If there is anything positive from a business point of view in the current coronavirus pandemic, and I’m clutching at straws here, it’s that you would never normally get the chance to slow your business down, step back and look at every aspect.

Our event focused sector of the business stalled overnight, just as we were entering the busiest period of the year. Months of planning, resource training and equipment purchase stopped. With every event cancelled for the foreseeable future we had no choice but to furlough staff and put the events part of the business on a temporary hold.

Once we were over the initial shock it dawned on us that, albeit unexpectedly forced on us, the opportunity was there to reassess key aspects of our business — structure, systems, equipment, roles and responsibilities and even our focus areas — without the challenge of doing it in parallel whilst operating the business at full stretch as would normally be the case at this time of year.

In the current situation the old saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ has never been truer, especially when it comes to driving down recurring costs, creating solutions to some of the challenges that face our event customers when they return and identifying new revenue opportunities.


For us internally this has led to a move to a new transformative CRM and job management system which is not only more cost-effective but further integrates key systems such as budget reporting, requirements, equipment management and resource management, along with an improved bi-directional link to our accounting system. This has reduced duplicate work, provides a single system of record and enables us to give external freelancers access to key information in a much better way.

To try and make this change normally would have been incredibly difficult whilst running the business at 100% with hundreds of jobs mid-flow. This initial change will also enable us to develop more automated functions around our new ‘core’, helping us record, manage, monitor, report and share information effectively both internally and with our customers.

We’ve also had time to look at our organisation and consider what we need to plan for going forward, not just because of the impact of coronavirus but also in general as the business matures and develops. It’s too easy to carry on doing what you have been doing because it has ‘always been that way’ when actually things have changed and evolved. With so much opportunity to automate tasks and workflows staff roles can be redefined to match the needs going forward.

New Technology

We hold lots of rental equipment and managing its lifespan is important from a cost and technical point of view. The time is right now to assess the technical roadmap and work out where to invest. Normally this is more of an evolutionary process but with the enforced gap it can be more revolutionary, looking further into the future for where we need to be.

More broadly the pandemic is driving changes that will most likely become permanent. For example, in the event sector the move to cashless/contactless has been progressing slower than in high street retail for several reasons, partly because cash was seen as an easy, known quantity and cashless was seen as more complex. Coronavirus has changed that and cash is no longer attractive, with the future looking 100% contactless. The customer now expects contactless everywhere which drives different requirements for delivery at events.

In a similar way ‘traceability’ has become a big topic so that events can show they are in control of who attended, when they were there and possibly even who they were close to. This requires tying together several systems — ticketing, entrance/exit scanning, on-site location and historical reporting — in a way which would have been deemed an invasion of privacy until recently but now may be a requirement for the event to run.

New Directions

For many event companies the big shock in all of this was the realisation that their entire business model revolved around people being physically together. We work across many diverse event segments — festivals, sports, exhibitions, conferences, trade shows, etc. but they all require physical attendees — something no one expected could be taken away so quickly and completely.

There has been much talk of the pivot to virtual events and although virtual events will take a bigger role going forward they will not replace the desire for people to meet and share common experiences in person. After a period of time I am sure we will see a lot more around hybrid events, mixing both a physical and virtual element to extend audiences and also provide some risk mitigation for what could be an ongoing cycle of restrictions.

Events of all sorts – music, sport, e-sports, culture, etc – for many are a key part of mental well-being, a subject which needs far more focus. The event sector has a part to play in the recovery and I’ve heard some great discussions around using events to bring communities back together, ranging from small local events to distributed global events linked to sporting tournaments. New formats and approaches which probably would not have been considered before the current situation transpired.

For companies like ours who have, to date, predominantly provided services for physical events the big discussion is around risk mitigation and diversification in the future. We are not moving away from physical events, we are continuing to introduce additional services to assist the operation of events in the new environment but that is coupled with a bigger focus on parallel services which are less reliant on the physical gathering.

Coronavirus has hit the events industry particularly hard but it is these pressures which drive innovation and over the next year or two we could see some interesting disrupters as we all plot a new course.

