Last week I was lucky enough to visit one of our customer deployments providing site wide high speed Wi-Fi for a leading retailer who was launching (hold your breath) their Christmas range to the worldwide media

Mistletoe, fake snow and Santa hats seem funny against a sunny London day but it did remind me that Christmas comes all to quickly and those preparing events are already well into planning

As that planning takes place our 4 key questions for Christmas;

How will payment be taken?

Last year we saw a large uptick in events looking to guarantee payment transactions. GPRS terminals can struggle during busy events or when indoors so many are using products like iZettle [] or chip and pin terminals powered by a local network.

How will security be maintained?

Nothing replaced highly trained, focused, security teams but CCTV systems can provide crucial evidence if required. Systems can now be deployed wirelessly monitoring those that enter and exit as well as general activity. Systems can be set to automatically ‘tour’ so don’t need to be actively monitored. High definition level images mean the important details can be captured and remote access means those who need images can quickly download the data.

How can footfall be increased?

The demand for ‘public’ wifi continues to increase as those at events look to settle down with a drink (coco?) and enjoy the atmosphere. Using Wi-Fi hotspots in areas can drive traffic or get those on site to stay a little longer and spend that little extra

How do you know many people visited?

Clicking people in remains the order of the day for most events but intelligent counting systems have increased in simplicity and can provide highly granular reporting against the various times or day and most popular access areas. Useful for those looking to build a profile of the event for sponsors or activations and those managing staff allocation.

So far the summer season is priority number one but before we know it Christmas is upon us.

The ‘internet of things’ continues to be one of the buzz words within the technology world. What does it mean? Essentially it is the next step in the level of communication capability within our daily lives. This is the fridge talking to the supermarket, your car warning the garage you have a part that might need replacing and the dishwasher politely reminding you it will do a self-cleaning cycle overnight when energy rates are cheaper. Depending on your perspective that might all feel a little big brother but for most people it makes things simpler and of course provides new levels of opportunity for business, the same as 5 years ago having your phone know where you are seemed dangerous but now most people use it to find the nearest restaurant which is well reviewed or a car park with spaces.

Great. So what does this mean to events?

Events are unique in the way they deal with a huge amount of information on a site within a very short time. The information recorded can have two fundamental impacts; firstly that during the live there may be an opportunity to make some changes very quickly and address an issue but perhaps even more importantly the information can drive decisions for the next event, be that a couple of weeks, months or a year away.

Etherlive the event of things

Etherlive the event of things

From discussions with customers the key areas that timely information could be supplied with group into key areas;

Environmental Monitoring – Temperatures, sound levels and potential fire detection. Helping record trends and proactively monitoring increases which are not expected. Sound monitoring, for example, would not replace the current monitoring points required by licence but provide greater granularity over site.

Audience – Monitoring of social media systems to identify trend topics on site or specific issues. A running social media feed may identify issues which are being reported (perhaps even encouraging a specific hash tag) and can be used for archiving purposes

Ticketing – Gate counts and volume per minute. Working with ticketing providers to collect and report their data to show gates which may need additional resource.

Power management – Fuel level monitoring, power load etc allowing the power teams to evaluate load over areas for site and where capacity is required.

Whatever happens with the ‘Internet of things’ certainly events can benefit from increased levels of monitoring and post event reporting.

EE have launched their Wi-Fi Calling service and Vodafone are expected to follow shortly along with other operators. With the prevalence of other VoIP based calling such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, etc. you could be excused for thinking what all the fuss is about.

There are two big things about Wi-Fi Calling, the first is that it uses your normal mobile number so it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a mobile signal you can still receive and make calls on your normal number.

The second aspect of true Wi-Fi Calling is that it is seamless – you don’t have to launch an app and make a conscious decision to switch, it is handled directly by the phone. Here though lies an issue in that only newer generation phones support this aspect today, however, it is expected that all future phones will adopt it. Seamless is also not truly seamless yet in that active calls at this point cannot roam from the mobile operator network to Wi-Fi or vice versa but this is expected to be introduced in the future.

The other cheeky point to note is that operators are still likely to charge (or deduct from bundled minutes) for a call made over Wi-Fi even though they are not providing the network.

