As the events industry continues to compete in challenging economic conditions, our session on leveraging technology to create new revenue opportunities created a lot of interest during Confex last month. Over 50 people attended, hoping to understand how they can maximise the use of what, in most cases, they already have.

We started the session discussing the event ‘Jenga’ tower – this simple approach helps organisers understand the importance of the foundation and building blocks before adding revenue related solutions. Without the stable foundation blocks of connectivity and networking in place – just like Jenga – the tower is likely to fall when you add more weight (or in this case products) to the top.

We presented that the best ways to get a stable foundation include asking the right questions of a venue (see our 10 critical questions here), talking with experts on the actual requirements and placing orders early (often saving money).

With a solid foundation in place the opportunities then breakdown into several key areas:

Maximising content – If your event involves presentations or discussions, stream the content for free over services such as ustream or for internal events check if the organisation has a method to allow sharing of video. Publishing the content for free can be done with advertising subsidy but if you want to charge that’s also possible. Either method will allow those who can’t travel to join in.

Increasing exposure for sponsors – In addition to the normal sponsor opportunities technology can add more exposure and record those who use it. For example offering a free Wi-Fi hotspot to attendees for their email and a few other key bits of information (like post code) allows the collection of data for providing a service. A hotspot in one specific area will limit the investment needed.

The Smart Event

The Smart Event

Cashless/Contactless technology – Contactless systems allows payments to be processed quicker. This could be a ‘closed loop’ system like a token or loyalty system which enables the event to offer reduced rates and therefore collect data on what’s being consumed. ‘Open loop’ systems such as those with Visa or MasterCard enable reduced transaction times and drive up spend.

Exposure to social media systems – Allow attendees to check in to locations or use QR codes to download content immediately. Linking with social systems enables free exposure to the attendee’s networks such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn enabling your event to be exposed to people who may work in similar industries or have similar interests.

Smart applications – Apps continue to be expected for many events, allowing access to speaker’s biographies, voting functions, live Q&A and pretty much anything that can be imagined.

The audience at Confex asked good questions, for example; how much are things like splash pages worth to sponsors? Which of course depends on the exposure and type of audience. There was also interest in what information is available to help with new technology topics. A great resource is the ESSA technical guide available to all members.

Etherlive are continuously identifying ways in which we can improve the services which organisers can offer their customers, exhibitors and staff. Many of these people may be travelling for extended periods, have damaged or incompatible IT hardware or be travelling ‘light’ with just a smartphone or tablet device. Our work hub package has proved to be very popular, especially in the conference and exhibition sectors where a fully equipped and secure environment to work and print from is often requested.

A work hub ready for delegates

A work hub ready for delegates

A typical work hub provides;

  • Secure printing & copying
  • Fax
  • Device charging facilities
  • Full ‘desktop’ PC access
  • Desk telephones with low national & international call rates and a pin charging system
  • Skype booth with webcam and microphone
  • Wired & wireless internet access
  • Engineer onsite support

The Etherlive Work Hub creates a flexible, secure, dedicated work area which gives attendees the opportunity to keep on top of business without interfering with the event itself. Work hubs also work well for media and flexible organiser spaces.

By supplying a work hub you will be providing things that your delegates need and offering a service above and beyond expectations.
Please speak to our team now for more information about work hubs.

One of the most common requests we get is ‘Can you fix the mobile phone coverage at my event?’ It may be a simple question but the answer is not. There are many factors involved – signal coverage, network capacity, availability of mobile wireless spectrum and the cost of temporary masts to name a few. For events held at a temporary site like a festival the permanent infrastructure put in place by mobile operators is simply not designed to deal with 10,000 or more attendees descending for a short period.

The current approach for bigger events is the deployment of temporary mobile masts but this is not generally a good solution as the masts are costly to deploy, require separate masts for each operator, do not offer much additional capacity and have limited spectrum available for use. The result normally being that experience during the event remains poor. 

Some operators have offered small ‘femtocells’ which provide a small area of mobile phone coverage using a broadband connection, however, they have been very limited in terms of how many users they can support and have to be registered at locations to be used. They also require all users to be pre-registered which limits their usability.

Becoming a thing of the past?

Becoming a thing of the past?

These on-going challenges with mobile coverage at events makes the announcement last week by O2/Telefonica about the launch of TuGo all the more interesting. On the surface it looks like another VoIP app like Viber and Skype but the difference is it uses your existing mobile number so it doesn’t matter to the caller whether you are on the normal mobile network or a Wi-Fi network. With Wi-Fi coverage at events under the control of the organiser this finally means that “mobile” coverage can be extended across event sites either just for crew or for attendees too. This can be scaled up or down based on need and tied to existing provision for event production teams making it far more efficient than having large mobile masts.