Remote Working

In the current environment with a real possibility of travel restrictions and companies being encouraged or possibly forced to have their employees work from home it is essential to review IT service capabilities to ensure they can continue to operate if these scenarios play out. For large companies with a dedicated IT department this is routine practice but for smaller businesses IT contingency is often overlooked but it doesn’t have to be an onerous task.

It is likely that the majority of a company’s IT services are either ‘on-premise’, meaning they are hosted within the company’s physical building or ‘cloud-hosted’, either as a fully managed service, such as Microsoft Office 365, or located in a data centre such as Amazon Web Services. Starting with the on-premise arrangement there are a few key areas to check and address.

Internet Connectivity Capacity

Not surprisingly it is often the case that the office internet capacity is thought about from the aspect of employees working in the office not the situation where they are all at home trying to remotely access services and this can put a different type of demand on the service.

The situation can be further exasperated if the existing connectivity is ‘non-symmetric’, where the download speed is higher than the upload speed, as is the case with services such BT Infinity and other FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) offerings. In these cases when the users are remote the ‘upload’ speed becomes the critical factor since that is what will limit the external employees accessing the services.

Extra capacity may be needed via additional services or by ‘bursting’ the speed on fibre services, either of which may take time to install or activate. There are various options possible, each with their own time and cost implications.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

Most users access their office networks via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), typically a piece of software which securely connects them to their office network. It is not unusual for the ‘hub’ at the office to have concurrent user restrictions either via licencing or just simply down to performance. It is wise to understand what the limit is and whether it can be increased to avoid the situation where only some of the employees can connect at any one time.

Remote System Management

If the situation arises that all employees are working from home then managing the IT services on-site from home is also key, this needs to cover everything from basic administration using software to scenarios where systems may need restarting manually using specialist tools. At the same time it would be wise to ensure some form of monitoring is in place on those systems which can alert support staff if problems arise.


The approach for telephony will depend very much on what is currently being used. If traditional phone lines or ISDN telephony are relied upon then the only option may be basic call forwarding. One step up from this could be the introduction of a VoIP (Voice over IP) service with the existing numbers forwarded to that service.

For those already using VoIP there are more options. If the service is cloud-based, then it should be straight forward for users to use this service from home, either with a physical VoIP phone or a ‘softphone’ which is a piece of software which runs on a laptop or mobile phone.

Where a company runs its own VoIP PBX then a similar approach should be possible but this may need some firewall configuration and checks on internet capacity.

Communication & Collaboration Tools

With all employees working from home effective communication and collaboration is critical and at a minimum an instant messaging application should be in place for everyone. If no existing on-premise services are in place then it may be most efficient to utilise one of the many cloud-based solutions, however, if existing aspects are operating on-premise then ensuring these can be used remotely should be on the checklist.

Cloud-Based Services

Where the key IT services are outsourced to a cloud provider a few different aspects need to be considered. The first aspect is a fall-back plan. Although the big providers like Microsoft & Google have significant capacity and high reliability there is always the risk that they will have a major outage. Although painful during normal operating times, an outage when all employees are at home would have a major impact. At a minimum there should be a documented plan as to what the approach will be in such a situation and preferably this should extend to back-up services – this may be as simple as holding information on alternative personal email addresses for all employees in case the primary service fails.

If the company is hosting their own cloud services in a data centre then remote management is important, but this is likely to be in place already. Capacity should also be checked but it would be expected that this would be suitable given it would not make much difference in this scenario as to whether users are at home or in the office.

Remote Worker Preparation

The final aspect of preparation is the actual home workers. Each employee needs a suitable device, preferably a laptop for the best flexibility or otherwise a PC. This could be the users own PC if they are happy for additional software to be installed. Depending on the set-up it may also be necessary to provide an external keyboard and mouse, and possibly a monitor, to maintain a good ergonomic set-up for long working hours at home. For effective voice communication a USB headset is a good investment.

Any home working scenarios is only going to be productive if the user has suitable internet connectivity. A poor ADSL connection is unlikely to be good enough for anything above basic email sending and browsing. If audio calls, video conferencing such as Skype or Microsoft Teams and cloud-based collaboration is going to be used then extra capacity is likely to be needed.

The only short-term solution may be to provide a 4G Mi-Fi unit or 4G Router if the worker has a good signal from one of the operators, but this could rack up significant data costs. Alternatively, it may make sense to assist with the employee upgrading to a better service if it is available but this may take time.

