Why wearable technology will transform the event industry


The future looks bright for wearable technology according to many studies, the latest of which is Cisco’s Visual Network Index and predicts an increase to 58 million devices in 2015 and even 177 million by 2018.  That looks pretty impressive and it actually is considering that such a market would be worth approximately 30 billion US dollars.  Yet, in comparison to (say) the global smartphone market, it’s peanuts.  At  an estimated bying rate of 2,3 billion devices a year, the smartphone market accounts for roughly 20 devices per smart wearable device.

While all these statistics and contradictory trend reports, may give the impression that wearables are not (yet) a reality, I would argue that these numbers only mean tough business for those entering in this market.  Meaning that margins will be low from the start, with the exception of some more ‘premium’ products from vendors like Apple, and most importantly set for a race down the bottom.  On top, these wearables work together with a smartphone and are pretty useless without one.  This means that the wearables themselves don’t account for much network traffic, reducing to zero the incentive for telco’s to develop device subsidies plans, like they did so keenly for smartphones.  But that’s their problem not yours as an event organizer.

So, wearable devices are not going to impact the event industry for a lack of adoption?  On the contrary, they will and already have if you think about it.

Braceletsrfid-bracelet

Every event attendee has at some stage worn a RFID or NFC bracelet in the past years when going to an event.  For access control, or for paying drinks or food, or for sharing content on social media.  Especially the concerts and festivals industry has adpoted bracelets a couple of years ago.  Identifying the potential advantages of selling more, worrying less about cash distribution and theft, checking entrances better, managing crowds in a more secure manner.

But where wearing a bracelet on a concert is pretty standard, you won’t see it on a conference or trade show.  And that’s because the audience won’t accept that.  No need to discuss reasons or measures to circumvent that, the fact that in the future your smart wearable device will be able to take over those functions easily solves this puzzle.  Smart watches will become the RFID-NFC bracelet in the next months and years.

Google Glass

Google’s entry in the market of wearables is and has been since the start one of the most eye-catching ones (I liked the pun).  Not always positively because it’s so visible and packed with cool features, but also because it’s a little bit scary, or at least swiftly categorized as a danger to privacy by so-called experts.  Only a couple of months after Glass’ announcement it  is already declared dead, sometimes by people that also tried to bury Apple’s iPad and iPhone or the Android operating system immediately after their introduction.

While I understand the concerns and honestly value the importance and need of privacy, I think Google Glass can be a game changer for events, congresses, trade shows and basically any location where lot’s of people meet each other and engage with new and exciting content.  Google Glass may not become the hyped, ubiquitous tool that Google wants it to become for their business, but it sure has a lot of potential to offer as a business and marketing tool.googleglass

Think about how much simpler it would be to keep your smartphone in your pocket while stroling down the isles of a trade show, not forced to look at your screen all the time, missing out on interesting products and people.  Think about not having to grab for your phone to check messages and reminders for your next appointment on the show or speakers session to attend.  Could that be the reason why today mobile event apps or not all that much used by attendees ?  I honestly think so.

Virtual reality

riftNo, I really can’t imagine myself walking around with an Occulus Rift on my head, but imagine being able to admire, on a booth, in 3D, the latest model of some multi-million dollar machine that was just too expensive to fysically move to the event venue.  Can you smell the (social) media coverage that would generate for the event and the exhibitor ? I can.

Networking

The chances of meeting tens of interesting people, existing contacts or new partners, on an event are high, certainly higher than on any other average day.  How convenient would it be to attendees to use their smart watch or glasses to connect, to exchange personal information, to get a reminder of a planned meeting and at the same time get some background information on the person your meeting with.  Get his interests, hobbies, carreer at his current company, experience,…

The mobile event app is created to increase convenience and make a better customer experience during an attendee’s stay at an event.  But it virtually requires the poor man or woman to glue a smartphone on your face, which is not very convenient when walking.  Wearable technology will just reveal the true added value of event apps and event technology and as a side efffect increase the number of created interactions.  Which, in my book, is exactly what conferences or trade shows are all about : creating interactions and leads.

More advantages or use cases of wearable technology for events ?  Or recent experiences with events using wearables, just post a comment.

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