Top 10 Tech innovations for events and beyond!
Technology isn’t even a thing anymore. It’s an ever present pre-requisite to the extent that we don’t even realise it’s happening. Until our battery goes. Then it’s a rage-inducing festival of fury.
If we want to know how deep the Marianas Trench is (63,070 feet btw) or how how high Everest is (29,029 feet), we just google it. In fact, if we want to know pretty much anything we just Google it. Technology is the amalgamation of Centuries of combined knowledge manifested in digitised stuff. Imagine going back in time two hundred years, knowing about the light bulb, but not knowing how to make one? And even if you could, how would you power it anyway?! That would be frustrating but, if you think about it, it would be the same for everyone. Even the actual inventor of the light bulb because its all about a natural chronology – a coordinated and consecutive flow of accumulated knowledge that culminated with the light bulb. It’s the same reason that Armageddon and Deep Impact came out around the same time. Chronology. And a few stolen scripts, probably.
The reality is that technology should be everywhere and only-where, it makes things easier, faster, better, more efficient and more enjoyable. We shouldn’t even think of technology in the events world as ‘event technology’ though, because if we do, it’s as if we’re inventing, contriving or shoe-horning custom-made sector specific tech into our events for the sake of it. In reality, if there’s one genre that should be able to survive without tech, it’s events, right? Events and Parties are surely all about face to face human interaction in the purest sense of the phrase. It’s about learning, conversing, dispersing, coercing, interspersing, traversing, cursing and flirting. And those are just the ones that rhyme! It’s about everything and anything but technology! Except it’s not. Because the reach of your event relies heavily on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (possibly in that order too). And that’s just the superficial start of it…
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years looking very closely at technology. More specifically mobile technology and things are evolving super-fast. It wasn’t so long ago that 3G was the next big thing, now I’m hearing about 5G everywhere I go. In reality, this is still three years away but, when it does arrive, it will mean Driverless cars and soon after that pilotless planes. The fact that tube trains have drivers in 2016 is insane but that’s a whole other strike-stimulated rant for a whole other time.
So, what’s the every-day tech to look out for that’s going to inevitably transform events then? Well, the answer is (I strongly believe) the tech that solves every day needs and, as a result, enhances the live event experience, inadvertently changing the event world without anyone noticing. Apps are everywhere and the best ones offer not only a solution but a one touch solution which solves multiple related problems. Retail needs to be quicker and better value for money. Dating apps need to be more accurate and less rapey. Restaurant apps need to sell you more of the stuff you want to eat and drink without you realising it. Events need to do all of the above - offer quicker, more relevant connections whilst telling you useful stuff like when to go to the bar, where the loos are and when the bloody food is coming! Of course, event tech also allows us to seamlessly (and anonymously if we like) ask questions of keynote speakers in real-time whilst the rest of the audience vote for the questions they’d most like answered. You used to need an app for that but now there’s sli.do. Check that one out! In sweeping summary, everything needs to be intuitive with an unwavering focus on UX. In fact, in my world, UX is the new SEX. That will make sense one day. Oh wait, maybe it won’t. ;-)
Here are a few of my favourite things – 10 tech predictions for 2016/17:
1. VR & Oculus Rift.
Virtual Reality seems like an almost 90’s phenomenon that never quite caught on, probably because of the specialist hardware required. But clearly Mark Zuckerberg knows something we don’t (like how to become an internet billionaire, for starters) because his $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR demonstrates how seriously he’s taking it. I’ve tried it at a tech event last year and it’s properly awesome. We’re one step away from fully immersive video games (literally being in the game with shooters all around you in a futuristic landscape, for example). It won’t be long before surgeons are using it and the new ride at Alton Towers, Galactica, uses it on a rollercoaster. Soon, it’ll be everywhere. Even in your house.
2. Large Smartphones are slowly replacing tablets.
Well, this was always going to happen. Especially as we get increasingly used to using our phones for everything, from Msqrd to Netflix and, because there’s an app for absolutely everything, even a complete health check by breathing onto your microphone. I met a bio-tech inventor recently who demonstrated his app which can diagnose anything, subscribe medication and provide a live doctor’s consultation when it becomes necessary. Think how much money this could save the NHS! Smartphones are becoming life support machines. Literally.
3. Android is gathering strength and momentum.
I tried to change to Android once and it was more inconvenient than replacing a spoon with a tent pole. Nothing could have seemed less intuitive and everything was incompatible with everything else. And now, building an app myself, it has become apparent that you have to pretty much build everything twice. Once in iOS (first, naturally) and then again in Android. Doubling the cost. The demographics are strange too. More people in the north of the UK are on Android (I’m aware it sounds like I’m referring to a new drug!), whereas London is overwhelmingly Apple-tized. But Android is on the march with so many new devices on the market from so many major brands and a whole new generation of brands from the Far East which we’ve never even heard of. I went to a fascinating behind-closed-doors, ‘Chatham House Rules’ talk at the House of Commons where one of the original founders of Apple explained how they had effectively designed and owned their own marketplace, something Bill Gates didn’t even dream of doing. It’s amazing really and the inevitable rise of increasingly beautiful and more affordable devices, all inspired by Steve Jobs in one way or another, is increasingly apparent in the global mobile marketplace.