The homeworker also needs to test all the components before any policy is enacted, this should include checking access and operation of all the tools such as a softphone, conferencing system, messaging services and collaboration tools.

With employees potentially out of the office for a period of time, all laptops or PCs should have some form of remote management tools so that any problems can be dealt with by technical staff.

This may look like a long list but with suitable support these aspects can be covered quickly and a plan drawn up. A small amount of time spent now getting everything in place could save a lot of lost productivity later on and, as a side benefit, enable a longer-term flexible working environment which is more productive for everyone.

Remote working though is much more than just a set of tools, it requires changes to behaviours and processes to be effective but getting the tools in place is the first step.


Pretty much every day I’m either asked or told about the way 5G is going to ‘change everything’. I’m currently sitting on a train on my way into Paddington and my 4G connection has dropped multiple times and when it is connected the speed varies from a trickle to occasional bursts that reflect the speeds I would expect on 4G. We all crave ubiquitous connectivity at a good speed but the reality is somewhat behind the hype.

I’m reading yet another article saying that 5G will deliver speeds in excess of 20Gbps and I’ll be able to download a HD movie in a few seconds. Ridiculous claims which accompany most technology launches – the claims for 4G were 1Gbps but the experience, in the best case, is at least a magnitude lower.

We have come a long way from GPRS when any data access was painfully slow but each technology step forward becomes more complex, more costly and delivers less of a step function change to the user. In reality when 5G is deployed into the world it will meet a mixture of technical and commercial challenges which will reduce the hype to more of a ‘4G evolution’ – it will be better, and that’s great, but not the revolution promised, at least not initially.

One of the problems is that 5G needs to operate across multiple frequencies. This is not a new technical challenge, the same type of approach is used for 3G and 4G networks, however, some of the frequencies required to make 5G work are much higher up in the spectrum, known as millimetre waves (mmwaves). These very high frequencies are where the headline speeds of 20Gbps come from, but there is a problem – these very high frequencies require line of sight to the mobile device and are heavily impacted by rain, trees, buildings, etc. Millimetre waves also have a low range so the deployment of the infrastructure is complex and requires many more antennas (base stations or cell towers) than the lower frequencies of today. It’s also worth noting that new handsets will be required to use these new frequencies so there will be a long period where many devices will not have the required circuitry inside to make use of the higher speeds.

If you consider that today a good example of 4G may deliver 10-50Mbps depending on various factors, it is expected that 5G may reach 100-200Mbps in similar circumstances – that’s a good increase but it isn’t 20Gbps, and it certainly will not be available widely, not in the short to medium term. As for remote locations they will be stuck on the lower frequencies which will restrict what can be offered.

As with Wi-Fi the connection speed is only half the problem, the backhaul internet connection is just as important and to support many users all expecting 5G speeds of 100Mbps requires a massive upgrade to the supporting fibre and wireless backhaul networks. Ignoring the significant cost implications of all this the practicalities of deploying the infrastructure is going to take time and it is expected that it will be at least 2022 before we see any serious progress on 5G.

So what does this mean for events?

The first thing to note is that on mobile devices over 60% of data traffic is carried over Wi-Fi networks rather than the mobile networks and that figure has grown, not shrunk, over the last few years. With mobile operators still recovering the cost of a 4G infrastructure, now faced with an even more expensive 5G infrastructure, the data plans are not going to get any cheaper so the cost conscious consumer will still hunt out Wi-Fi wherever possible.

Although a 5G speed of 200Mbps sounds great a good Wi-Fi network today can deliver speeds well over 200Mbps and already approved Wi-Fi standards go much further (The existing 802.11ac standard goes up to 3.45Gbps) so for the really serious data users Wi-Fi will remain the primary choice. It’s not a case of 5G versus Wi-Fi, both will co-exist – they are designed differently for different purposes – but in the event space Wi-Fi will be continue to be a pre-requisite for many years yet.

As with 4G the initial deployments of 5G will be focused on cities with a high density of users, less dense areas will be some way off and of course the countryside fields used for many outdoor events will be no better served than they are today as commercially it makes no sense unless a particular sponsor wants to put in temporary masts.

