Yesterday I attended #TechsyTalk Live, a “for planners by planners” one-day conference designed around event technology, in downtown New York City. It was great to meet tech-savvy planners and vendors developing cutting-edge apps for our industry, and the conversation on Twitter was as lively as in the auditorium. Much of the talk was about using apps and social media to streamline event experience, but there were plenty of technical terms thrown around. Without further ado, here’s my #techsytalk lexicon:
This term is hardly a new one, but what you need to know in 2014 is worlds away from what mattered a year or two ago. Bandwidth is the wired or wireless capacity for uploading and downloading content to and from the web — what’s changing is the amount of bandwidth that’s needed to ensure that a speaker can stream live video while 3,000 attendees are using their smartphones. Meeting-U’s James Spellos advises event planners to gauge bandwidth during site inspections using either a laptop cued up to a site like speedtest.net or one of many Apple and Android apps designed for just this purpose. He advises looking for download speeds of 1MB or greater, and that testing the waters allows savvy planners to negotiate the connectivity costs in their venue contracts. In other words, don’t buy before you try.
Since the average attendee brings two devices to meetings these days, it’s important for everyone to be able to connect to the wireless network, both in the meeting room and in guest rooms. (And as before, be sure to ask how many devices can reliably access your meeting’s network before you sign on the dotted line.)
RFID stands for radio frequency identification, and allows devices to “talk” to each other at short range, which is useful both for communicating with attendees and receiving their feedback during an event. RFID is already in widespread use at tollbooths and behind-the-scenes at airports. An RFID chip can be set into a wristband, lanyard, label or card, easing tasks like registration and check-in for the planner and making it easier for attendees to share their contact info with each other. RFID tags can only be read with a special RFID reader that records and stores the data. Two-way communication isn’t possible.
NFC stands for near field technology, and, like RFID, is a way of tracking people’s movements through a conference space by pinging their devices. It has a smaller range than RFID, but because two-way communication between devices is possible, there are some promising applications for this “beaming” technology.
For example, attendees could tap a wristband near a trade show booth to download information about a product and then a week later get a record of all the products they tested throughout the show it a follow up email from the conference organizer. NFC has a much smaller range than RFID — less than a foot — so users need to hold their devices up to kiosks or tap wearables right next to exhibitor stands.
NFC is still evolving, but many smartphones already come with NFC capability built in.
This is yet another way to beam and receive content to and from attendees during an event. iBeacon’s range is up to 50 yards, much greater than NFC, and since it relies on Bluetooth there’s no extra hardware for users to install. However, iBeacon requires attendees to enable Bluetooth — a notorious battery drainer — during the entire event. As with NFC, this is a technology in its infancy.