4. Wearables – smart watches, glasses and even clothing.
Remember those solar-powered head-visor radios from the 80’s?! I had one which my dad brought back from the Seoul Olympics and I thought it was pretty cool, ironically because I thought it looked cool. It didn’t. Wearables became a thing back in 2014 and, admittedly, they’ve taken a little while to catch on. The most popular are Apple Watch (basically an app machine on your wrist) and Fitbit. It’s great for serial app users and fitness conscious people, even professional athletes. My simple reason for not having an Apple Watch is that I love the aesthetics and manly chunkiness of my traditional Breitling watch too much, but that’s changing and I predict I’ll have one by Christmas. Google Glass is fascinating too enabling you, for example, to attend a seminar whilst viewing slides unique to your areas of interest in your field of vision. It looks a bit silly but the possibilities are endless. Imagine walking into an event and having ‘Terminator style’ vision, giving an instant lowdown on the person you’re looking at! It’s creepy but really cool! So, Wearables take a bit of getting used to but, from cycling jackets with built in indicators to Facetime and Spotify strapped to your wrist, it’s going to happen and, before you know it, your clothes will be clever. Oh, we’ll resist this with all the resistance we can muster but in the end we’ll all look like C-3PO.
5. Big data is making way for more specific data analytics.
Big Data is great. But it’s SO 2015. In 2016, it’s all about what we actually do with that data. The age of collecting Big Data for the sake of Big Data is dwindling, a bit like the initial value of twitter which was priced at an impossible multiple of nothing, on data-capture alone, entirely pre-revenue. Facebook has masterfully mastered the dark art of monetising an historically freemium model and now, personalisation is absolutely everything. From education to retail, networking and dating to finance, healthcare and home electronics it’s all about the data and how you use it to accurately personalise experiences.
6. Authentication – the death of the password.
OK, so my personal pet hate (apart from Apple devices automatically sharing absolutely everything which is a recipe for disaster in anyone’s book, however PG that book may be!) is the (sodding) Password! The very word makes me clench my teeth. I can’t bear trying seventeen different combinations of seventeen (slightly) different variations of seventeen different passwords whenever I’m logging in to the seventeen different apps and websites I need to access, you guessed it, seventeen times a day! Aaaaarrrrggghh! I’ve got to the point where I don’t care who has access to my bank account. As long as I do too! I’m even typing this angrily! Anyway, that said, times are changing and the last bastion of antiquated medieval data armour is being stripped off. The Password is about to be a thing of the past. Fingerprint access is dangerous because, if you get to your sibling’s iphone first, you can set your fingerprint as the password and they won’t even notice because they’re probably still using the Password keypad anyway! Retina scanning is a good one but the best is the new heartbeat scanner. Apparently, your heartbeat is more distinctive than even your fingerprints (who knew?) and can be detected within a couple of seconds of picking up your phone! Of course, it’ll be a bit annoying if you’re asking someone else to log in to your phone for you but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Apps are all about flawless and seamless UX with the least possible barriers to entry, so the laborious Password process is inevitably the perfect starting point.
7. Mainstream mobile payments.
Checking in to events and meeting delegates. Sort of like dating, but disguised by ‘professionality’. In reality, most things come down to dating (or variations of it) and that’s why it’s such a good benchmark for application UX. Personalisation is effectively matchmaking and matchmaking is basically dating. The one thing we always have on us (apart from maybe pants) is our mobile device. It’s not even a mobile phone because the phone part only constitutes about 2% of what we actually do on it! Over 50% (and rising) of Amazon’s revenue is derived from mobile devices. Mobile payment relies on…erm…reliability, trust, seamless integration and, I believe, personalised offers and incentives. Integrating with Apple Pay is important but re-creating your existing online presence and making it ‘mobile friendly’ is simply not enough. The point is that mobile should now lead, with your website and desktop experience coming second. Basically the complete opposite of what we’ve always done before.
8. Drones and robots.
The amazon drone thing is pretty ridiculous. I mean, can you really imagine things arriving on your doorstep by drone having not crashed, chopped someone’s head off or caused an unnecessary road accident? There are some exceptions though. Prisoners are using drones highly effectively, being supplied drugs, cigarettes and other contraband materials right to their cell windows. There are even people attending exhibitions in the form of their face on an ipad on a stick, driving around remotely and even swivelling their heads to talk to people. As if this wasn’t crazy enough, because of the potential for theft, these buggies currentlyhave to be lead around the expo hall on a lead by a security guard! I’m not even joking.
Everybody talks about 5G when there’s nothing better to talk about in the tech world. However, it’s the key to instant everything and therefore essential to the seamless operation of things that can’t afford to ever lose connectivity. Like a life support machine or an aeroplane. Or, in the context of first world problems, Netflix. When 5G arrives, buffering will be a thing of the past. Hooray!
10. Every-day ‘Dragons’ swiping left and right to invest in businesses.
Some of you will know about my involvement in the Crowdfinders series of Crowdfunding and Alternative Finance events, the next of which takes place on 21st April at the Royal Institution in Mayfair. The point of mentioning this event is because, I believe, it’s the best example of a traditional event, in a pretty traditional sector, enhanced and optimised by subtle, intuitive technology which is largely unnoticeable due to such a simple and smooth UX. Aside from delegates being able to communicate with each other, find each other and interact with each other (without having to use an annoying app to do it – bet you thought I was going to suggest an app would be the best way to do this?!) we are also offering the opportunity to ask real time questions during talks, vote for which other people’s questions you want answered and, most excitingly (and also most unoriginally) of all, investors will be able to swipe left or swipe right to ‘invest or reject’ during our Live Pitches. See, it all comes back to dating again, even in the financial world!
2016 is all about ‘Desktop Liberation’ because, if you think about it, the Desktop is entirely unconducive to the freedom and instant gratification that mobile technology enables. Businesses should no longer look to simply ‘mobilise’ their product or services, rather they should look to revolutionise and reinvent the very way they think about doing business in the first place, re-engineering processes and building new business models based on workforce liberation and personalised experiences.
In short. Tech yourself before you wreck yourself.
Will Broome, Founder, Londonlaunch.com
*Thanks to DMI for their app and mobile insights for 2016 www.dminc.com