It’s wild to think about how integral the Internet and Wi-Fi have become to meetings and conferences—and life in general—in such a short span of time. Milko Figueroa, director of Wi-Fi Solutions with SmartSource Events, has watched the changes take place up close, and seen fads come and go.

SmartSource is a short-term technology rental company that has been in business for 30 years, with locations in 21 major cities. It offers services ranging from registration software and digital signage to fully developed enterprise wireless solutions.

“When hotels began implementing wireless Internet 10 or so years ago, it wasn’t initially meant for attendees to use,” Figueroa says. “Now there is high demand and it is critical to stay connected. Phone carriers are dropping unlimited data plans and Wi-Fi has become a major competitive advantage for hotels.”

He explains that SmartSource can set up custom wireless arrangements for conferences and run analysis so planners know when and where the connection is most utilized.

“The largest event we’ve done yet was around 12,000 people,” Figueroa says. “Our Wi-Fi solutions mainly make sense for groups of 200 people or larger.”

He reports that most events typically see about 50 percent of attendees connect to the wireless. However, if the Internet is integrated into the presentation itself (such as during an app launch), then, unsurprisingly, the connection rate jumps to more than 80 percent of attendees.