For event organisers Wi-Fi Calling sounds like a great development as requests to improve mobile coverage and capacity is up at the top of the list of the things we get asked to fix most frequently, yet generally we are fairly powerless to address as the current system has been a closed environment controlled by the mobile operators.

At a high level this is a great development for event organisers, especially for production staff who can be offered an alternative to the mobile network very easily but it throws up some challenges which need to be considered very carefully if it is to be used beyond production staff. Any event providing a Wi-Fi network for its attendees is now potentially going to see extra demand on that network, not so much in terms of capacity as voice traffic is fairly small, more in terms of quality of service.

Voice traffic is not tolerant of congested networks, previously an attendee just downloading some email might see the network as being a bit slow but it still works, with voice it is a different story with stuttering audio rendering the call unworkable and frustrating the user far more than slow email.

Event organisers will need to make conscious decisions about the use of Wi-Fi Calling and ensuring any network is capable of delivering it at a quality that is acceptable to users. This may mean high density design and increased internet capacity – both of which can push up costs.

For smaller events this is not likely to be that much of a problem but as you scale up to large outdoor events with thousands of people the challenge is a lot more significant. Wi-Fi Calling has the potential to help solve one of the big frustrations at festivals, arenas and sports events but without a good public Wi-Fi network it could make the frustration worse.

The interesting question is that if Wi-Fi Calling is adopted by users and becomes the norm when in a public Wi-Fi hotspot will attendees increasingly expect it at events? And if so, who pays?

aap3-etherliveEtherlive, one of the UK’s leading providers of IT and communications technology for the live event sector has formed a strategic partnership with global IT services and recruitment company, aap³.

The strategic partnership, which includes aap³ becoming an investor in Etherlive, will see both companies maintaining their individual brands, businesses and operational management structure, with Etherlive continuing to be led by Chris Green and Tom McInerney, and aap³ by Rod Jackson.

As a result of the partnership the global footprint of each organisation has substantially increased, with a collective UK presence in Southampton, London, Glasgow and Brinkworth, Wiltshire – the latter soon to be relocating to a new, larger facility in Royal Wootton Bassett which will provide facilities to both Etherlive and aap³. This is alongside aap³’s existing US offices in North Carolina and California, with a third US office due to open later this year in Dallas, each of which will provide a springboard for Etherlive’s entrance into the US market.

The strategic partnership produces a combined turnover of over £32m ($50m) with over 650 staff worldwide, and will provide each business with access to a broader range of technical services and resources, engineering expertise and knowledge; with the wireless capabilities and expertise of both companies complimenting each other.

This footprint, combined with aap³’s strategic hubs of engineers and contractors spread across the US and EMEA, will provide both businesses with a huge pool of talent and resources, and enable both companies to provide additional services to their customers.

Moving forward, both companies will be working together on new technical solutions that will appeal to their respective customer bases, whilst further developing opportunities within their individual vertical markets.

Chris Green, Managing Director of Etherlive commented: “Technology continues to play an ever critical role at events and this strategic partnership enables Etherlive to not only meet this growing demand in the UK but also to address the increasingly global nature of events. The extensive technical knowledge and resource between the two companies will also facilitate a program of innovation for the events market.”

Rod Jackson, Chairman and CEO of aap³ commented on the strategic partnership: “We chose to invest in Etherlive due to the rapid growth the business has seen since its inception in 2007, and also the clear synergies between the two businesses. We’re very excited for what the future has to offer for this partnership.”

If publications would like to arrange interviews with Chris Green or Rod Jackson, or request further details please contact Sam Nickerson

About Etherlive

  • Etherlive is one of the UK’s leading providers of IT and communications technology for the live event sector.
  • Etherlive is a specialist in large-scale indoor & outdoor events with multi-faceted communications needs, as well as being a major supplier to the corporate, conference, exhibition and general events market.
  • Etherlive partners to provide services for events such as G8 Summit, T in the Park, Green Man Festival, Goodwood Festival of Speed, Southampton Boat Show, London World Triathlon, Nokia, Amazon and Sony.
  • Website:
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  • Head Office: Etherlive Limited, Brinkworth House, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN15 5DF
  • Tel: 01666 800129

Etherlive is working with several customers who are preparing their venues and various production organisations to support the UK General Election happening on May 7th 2015. Many of the event teams are working on similar aspects and issues; here are our top tips

Audit Venues (first and early!) – Many venues are level setting customers’ expectations on how many concurrent wireless connections they can support and what internet access is available but site visits to confirm this data is critical. The earlier the site visit the more opportunity both the venue and the production team have time to address any issues; for example arranging more capacity on the core internet access temporarily or increasing Wi-Fi density & capacity in certain areas.