With the low range nature of the high frequency 5G spectrum what this does mean is that indoor venues such as conference centres could well be a target for early deployments given the business orientated footfall who are more likely to have handsets capable of using the 5G network. Another good example would be large stadiums but, in a similar way to Wi-Fi, in these locations the cost of infrastructure to support the density of users is significant so it will come down to who will pay.

Venue owners who want mobile coverage to be good in their venue but expect the mobile operators to pay have to consider that mobile operators can struggle to recoup the costs of a dedicated install as they generate no additional revenue from it. The use of shared infrastructure between mobile operators may help this but it doesn’t change the fact that someone has to pay.

Once 3G reached wide deployment then it became a viable option for using it to provide the backhaul internet connection in some circumstances with Wi-Fi as the access medium. 4G continued that trend and 5G will go further but limitations still apply. 5G is a shared medium so overall performance will depend on other users unless dedicated bandwidth is offered (something that is hard to do on 4G), so in an event environment as the number of attendees goes up the performance goes down.

With 4G operators have been reluctant to offer dedicated bandwidth over their infrastructure, something that would be fantastic for events. Perhaps this will change with 5G but even then, with the price of dedicated fibre circuits continuing to fall, shared services such as FTTP (Fibre To The Premise) now becoming available and improving Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) offerings the pricing from the mobile operators would have to be very competitive.

Without any guaranteed bandwidth then 5G is no different to 4G which means that it is fine for general use but if the performance is critical then there are no guarantees. You would not want to risk your ticketing, payment systems, video streams and core control systems on a mobile network over which you have no control but for less critical services it may be an option.

Over time 5G will provide another option in the event toolbag as a step forward from 4G but its real benefit will be to the truly mobile individual user and then hopefully on a train journey into London I can get a consistent 20Mbps all the way, but I fear that ideal is still quite a few years away.

A Career in EventsYou can get a great buzz out of attending a good event, and if you organise it the buzz is even better. Every successful event requires a team of dedicated professionals with a range of skills but often the event industry isn’t considered as a career choice.

At the recent ESSA (Event Supplier and Services Association) AGM a fantastic video was shown about working in the events industry. It really speaks to how passionate those of us in the industry are about making event magic happen, mostly behind the scenes working with festivals, exhibitions, corporate launches, sporting events and one-off special events like a Royal Wedding!

We welcomed our 4th full year intern last year, and this year we will be taking on two more to support our growing engineering teams in the field. For the first time this year we also have an apprentice, a great way to get exposure in the events world, so if you know anyone looking to take that first step don’t forget about the events industry.

Of course, those with more experience are just as welcome, our company like many others is built on the years of experience gaining from all quarters including large and small companies.

We do all have one thing in common, we are one team and we love events!

GDPR, CCTV and EventsIs this yet another GDPR article? Yes, but before you click on past, this article is a bit more specific, focussing on Event Organisers and a few important aspects relating to them.

If you have somehow managed to miss the basics here is a quick recap (otherwise skip the next two paragraphs). GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation, comes into force on May 28th 2018 and is as dull as the name suggests but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. GDPR is, in effect, a beefier version of the Data Protection Act and there are some significant aspects which have changed.

First off, the fines if you are found to be breaching the regulations could be huge – up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover (up to €20 million). Secondly, the onus with GDPR is focussed much more on how and why, with supporting documentation – no more simply ticking a box to say you comply. Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, with GDPR there is much more appetite to enforce, along with more resources to audit.

Nearly all of the material currently circulating is focussed around the more obvious areas of customer, supplier and employee data; everything from email addresses to bank accounts and the harvesting of information from websites, social media and direct mail campaigns. This is all valid and needs to be considered seriously, however, for events there are some additional areas which could too easily be overlooked.


CCTV is not necessarily something that initially comes to mind when it comes to GDPR but it is very much part of it. The holding and releasing of CCTV footage is already well controlled but the new regulations go much further requiring information on camera placement, field of view and reasoning for coverage needed, coupled with proof of deployment and signage. This is a significant uplift for events compared to the current approach and will need to be factored into planning and deployment from the start.

It is also important to note that ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), drone and body-worn cameras will all need to be assessed too.

In practical terms, we are now expecting all temporary CCTV installations at events to undergo an audit during the build phase documenting the camera locations and reasoning for those locations. Field of view into public areas external to the event is especially important.

