continue to hone in on customer targeting, using technology like AI and facial recognition to spark toward “hyper-personalization.” Messaging will be customized at the individual level, creating empowered attendees and highly personalized experiences.

  • Social structures

Mike Wohlitz, SVP, Event Services, Freeman AV

Social media displays are now an anchor offering at events. An architectural focus on social sharing via visually attractive means will continue to increase.

  • Sponsorships

Danielle Puceta, VP, Digital Office, Freeman and Cori Prasifka, Senior Strategist, FreemanXP

As event technology becomes a core part of events, digital will increasingly be integrated into sponsorship opportunities — rather than tacked on as an afterthought. This will offer the bonus of data and metrics that go beyond traditional sales leads to enable targeted, customized, sponsor-driven experiences.

  • Safe micropayments

Wilson Tang VP, Digital Experience, FreemanXP

Attendees will be able to use virtual currencies at events to safely pay for food and amenities without worrying about losing a wallet.

In short, these new advances in event technology stand to transform every element of the industry — from mundane to spectacular. The result will be truly personalized, deeply interactive, and intensely meaningful brand experiences for each and every attendee that comes through the doors, creating lasting impacts that will reverberate throughout the coming year and beyond.

Which of these predictions do you see taking off in 2018? Vote now!

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