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by Michael Shapiro | October 14, 2016

Editor's note: This series of articles about the future of event technology was underwritten by the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau as part of Northstar Meetings Group’s Technology Innovation and the Future of Meetingsresource. M&C retains editorial and creative control over the content.


The rapid pace of technology innovation boggles the mind -- keeping up with the latest innovations in the meetings industry alone is a tall order. But while that lighting-quick pace of innovation is one thing, the rate at which new technologies are successfully implemented in our industry is quite another. I can see you nodding along, the Excel spreadsheets open on your desktop, dealing with management or an attendee base that doesn't want to be pushed too far out of their comfort zones.

I think we've entered an age, however, when that pace of change is going to speed up considerably. We've heard more than enough about the Millennials' effect on the workforce, but at least in this case it's very relevant: With each passing year we have more people in the office and at our shows for whom technology adoption comes much more quickly and naturally. (And I mean that overall, relatively speaking, with no offense towards the tech-savvy GenXers and Boomers among us.)

And there's also the money. Specifically, that of the Wall Street types and venture capitalists, who are now far more interested in meetings technology than they ever have been. Suppliers of meetings tech have been saying this for years: Ours is a highly fragmented industry with a huge dollar spend and even more enormous potential when it comes to technology-driven automation. Investors are now most definitely paying attention to that potential.

And then there is the "if you build it, they will come" philosophy that's picking up  steam in destinations and venues. For example, as a planner you may have been incredibly excited about incorporating location-based technology into your events -- only to find that the infrastructure really just wasn't there to fully support its use. Now we have convention centers working together to discuss beacon standardization possibilities, and we have destinations embracing full-on Smart City initiatives, installing the very types of sensors, beacons and other devices that could be put to wow-inducing use at events.

This post kicks off a five-part series in which I'll look more closely at technology innovation in the meetings industry. The fact that Singapore has underwritten the series is appropriate, as the destination has taken the Smart City model one step further, dubbing their version "Smart Nation." The country is now investigating the same questions that we are asking in the meetings industry as a whole: What are the potential uses and benefits of location-based and Internet-connected technology when deployed on a massive scale? What are the biggest concerns in terms of privacy and security? How can we use the data acquired in a responsible way to improve the experience — of our inhabitants or our attendees?

I'll be attending the upcoming Singapore International Robo Expo to get a sense not only of what's buzzing in the robotics field but also what's brewing for technology-focused shows in the Smart Nation. While there, I'll check out the co-located France-Singapore Innovation days, to see what entrepreneurs are working on in the way of the Internet of Things and Big Data. And we'll tie it all together with other important technology trends, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, to give you a clearer idea of what's to come. Because it just might come a lot quicker than you expect.