Agreement on how long footage is held for, the release process and who can receive the footage will also need to be under much tighter control.

Public Internet Access

Many events allow public access to the internet on an event Wi-Fi network after a ‘splash page’ which may capture details such as an email address to be used after the event to send marketing information. In the future this information is more controlled and must use explicit ‘opt-in’ clauses before the email address can be used.

Even the logging of an IP address (the identifier used when a device connects to the network) coupled with the user information is governed by GDPR, however, this information is required to be stored under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (aka the Snoopers’ Charter) so the way it is stored and who has access to it is very important.

For events which offer public internet access the method of access and what information is captured and stored will need to be reviewed, with likely changes to the Terms & Conditions and opt-in statements.

Supplier & Volunteer Registration Systems

Employee and customer data is called out in nearly all GDPR overviews but it is important to remember that GDPR covers all data including anything recorded for suppliers and volunteers. Any system (paper or electronic) which stores personal information must be assessed including aspects such as what information is stored, where it is stored, how it is stored, how it is used, how the owner can remove it and who has access.

Visitor/Attendee Information

Any personally identifiable information gathered on attendees, such as an email address falls under the same regulations – this could be via initial ticket purchase, attendee registration or at the event itself. Particular attention must be paid to any direct marketing as the attendee must explicitly opt in to any future communications and have means to update or remove their information.

Many of these areas are likely to require a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), this is a new tool and process which must be used when new technology is used or when there is high risk to individuals.

The new regulations also broaden the scope of ‘personal information’ to cover just about everything from a name, email or social information through to genetic, economic and cultural information. The holding of this information has to be shown to have positive, clear consent from the individual using ‘plain English’ type agreements.

An individual must be given the ability to view and update information, and importantly has the right ‘to be forgotten’, which means complete removal from all systems.

These changes may initially look very onerous, however, a lot can be covered by a sensible review and improvements to existing processes. The important thing is not to ignore it – the changes are coming and a lack of preparation will not be a defence if you are found to be in breach.

For events we work on we will be working closely with organisers to assist and make sure all aspects are covered, providing templates and guidance wherever possible. If you would like to discuss any aspect of GDPR impact on your event then please contact us and we will be happy to help.

October 18th-19th 2017 sees Etherlive exhibiting at the Showman’s Show for our 10th consecutive year, the only show we have exhibited at every year since our formation. Its’ been a journey so we thought we would take a look back through our archives.

2008 – New Kids on the Block

We still have some of the 2008 mugs we had made as a giveaway in daily use at the office!

Amazing what you can squeeze onto a 3m x 2m stand

Less than a year after forming Etherlive we exhibited at the Showman’s Show for the first time in October 2008. We focused on a message of enabling events with good connectivity, reliable Wi-Fi, VoIP & CCTV.

Much has changed over the last ten years but that message is still just as important today, if not more so. We believed demand was going to grow hugely but I don’t think even we expected to move from the norm of a few ADSL lines to multi-gigabit fibre so rapidly on event sites.


2009 – Innovation in Tower Lights

In conjunction with Ace Plant & TCP we launched the Ecolite P+ at Showman’s 2009. The Ecolite P+ was a more eco-friendly tower light using metal halide discharge lamps coupled with CCTV, Wi-Fi and a PA system. The light was palletised so that more units could be transported on a trailer and had a generator which could run for several days on its internal fuel tank.

The fleet of Ecolites remained operational until 2017 when they were retired, replaced by newer units in which the technology has evolved requiring less customisation. Tower lights with CCTV and Wi-Fi remain a popular option for certain locations on event sites and construction sites.





2010 – Integrated Comms

Back in 2010 access to high capacity services was still relatively limited so often multiple services needed to be aggregated, such as ADSL, satellite and 3G. Intelligent routing, balancing and bonding across these services became a key factor.Today everyone has at least a backup 4G unit and balanced or bonded 4G is commonplace for smaller pop-up style events. It is not the solution for critical services but it has its place and it won’t be long before we are demonstrating 5G solutions.

Today everyone has at least a backup 4G unit and balanced or bonded 4G is commonplace for smaller pop-up style events. It is not the solution for critical services but it has its place and it won’t be long before we are demonstrating 5G solutions.



