“I think the way that we learn is changing now,” said Samuel J. Smith, managing director of Minneapolis-based, Interactive Meeting Technology. “We have this need for more collaborative environments and spaces, and that’s where conference centers can really set themselves apart from other meeting venues.”
Smith hit the nail right on the head. With an increasing demand for speed and high quality graphics, this is a factor that can make or break booking an event if the technology requirements are more than your venue can offer. Below are five emerging technologies currently being used to help convention centers worldwide meet the growing tech needs of their clients:
Convertible seating arrangements
One of the most fascinating new technologies popping up in convention centers is convertible seating arrangements. This isn’t an upgrade from the pull out bleachers of our middle school gym days, but instead is a futuristic approach with the speed to drastically transform spaces within minutes.
In 2014, a new $255 million convention center opened in Lausanne, Switzerland centralized in the city’s “Innovation Square.” The Swiss Tech Convention Center is using a technology, created by GALA Systems, that can flip an auditorium from a tiered seating arrangement to a flat ballroom floor using mechanical arms to lift chairs into the air and flip them down under the floor.
Telepresence is defined as a set of technologies, such as high definition audio, video and other interactive elements that enable people to feel or appear as if they were present in a location they are not physically in.
In our new video-centric world, video conferencing and virtual meetings are estimated to sustain a growth of 9.36%from 2014 to 2020. Portals such as Skype, Apple’s Facetime, or Google Hangout’s are the go-to’s for video conferencing by companies because they don’t cut into their budget. However, these are not fit for bigger meetings that require a large amount of bandwidth.
Jim Harnden, chief information officer for Thunderbird Executive Inn & Conference Center in Glendale, AZ, used telepresence for an event with 80 different attendees and a speaker located in India; “We used a 15-foot projection screen so that the entire audience could see everything. We also had microphones built in everywhere so everyone could really engage and pick up on the conversation,”said Harnden. Thanks to new high-definition technology, screens that are more or less life-sized in scale are also more lifelike in appearance. As the president and chief connector of Seven Degrees Communications, Jessica Levin, puts it, “The sophistication of videoconferencing can become a ‘real conversation’.”
Solar panels are “so yesterday.” An EPFL team led by Michael Gratzel, developed a new dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) that can convert electricity, similar to chlorophyll photosynthesis in plants. This new method raises the power-conversion efficiency rate to a record of 15% for DSSC, exceeding the 11% efficiency rate compared to solar paneling. The Swiss Tech Convention Center is the first large scale hall to use this type of energy conversion. By no means should Convention Centers start removing their solar panels, for this is still in early stages of development, but beware that new solar energy is coming your way.
Distributed Antenna System (DAS)
When Schaumburg Convention Center in Illinois opened in 2006, the first problem they encountered was the reliability of wireless connectivity. After witnessing attendees standing by windows or doorways to get a signal, the center upgraded to distributed antenna systems (DAS). DAS is made up of hundreds of antennas, placed in vital areas of the facility for a wider range of wireless network coverage. As Erin McGrath, an AT&T spokeswoman, explains DAS, “It’s compared to a cake, where the antennas are layered. Instead of having just one antenna, there are several around the facility.”
These systems have been installed in large venues, such as Navy Pier, the United Center and the Merchandise Mart, and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Before the 2015 NFL Superbowl, the Phoenix Convention Center installed these antennas, with the help of Smart City Networks, to serve as the Super Bowl media headquarters.
Why is Bandwidth important for wireless connection during your event? Bandwidth is the way smartphones, computers and tablets can transfer data, at optimal speed, over an Internet connection. In the meetings and events industry, more bandwidth means more people doing more things online at faster speeds. As the movement to hybrid meetings increases, the need for fast data transfer skyrockets due to the incorporation of streaming video, remote presentations, social media, conference apps and web-casting. How do we measure the bandwidth of a venues Wifi? The Apex Event Bandwidth Workgroup is developing site inspection tools to do the trick.
If your venue doesn’t have these upgrades in the works, start now before you’re left behind!