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by Michael Shapiro | October 19, 2017

A panel of judges and IBTM World have named nine finalists for the Technology and Innovation Watch Award, the annual event-technology award presented at IBTM World in Barcelona, Spain. This will be the 17th edition of the award, which recognizes technology innovation and highlights significant trends that have an impact on meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors.
 
This year, companies with new products or services related to the meetings and events industry were permitted to enter into one of three categories: Logistics and Production, Management and Marketing, and Audience Engagement. A winner from each category, as well as an overall winner, will be announced on Nov. 29 at IBTM World.
 
"The three broad categories were hoped to encompass most areas of technology," notes consultant Corbin Ball, who has long chaired the panel for Tech Watch. "The goal was to add some organization to the award, and to allow more companies to be recognized."
 
Each of the following finalists are technology companies with new products or services related to the meetings and events industry, and they will be exhibiting their tech in the Innovation Zone at next month's event. Company descriptions are based on the analysis provided by Corbin Ball and the panel of judges.
 
Audience Engagement
Eventinterface is an attendee management and matchmaking product that uses facial recognition technology (via Zenus) and links to marketing automation and CRM systems. The platform uses data from multiple sources, such as registration, mobile app integration, and attendee profiles and activity, and offers match suggestions to facilitate the scheduling of on-site appointments.
 

Sciensio is a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence. Attendees can text questions to the bot and get answers anytime on whatever device they choose — with no app required. Both chatbots and AI are hot trends in event technology and often intertwined, in the sense that AI can more efficiently organize the bot's information system and improve the accuracy of responses.
 
SwarmWorks' product, the SwarmBox, offers a wide range of applications for audience interactivity, such as surveys, feedback gathering, brainstorming and even team quizzes. Real-time results can be projected during the event or session. The SwarmBox has its own built-in, high-power WiFi, ensuring a reliable connection.
 
Logistics/Production
Bizly Inc. is an enterprise platform focused on helping employees source, book and manage small meetings, often via direct booking and instant chat with suppliers. The idea is to eliminate the time-consuming and costly RFP process when possible for these smaller meetings, but allow companies to stay within policy and collect all necessary data. The platform currently includes about 2,000 meeting venues (hotels and restaurant spaces) in about 50 metropolitan areas in the United States. There is a free version as well as an enterprise version, which includes additional functionality. Direct-booking capabilities for meeting space — which has been addressed by a number of products in the past — is again an emerging trend that appears to be gathering steam.
 
Ribyt is an attendee management/travel/communication system. It includes an innovative flight-import tool, to which attendees can forward their flight-confirmation emails so that it automatically populates the data and cross-checks arrival times with FlightStats to confirm. Additional features include a bulk hotel-confirmation upload tool, and venue and ground-transportation crosscheck. The system automatically updates when any travel information is changed.
 
SharedXP Limited is a crowdsourcing and crowd-voting platform that can help planners develop content best suited for their specific audiences. It likewise can be used on the day of the event, such as for the "unconference" format. Crowdsourcing is a hot tech trend that could have particularly useful applications for event planners, helping them to deliver the most relevant content.
 
Management/Marketing
ConferencePulse is a sponsorship-recruitment product that helps conference professionals secure sponsors, speakers and venues with sales and marketing intelligence. The platform offers aggregated data on more than 20,000 conferences, 1,000 venues, 2,000 sponsors and 40,000 speakers. The platform is fairly unique in the way it offers analytics and business intelligence to help in the sponsor-, site- and speaker-selection process.
 
Kapow is a direct-booking tool that focuses on group experiences and activities in 21 cities in the U.S. The platform includes thousands of such activities, including team building, in-store events, entertainment tickets, interactive F&B workshops, cocktail receptions and dining events. The platform's tools and reporting features can help to demonstrate the full economic impact that a show brings to a destination.
 
Snöball is a social media marketing tool that uses networks of influencers to extend an event's marketing reach. With Snöball, planners can create branded landing pages for each speaker, sponsor, exhibitor and attendee, using custom information for each to promote their participation at the event. Tapping into the networks of social media influencers is a major trend in marketing, and this platform offers a unique, automated way to incorporate that for an event.
 
While the category of mobile technology has been the most prominent in recent years, according to Ball, this year that it shared the top spot with sourcing and booking tools, as well as with polling and engagement tools. Generally speaking, the categories of tech were more evenly distributed this year, which Ball speculates was due to the introduction of three submission categories.
 
This year's panel of judges, chaired by Ball, includes: Michelle Bruno, president of Bruno Group Signature Events; Dahlia El Gazzar, founder of Dahlia+ Inc.; Pádraic Gilligan, managing partner at SoolNua; Paul Hussey, director of The Conference Doctor; Ruud Janssen, founder of TNOC.org and co-founder of EMG; and Julius Solaris, founder and editor of Event MB.
 
All of the finalists will exhibit their technology at the Innovation Zone at IBTM World, which takes place Nov. 28-30 at Fira Barcelona.