Why Your Venue Needs Robust Wi-Fi
Key benefits of high-performance wireless for events
by Justin HerrmanDecember 1, 2012
The executive director of information technology for the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. He has 13 years of experience working in the hospitality IT industry.
Takeaways• Ask venues what size crowds their Wi-Fi can handle, whether there are "dead zones" in the building and whether exhibitor Wi-Fi interferes with the in-house network.
• Look for a "distributed architecture," with multiple radios per access point and multiple directional antennas per cable drop.
• Robust Wi-Fi allows for the use of location-based services that can boost attendee and exhibitor experiences.
As technology continues to evolve at warp speed, meeting professionals need to become experts in new areas. One of the most important services planners should investigate is on-site wireless communications, especially for events that attract thousands of attendees.
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Typically, IT departments at large venues face several challenges in providing "always-on," high-performance Wi-Fi services. Given the "bring your own device" (BYOD) phenomenon and the resulting ubiquity of smartphones and tablet devices, planners should consider venues that can address questions like: How can we best serve thousands of users in a relatively small area? How can we allow exhibitors to bring their own wireless systems to their booths or demonstrations?
Such questions are critical. Conventional wireless networks often suffer from "dead zones," where no signal is available, and Wi-Fi systems at exhibitors' booths often interfere with in-house network Wi-Fi.
High-Performance Wi-Fi High-performance wireless systems solve the capacity and coverage issues of traditional Wi-Fi by using multiple radios per access point and multiple directional antennas per cable drop. This "distributed architecture," as it is known, provides greater bandwidth and supports more devices than conventional Wi-Fi systems, thus providing greater coverage and eliminating dead zones and interference. It allows attendees to sign on from anywhere and to roam seamlessly.
Drawing A Crowd High-performance Wi-Fi creates an opportunity for new applications that could lure more attendees and exhibitors to your event. Consider the following examples:
Dynamic wayfinding. This GPS-like application can provide guests with location information and directions to other parts of the site. By clicking the "Wayfinding" button on the property's portal page, users can find out where they are, look at maps to determine where they want to go, find the shortest route to a given location and more. Trade show attendees can find vendors on the exhibit floor or get directions to a conference room.
Dynamic marketing. Show organizers are particularly interested in using Wi-Fi for dynamic location-based marketing. Since Wi-Fi systems know and track users by their unique devices, show organizers and exhibitors can know where attendees are and what they are doing. With this information an exhibitor can send an instant message offering deals to nearby attendees.
Digital documents. Exhibitors can offer attendees who walk by their booths the opportunity to download marketing materials such as brochures from the host venue's wireless portal page.
These and other mobile apps allow planners and show managers to learn more about attendees, and offer insights to improve events. Venues can offer app-based amenities too, like wireless check-in or concierge services. But such applications are entirely dependent on robust wireless connectivity. The better the infrastructure, the more value organizers and attendees alike will get from any mobile technology in which they've invested.