Embracing the future: how technology will change the world of events

Adam Jones, director of digital product, talks about the future landscape of technology in the events industry, and encourages companies to embrace change.

What will the technology landscape look like in 10 years?

During the AEV conference last month, many people said AR and VR would be the key technologies dominating the market over the next decade. While these technologies are developing well and will continue to complement and support events, I believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will have an even bigger role to play. It has the power to be much more disruptive than AR or VR, as we will be able to rely on automated processes. AI has the potential to make processes smoother and more efficient, managing everything from show registrations to answering more detailed and specific questions. We are already seeing AI being used by companies outside our industry, for example Ocado’s robotic warehouse is driven by air traffic control software and has AI weaved throughout it. Over the next decade it is likely to become much more advanced, enabling us speed up hundreds of processes. While some people argue that AI will put jobs and human interaction at risk, I think companies can use it to their advantage. If we can make simple processes more efficient, companies will free up time for new projects, meaning we’ll be able to deliver more in less time. Rather than employing fewer staff, a company might be able to utilise technology to produce two shows in the time it used to take to do one, or offering more for our customers on a personal level and improving the very intention of a face to face industry.

What’s likely to change in the next two years?

In the short-term we can expect to see a growth in AR and VR, as these technologies become more advanced. It’s already a firm favourite with a lot of event organisers, but we’re seeing it grow and develop at a rapid rate. At the moment we’re utilising sight and sound, but in the next couple of years I think VR will be using other senses and even emotions to create new and unique experiences.

Integrations within event technology will become more standardised, making it easier to connect your favourite software products together. This will vastly improve the visitor journey and bring efficiencies to all involved. Imagine a world where you no longer have data entry!

What are the greatest challenges for adopting new technology?

The greatest challenges aren’t about the technology itself but the way we react to it. While new tech has its risks, resistance to change is really the greatest problem we’ll face. Many companies feel overwhelmed by the acceleration of new products and services, meaning they shy away from making real changes to their business. Ultimately technology doesn’t have to be scary, replace human interaction or lead to job losses. If used in the right way it can vastly improve processes within businesses, and have a positive impact on the world of events. But if companies don’t remain flexible and agile, they’re at risk of getting left behind. If we fear change and assume it won’t work, that’s where the biggest barriers lie. My advice would be to invest not just in new technology, but also hiring the experts who can help you use it in the right way. Small changes can make a big difference, so even those without big budgets can start developing their business in the right direction.

What do you think will be the most exciting new types of technology to reach the events industry?

There’s going to be a lot of noise about Blockchain in the coming years, though this will primarily be a supportive back-end tool for software developers and dev ops. It will make systems more efficient and hopefully safe when integrated into software, so I think we’ll start seeing tangible benefits soon. Another area that’s seen huge investment is robotics. At the moment it’s still relatively costly, but as the type of products grow and develop, I think it will become more widely accessible. In a couple of years, we could be using robots to support the registration process, for example. We are also better exploring the potential of household gadgets like Amazon Echo to fulfil specific requirements in our industry, and teaching these seemingly simple gadgets to be smarter and more relevant to their specific environment.



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