2011 – Look to the Sky

The launch of Ka band satellite internet access in 2011 radically changed the use of satellite at events. Previously satellite internet was a relatively costly and difficult proposition which didn’t give a good user experience. The Ka band internet service was designed for broadband services, rather than broadcasters, using smaller dishes and allowing multiple users to share bandwidth to keep costs down. It has proved hugely popular and is now a common sight at events. It still suffers the important limitation of all satellite services – high latency – so can only be used for certain services and is a very different user experience to other types of connectivity.

2011 also saw us demonstrate a beta version of an outdoor femtocell which provided mobile coverage from an internet connection, sadly the units where never brought the unit to production. A high-end DECT based phone system was also on display offering wireless roaming across an event site. This was used heavily in our deployment for the London Media Centre in 2012 and is still in use at events today.


2012 – The Holy Grail of Cashless & RFID

Since 2010 we had been working on RFID solutions with a crew catering system and later an accreditation/management system. In 2012 we worked with Intelligent Venue Solutions to bring a number of RFID related activities under one umbrella at a spin-out stand at Showmans.

Cost remained a barrier to wide-scale adoption and with the rapid rise of open-loop contact-less payments, over time we have moved into an enabling function for other providers. Today, for example, we deploy thousands of contact-less payment terminals and support ticket/wristband scanning for all the main providers.




2013 – Live Event Footfall Analytics

In 2012 we introduced a people counting solution which we refined and extended into Live Event Footfall Analytics (LEFA) for Showman’s 2013. Structured counting, for example in well-contained routes such as exhibitions, is now well established, whereas unstructured crowd density analysis is still an evolving area but shows great potential longer term for helping manage crowd flows and density.

2013 also saw us demonstrate 4G solutions and a Teenage Registration system designed for WOMAD to assist with the identification of under-18s and their associated responsible adults. Our first use of HD-CCTV cameras was also during 2013 with demonstrations at Showmans. We are now moving some cameras to QHD and testing 360 degree cameras.



2014 – The Intelligent Event

With more and more technology being deployed at events the next logical step is the integration of technology and communication between all aspects providing a rich level of event intelligence. From HD-CCTV, ticket scanning information and device location information, through to geo-tagged social media posts, a picture can be built up of what is happening on site and fed live into event control.






2015 – Meeting the Increasing Demands

Ever increasing requirements, demand for higher speeds and more capacity had driven a rise in the amount of fibre deployed around sites. Bigger sites were typically run with a fully routed design providing improved redundancy, increased speeds and better isolation between areas. This was often coupled with multiple gigabit internet connections which were diversely routed for redundancy.

2015 also saw deployment of latest generation 802.11ac wireless access points providing more speed and capacity to wireless clients.




2016 – Monitoring & Management

Extending on from the Intelligent Event additional components were demonstrated including Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and the Etherlive Monitoring Unit (EMU). The EMU is a type of IoT (Internet of Things) device which can be used to monitor a variety of things. It is particularly useful for monitoring power giving us early warning of power issues across a large event site.

In partnership with AirBox Systems, we demonstrated an incident management system, developed initially for the emergency services but just as applicable to event sites.


And so to 2017…

A light-hearted surfing theme for 2017

In a way it is ‘more of all of the above’, demand and complexity continues to increase, more and more devices are becoming network enabled and the broader event eco-system drives new requirements. The importance of reliable networking, Wi-Fi, CCTV, VoIP, ticket scanning and payment systems is now recognised as one of the keys to event success.

With a snap general election called and the current political landscape in flux I wouldn’t be prepared to make any predictions on the outcome but it is safe to say that come election day town halls, sports halls and conference centres across the country will be buzzing with activity. A stream of reporters, candidates and supporters will be desperately trying to send and receive information through every media channel available.

The demand for good connectivity at election counts and associated events has mushroomed over the last ten years. We were first involved in a general election in 2010, providing services for the first televised leader debates, events which demonstrated the power and reach of Twitter in politics for the first time. Since then things have moved on with 140-character messages supplemented by live video services in the form of Periscope and Facebook Live.