Consider Demand – In 2010 when the poles closed the first generation iPad had just been launched with many people still considering it a fad. Now most people, and certainly press, carry multiple devices which need high speed connectivity – their phone, tablet, laptop and potentially even watch! Twitter users (around 70,000 then) were sending around 50 million tweets per day, now it’s ten times that. Facebook, just becoming main stream in 2010, now includes video streaming and people routinely use Skype and FaceTime for their calls whilst cloud based data services such as Dropbox, Office 365 and Google Docs are commonplace.

Delivering event wifi to the debates

Delivering event Wi-Fi to the debates

Consider Security – A little discussed element of Wi-Fi is how there are many ways of deploying it with (or without) security & encryption. Recent press on the Sony hack and others should mean that organisers check what level of security is being provided. At worse this should at least be a number of individual networks for organisers, candidates, media and attendees. The preference should be for authentication and encryption with suitable logging and monitoring.

Have a Backup Plan – Consider what happens if the internet connection breaks. Is there a second connection that can be used if required? Could desperate users be taken to a different area at least to upload their photos and emails?

Engage Attendees – Similar to the needs of the media, organisers and those attending events will be keen to remain connected to social media and their own commitments. Providing news feeds, twitter walls and video screens relaying up the minute information all help to create a buzz and promote interaction.

Regardless if you are supporting the election through hosting an event at your venue, or responsible for organising one, successful technology delivery will be a key factor.

Announcements from Apple always have a certain sparkle; their PR is the slickest, their presentation is faultless (although in this case it showed even the best can have technology problems as the video stream faltered frequently) and, most importantly, they have a knack of defining a market.

Apple were not the first with a portable mp3 player, yet the others are long forgotten as the iPod defined the genre. Before the iPad was launched in 2010 many, many tablets had come and gone. Arguably technology had finally caught up and the introduction of the iPad has allowed a generation to enjoy lightweight computing without overheating laptops on laps, creaking screens and tapping keyboards.

The announcement today of the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus and the Apple Watch are exciting in themselves. The phone models are the extension of the brand we all know well; though this time with an increase in screen size (4.7” and 5.5” respectively vs the typical iPhone 4”). The Apple Watch is an extension of the handset with a screen that allows access to apps, information, maps and much more.

However, there is one absolutely critical technology included in all three products which the market has demanded for some time; Near Field Communications (NFC).

Can a push from Apple get cashless moving and vanish those queues?

Can a push from Apple get cashless moving and vanish those queues?

The inclusion of NFC facilitates payment for goods directly from the device. A swipe of the phone, or now watch, against an NFC reader allows the transaction to complete. Again other manufacturers have offered this for some time, but it takes an influencer like Apple to really drive customer awareness.

One thing Apple are experts at is understanding that it takes more than just technology to go from niche interest to mainstream – it’s about the complete package. The iPod owes much of its success to iTunes which in turn was successful because Apple had lined up a huge catalogue from all the record labels.

In this case it’s not just about the inclusion of NFC, it’s as much about the launch of Apple Pay where they have already lined up Mastercard and Visa as launch partners in the US, along with retailers such as Subway and McDonalds. In a smart move Apple has also said that with Apple Pay they have no access or visibility to the transaction data, quelling fears over data protection which could have been a hindrance.

How powerful will it be to use something on your wrist to process payment? Very.

What does this mean for events? So far open-loop and closed-loop contact less payment systems at events have seen slow adoption, partly due to implementation cost and lack of agreed standards, and partly due to customer resistance due to privacy concerns.

Although it will still take time for suitable penetration of the new devices this long awaited inclusion will accelerate and change the landscape for mobile/contactless payment and associated services.

