Brandt Krueger

Freelance Technical Meeting and Event Production, Education, Speaking, and Consulting. Geek Dad, Husband

Consultant, Meeting and Event Technology
Owner, Event Technology Consulting
Instructor, Event Leadership Institute
Host, GatherGeeks - A Podcast by BizBash

4 Hot Event Technology Trends That Probably Won’t Impact You at All in 2015.

Source: Curtis Palmer

Source: Curtis Palmer

It’s that time of year when all the articles come out for what the biggest trends are going to be in 2015. I’ve been reading them all carefully, and was in the process of writing my own, when I realized that I didn’t particularly agree with the level of impact that a lot of the “hot” event technologies were being touted as having in 2015.

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that the technologies that follow aren’t worth keeping an eye on- I know I will be. And, if you have a group that they’re appropriate for, you might even want give them a try. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t think that someday they’ll have a big impact on the meeting and events industry, but these things take time. The original iPhone was announced in 2007, and only now are we reaching smartphone saturation for most North American, European, and APAC meetings and events, with the rest of the world rapidly adopting right behind us.

I’m just saying that for the vast majority of meeting and event planners, working on the vast majority of meetings and events, designed for the vast majority of meeting and event attendees, these won’t matter one whit.

And so here they are- the hottest, shiniest, high-techiest, event technologies that you’ll probably won’t even think about using at your events this year!

1. The Apple Watch

Source: Apple

Source: Apple

The Apple Watch was announced with much fanfare in September after over a year of rumors and anticipation. Whenever Apple releases a new device, people take notice. They will want to know how it's going to impact the meeting and events game. My answer, as of right now, is that it isn't.

The release date is “Early 2015”, but as of yet nobody outside of Apple has been allowed to even touch the device. Will it be all it’s being touted as? Who knows? But just for the sake of argument, let's say that it is "magical" and "revolutionary" and any other Apple buzzjectives we want to put in front of it. I still think that it's not going to have much of an impact on the meeting and events industry in 2015.

I think the most likely scenario is that it will be a success when first released, but only among the high tech (and high bank account balance) crowd. It’s most likely to have a similar sales trajectory as the iPhone and iPad after it’s release, both of which took a couple of years, and hardware revisions, before they really became mainstream.

2. Google Glass

Source: Google

Source: Google

Sorry to my friends that have been enjoying Google Glass, but I can’t help but feel that public interest in the product has peaked and is already on the downslide. Hardware development seems to have slowed dramatically, and the number of new apps targeting Glass have been fewer and fewer. Other than a few holdouts, I see a tremendous number of people that used to wear Glass daily, now only wearing it for special use cases.

Unless Google’s got a rabbit up its sleeve, and comes out with dramatically revised hardware at a much lower price point, Glass may just slowly disappear into the background as Google focuses more and more energy into other smart wearable options. Until that time, we will be seeing fewer appearances of Glass at our events, not more, despite some of the really cool development that’s being done by a few of the faithful.

3. Virtual Reality

Source: Oculus

Source: Oculus

This is a tough one for me, because I think VR is a whole lot of fun and has a lot of potential. I had the opportunity to try on one of the Oculus Rift headsets at IMEX for a virtual reality tour of some of London’s most famous sites. Unfortunately, I think that’s about the perfect use case for the headset- a trade show booth entertainment and marketing device. It was a little blurry for me, and difficult to use with my glasses, but the motion was smooth and the image moved naturally with the movement of my head. I could have stayed in that thing all day, but then again, I really like London.

Even though the Oculus Rift was a tremendous leap forward in VR hardware, I just don’t see it becoming a major player in the meeting and events industry in any way other than as a curiosity brought in for entertainment value. Like the Oxygen Bars of a couple years ago, it’s something you might bring in to an event as something fun for your attendees to try, but doesn’t return for a year after year appearance.

The possible exception would be peripheral industries such as hotels end event spaces. With paper-based VR headsets coming in as low as $4.00 (you slide your smartphone into the paper goggles “case”), you can get into VR hardware pretty inexpensively. So it’s no wonder that we’re starting to see real-estate agents offering virtual 3D tours of their properties on these cheaper VR headsets. Expect hotels and event space managers to follow suit!

4. iBeacons (BLE Beacons)

Source: Estimote

Source: Estimote

Speaking of Apple, (which technically we weren’t, but hey, it’s only a few paragraphs up), iBeacons have to hold the record for the shortest period of time between announcement and becoming a generic term. For something that was only informally announced at their developer conference in 2013, and isn’t even actually a physical product, we’ve all pretty rapidly agreed as a society to call any of these devices “iBeacons”. 

Technically, iBeacon is just what Apple calls it’s way of dealing with these devices, which are little pods that can communicate with your smartphone via Bluetooth wireless communication, specifically Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). You can’t go buy an iBeacon, only devices that are compatible with iBeacon. 
There’s definitely a lot of potential to beacon technology but it remains to be seen if any of it will be realized. Uses include popping up suggestions on your phone based on your location and proximity to the beacon, as well as helping you navigate interior spaces like an “inside GPS” system. Sounds perfect for trade shows and large conferences. Problem is, from what I can tell, there’s far too many issues surrounding phone compatibility, and getting people to enable the functionality on their phones. Estimates from earlier this year were that less than 30% of smartphones were both compatible with beacon technology, as well as having the service enabled. That’s bound to get better as time goes on, but fast enough to make an impact in 2015? Unlikely.

Reconsidered: NFC/RFID

Source: Disney

Source: Disney

I had originally intended this to be a “Top 5” that included RFID and NFC. The two wireless radio technologies are great for tracking attendees, and NFC is at the heart of the Apple’s new Apple Pay mobile payments platform. I was going to include them with the caveat of “except for mobile payments”, but after discussing it on New Year’s Eve with Kristi Casey Sanders (bit.ly/ea250), I realized I had forgotten a whole category of the devices that are definitely on the upswing. Disney’s new “Magic Band” technology has RFID at it’s heart, and these types of wearable smart bands are starting to take off at large events. The bands are relatively inexpensive, and when their use is carefully planned for, attendees seem to love them. They can act as entry tickets to venues, can be used for mobile payments, or can even be included as a tracking system for games and team building exercises. The data they provide to event planners regarding the behavior of their attendees is incredibly rich and valuable. They definitely have a bright future, and could well take off in 2015.

So that’s it! I’d love to know what you think. Feel free to tell me why you agree or disagree in the comments. Here’s to a great 2015, everyone- Cheers!