July 2013

Transformative Meetings Tech

by Tyler Davidson

Trying to pin down what technology trends are impacting the meetings industry can be a tricky proposition. After all, are we talking specifically for the meetings industry or branching out to travel tech and general productivity tools?

Yes to all three, it turns out. And it’s about platforms, in addition to software, too.

“The conversation begins with mobile devices, in terms of practical new technology,” says meetings industry technology speaker James Spellos, president of Meeting U. “[Attendees] are coming to meetings with mobile devices, be it tablets or smart phones.”

“Augmented reality,” basically wearable hardware such as Google Glass that lets you see things with your own eyes but layers it with additional information, is another technology that should make its way into the meetings experience in the future, albeit it’s a bit far out on the horizon.

Spellos says that three-dimensional printing, which would allow for suppliers and others to instantly “print” customized items, say, on a trade show floor, and geofencing, which allows businesses such as hotels to draw a perimeter “fence” and send out push notifications for special events and other information, are two big advances that are set to make an impact.

“Once the tool is out there it becomes a matter of one’s creativity to say ‘I have a better way of using it,’” Spellos says. “Then that becomes the killer tool, the killer app.”

New devices, and the ability to compute on the go, is the tip of an iceberg that may transform the very way we interact with the world, above and far beyond merely meetings and events.

“It seems that major technology trends go in 10-year cycles,” says fellow meetings industry tech expert, consultant and speaker Corbin Ball, president of Corbin Ball Associates. “In the ’60s it was mainframe computers. In the ’70s it was mini-computers. In the ’80s, personal computers. In the ’90s, desktop Internet computing. In the 2000s, mobile Internet computing. Next is ‘everywhere’ computing and wearable computing, so you’re going to see a lot more devices.”

Ball says that more and more everyday items such as refrigerators and thermostats will have their own IP address and will be controllable from a mobile phone. Smart watches and bio sensors are also coming down the pike. Image-based, rather than text-based, searching in which a user can point a device at an object or storefront and get further information, along with facial-recognition software, are other technologies that may greatly shape how people interact in their environment.

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