Those without a strategy for contactless payment systems need to start working out how best to take advantage of a system which allows immediate transactions without the need to top up cash (and then bank it the other side).

It also puts into doubt the longer term viability of proprietary closed loop systems as users are more likely to trust well known established names which have a broader acceptance.

For event organisers it also means more consideration for the ancillary services like charging and, of course, connectivity which all of this relies on.

Whatever happens, if anything was going to highlight NFC technology to the wider world (whether what they buy has an Apple logo on it or not) this is it. 

Tom McInerney recently talked to about top tips for organisers running corporate events (reproduced with permission)

Make sure your technology is alright on the night with Etherlive’s top tips on getting the best tech to suit your budget.

Delivering events is highly complex, it requires a unique mix of skills; rather like spinning plates whilst at sea, by torch light. Tight budgets, short windows for delivery and customer expectations all combine as things progress towards a fixed deadline.

Technology has added an extra dimension to this already complicated mix. Further to power, catering and AV, organisers now need to think about how things will be connected together.

As demand for delegate apps, online ticketing systems and social media continue to increase the networks which power them have moved from nice-to-have to critical.

Director of Sales and Marketing at Etherlive, Tom McInerney, takes a moment to provide the top 5 tips for those who want to get the most technology for the least headache and budget.

Top 5 Tips

Think ahead

Any network services (Wi-Fi, wired) relies upon a high speed internet connection. Unless the venue you are working with has sufficient connectivity already in place this will take time to arrange. Typically months even in central London depending on the event requirements.

Keep it simple

Anything technology has the risk of becoming overly complicated – a good rule is that if things can’t be shown in a simple diagram or explained on a conference call then things are escalating. Would you trust your AV supplier if you didn’t at least understand the basics?

Know your risks

Work with suppliers and customers to identify which bits of technology are absolutely critical to the event and work out a plan B. One of the great things about technology is there are lots of ways to do things, many of which can be setup at the same time.

Have help when you need it

If technology elements are key to the event think about what will happen on the night; have you got support if you need it? This is also a pertinent question to ask of venues; if you need technical help where will it come from, and is calling a call centre (if that’s the support) going to get you the results quick enough?

Exploit your investment

Many people use the technology during the event but don’t think about using the results of that investment in the future. For example if you have streamed the event live, can you take a copy of that and break it into segments to use for a campaign on LinkedIn?

Working with technology can seem daunting but there is no reason for it to be; identify what is needed and find a partner who can get you the help you need.

Whatever type of event you produce – from press launches to festivals – crowd management is always a significant and important area of focus.

Understanding what crowds are doing and where they are going is not only important from a health and safety point of view but it can also help show where revenue opportunities exist in terms of merchandise positioning and directing people to concession stands.

Crowd intelligence information also helps those managing the event to identify troublemakers or destructive behaviour early and take appropriate steps before a situation escalates.

With the latest tools and technologies a range of data can be made available to assist with aspects such as:

Crowd Movement – monitoring not just overall crowd movement but also any significant behaviour traits can help those operating events to identify potential issues before they become an issue. Is the crowd becoming too dense? Has a specific part of the venue reached capacity? This may suggest that ingress points to the area may need to be diverted or that entertainment may need to be stopped whilst the issue is addressed.

Crowd Dwell Time – identifying areas where crowds naturally dwell could identify areas for concession stands or activations, however, it can also identify potential issues with flow if people are dwelling in inappropriate areas.

Watching crowds for any unusual behaviour

Watching crowds for any unusual behaviour

Crowd Flow – confirming crowd movement on arrival to a venue may dictate how the event is laid out. Perhaps more signage could be used (or improve what exists) or if things are working as designed perhaps the spaces which receive most flow could be identified for a premium concession charge.

Common Behaviour – identifying behaviour such as pushing or rapid movement can assist in identify troublemakers within the crowd. These can then be quickly managed by local security teams before the situation escalates.

Specific Threats – systems can be configured to monitor for specific issues such as flares or bright lights, mosh pits, etc. These are quickly highlighted to the remote operator who can then dispatch security teams to deal with the situation.