Come June 8th social media channels will be pumping vast amounts of data around the UK and beyond, the difference this time is that with such short notice it will be all too easy for venues to get caught out and provide frustratingly inadequate connectivity.

For anyone tasked with running an event, be it a count, press and media centre, or political party gathering it is critical to act now and ensure you have the right communications infrastructure in place. For anything above the smallest of gatherings relying on data connections from normal mobile phone operators is a risky strategy as they are not designed to deal with the surge in demand and load at a media-centric event.

Some venues may well have an element of existing Wi-Fi infrastructure but does it have the capacity in terms of ability to support an increased number of users? Does it have the internet backhaul to support the high data volumes and video streams which today’s press and media demand? These aspects can be assessed quickly and used to drive requirements which may include additional Wi-Fi capacity and associated internet access.

Other ‘pop-up’ locations may have no existing service and require a full temporary provision. The trickiest part of this is normally the internet backhaul, which with short notice may have to be provided by satellite (not as expensive as people tend to think) or a wireless link from another location.

It is sometimes possible to provision additional ADSL and FTTC (BT Infinity) internet services at quite short notice depending on the location but these services need to be booked as soon as possible. Fibre optic services take at least three months so new services are not feasible in this scenario, however, existing services may be capable of a ‘burst’, temporarily increasing speed for a short period.

With campaigning well under way smaller pop-up gatherings often also require some additional support which may be in the form of specialised 3G/4G bonding units which can provide localised Wi-Fi coverage whilst on the road in the campaign bus.

For larger events, especially those with a big broadcast media presence, there are additional challenges in the form of interference disrupting Wi-Fi due to people bringing their own Mi-Fi devices or other broadcasting equipment. These events need centralised spectrum management, or preferably a single central provider, to ensure everyone co-exists harmoniously when it comes to connectivity.

Even with the connectivity there are other factors – security being a key one. Understanding how to control and manage a network is essential to avoid any embarrassing information leaks. Additional phones may be required which can be deployed quickly using VoIP telephony rather than traditional copper lines. It may also be important to have some printing capability available.

In the modern social media driven political landscape, ensuring the connectivity & IT works flawlessly is just as important as the tables, chairs, tea, coffee, campaign bus and printed propaganda.

Tucked away in the corner of a bustling Christmas market is one of fifteen, non-descript little grey boxes. Like most IT equipment it’s pretty drab on the outside, the clever bit is hiding inside. We call it an EMU – an Etherlive Monitoring Unit – and it is in effect part of the emerging world of the ‘internet of things’ but with an events twist.

The EMU only measures 4cm x 6cm x 3cm but inside it is packed with an array of features. At the Christmas market it is busy monitoring the power being delivered from the generators, tracking the voltage, frequency and, critically, the amount of run-time available from the uninterruptible power supply if the generator should fail for any reason. It monitors this information in real-time and relays it back across the on-site network to the central management system. If a problem is detected the system generates alerts, sending out emails and SMS messages to key contacts as well as displaying information on a management console.

It can even assist with detecting wiring issues, noticing for example when a fault causes a floating neutral situation which results in dangerously high voltages being delivered to power outlets, protecting both equipment from damage and people from potential injury.

With real-time monitoring of power the risk of outages in systems which rely on power, such as the core IT infrastructure delivering phones, CCTV, ticket scanning and payment systems, can be minimised, which is critical on a busy event site.

The EMU though can do a lot more than just watch the power, it is a general-purpose monitoring tool capable of taking inputs from a range of sensors – these can be heat, smoke, fluid, sound, light or in fact pretty much anything that can be monitored via a sensor capable of producing an analogue or digital output. The fact that when the EMU powers up it connects to the site network, identifies its location and checks into the central management system, makes it simple to deploy.

Increasingly we are deploying EMUs across event sites as part of our ‘Intelligent Event’ strategy combined with other data sources such as CCTV, mobile device heat mapping, access control, crowd analytics and even social media data. As the number of data sources increases a detailed real-time picture of the event can be seen in event control speeding up decision making and enabling pro-active management of aspects such as water reserves, fuel levels and area capacities. The intelligent event system can also help identify cost savings and optimisation opportunities on site.

The ‘internet of things’ can sometimes be seen as marketing hype but go beyond the fluff and with the right components and approach, it can help solve real problems very effectively.