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 Meetings resource. M&C retains editorial and creative control over the content.
To see what the immediate future holds for event technology, let's go back to where we started our discussion: at the France Singapore Innovation Days 2016 symposium, co-located with the Singapore International Robo Expo this past November. Here, there was much discussion about the value of artificial intelligence, or AI, in conjunction with robotics development. The scope of that discussion was quite broad — touching on everything from aeronautics and defense to robotic trucks — but the underlying theme was just how far we've come with AI — essentially teaching machines and programs how to learn, and how AI has slowly become less of a threat and more of a boon to our future efficiency.
With respect to events technology, the AI buzz is loud, and the opportunities to incorporate it are now upon us. Just look at the next-gen features making their way into event apps. "The coolest thing I've seen recently is an app where there's a chatbot layer to it," said tech consultant Dahlia El Gazzar in a recent M&C webcast. "And you can ask it questions, so it becomes your e-concierge for the event."
Expect to see a fair amount of such chatbot and AI features appear in event apps over the coming year, as we as an industry test out those features and work out the kinks. It's a natural progression for events, given the increasing familiarity and use cases with bots like Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri.
If you know Alexa or Siri, you might like to meet Eva, a new chatbot in apps from Event2Mobile. Attendees can ask Eva questions, schedule meetings and get directions, and she also can be programmed to provide proactive alerts. It's about creating a more natural, helpful way for attendees to interact with an event app, particularly as they dash from one session to another in an unfamiliar venue.
Before attendees even arrive at an event, however, it's highly likely they'll soon be using similar chatbots to book flights and a hotel room, using spoken commands to find the best flights; virtual travel e-concierges will soon be ubiquitous as well.
But virtual concierges aside, artificial intelligence will become a significant force in mobile event technology simply because we need some way of putting all of that attendee data to good use. Heaps of such valuable data are accumulated by event apps, not only via attendee profiles, but via attendee use of an app — what information they seek, where they go and more. The U.K.-based company Grip is using AI to process attendee profiles and social, behavioral and registration data to make matchmaking and networking recommendations on-site. Like matchmaking programs before it, Grip uses a lot of proprietary algorithms to process the profiles; the AI comes into play because the app "learns" more about the attendee based on each interaction and connection he or she makes.
Grip is licensing its technology to other app companies such as ITM to incorporate its functionality. So we can expect to see a lot more of Grip tech — and that of new competitors — in the months and years to come.
Logically, the more data attendees are willing to share, the more effective such programs will be. And that brings us back to the themes of privacy and security we've touched on earlier in this series: An event in Singapore, for example, where residents are accustomed to sharing a lot of personal data, will have different results than will a pharmaceutical conference in Europe. In general, though, the more valuable attendees come to find the networking results of the technology, the more willing they will be to share data in the future — as long as all security and legal privacy requirements are met.