There is a catch as the Wi-Fi voice minutes used do count against your normal voice minutes but given the way most mobile contracts are structured these days this is not such an issue considering the potential for improved coverage. At present only O2 have launched an app to do this but hopefully with the pressure from services such as Skype and now TuGo the other operators will follow suit and offer similar services.

Maybe at last we will see mobile operators see Wi-Fi as an extension to their offering rather than a competitor.

Having an Internet connection is an essential requirement for most events but many venues, especially greenfield sites, are in locations where a permanent Internet connection does not exist. This is often compounded with poor cellular coverage or limited capacity such that it will not operate effectively once the attendees arrive.

To overcome this Etherlive offer a range of Temporary Event Internet services – delivering temporary Internet connectivity to any location in the UK and overseas.

Our systems are customised to suit your event’s needs, offering a range of connectivity options and speeds including bonded-3G, Ka satellite, low contention ADSL and Annexe M services, right up to multi-Gigabit fibre connectivity. The connectivity can be delivered into the production compound or installed at a nearby location and then transmitted wirelessly onto the site.

Life without the internet

Etherlive have a dedicated provisioning team who have significant experience working with service providers such as BT Openreach, Colt and Virgin Media,  ensuring that services are installed on time and to the correct locations.

Once your event has temporary Internet, Etherlive provide a range of wired and wireless networking solutions to distribute and manage services. The core network can also be used for additional services including;

Call us now if you need any more information on how we can deliver temporary Internet for your event.

A $500 million event that happens once a year watched by 111.3 million people, supported by some of the world’s biggest sponsors, is put on hold for 30 minutes by a power outage. When this kind of failure can happen at the Super Bowl it’s not surprising that those who run and support events are kept awake at night worrying about what can go wrong – you only get one chance to get it right.

Power outages can happen to the biggest and best events, no matter what the location and with just about everything relying on power to some degree it’s important to look at how to mitigate any issues if the lights do go out.

The first step is to identify what power you have and the risks associated with it (it’s very easy to take for granted especially when in a permanent building), closely followed by identifying what services rely on it. From a technology point of view this list can be very long – access control, internet, telephony, two-way radio boosters, ticket systems, CCTV, Wi-Fi to name a few.

Each service should be reviewed for impact and with this information decisions made on whether to employ mechanisms to minimise risk. It’s also important to understand the interdependencies, for example a decision may be made to have a back-up generator for Event Control but if the phones and radio communication cease to function due to power loss elsewhere on site then the operation could still be impacted.

These days box offices and entrances struggle to operate without power as they rely on real-time ticket scanning and electronic payment. In these key areas it’s important to not only have a power backup plan but also a contingency plan to continue operating if the power plan fails – even if that involves manual checks over the radios or using runners.

Events don't have this option

Events don’t have this option

Many events now rely on a network for many of their systems – from ticketing & phones through to CCTV. That network needs to be designed with redundancy and power failure in mind. All key points should be protected by a monitored UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) – the monitoring is important so that central control knows if power fails how long the battery within the UPS can continue to operate for, especially as it can take some time for a power issue to be diagnosed and rectified on a large site. For critical areas, such as servers and core networking, the UPS needs to have a significant operational time which may involve the ability to ‘hot swap’ batteries to extend run-time indefinitely.

Modern VoIP telephones, CCTV cameras and other network equipment can be operated using PoE (Power Over Ethernet) which means they take their power from the network itself rather than a mains supply. The benefit of this is that the power required can be centralised and protected with a UPS so that the impact of local power outages in cabins and offices can be minimised.

Events will always have to deal with the unexpected happening – it’s part of the excitement and challenge of the live industry but sensible planning and preparation can minimise the impact.

Etherlive provide temporary telephony services for events using a mixture of VoIP (Voice over IP) and direct copper (BT) connections.

Direct copper phones are required by some events for emergency liaison teams but most other telephony can be provided using VoIP technology. When requiring traditional BT lines Etherlive’s provisioning team arrange orders, installation dates and work directly with BT Openreach ensuring everything is installed as required.

Photo of cups and string

Temporary telephony has moved on

VoIP at its simplest is a phone service delivered over a network and is the way nearly all modern installations are completed. By providing service over the site network and the internet, phone call costs are very low rate (or free in the case of national calls) and because the handsets are powered from the network they can be quickly installed or added as a last minute requirement. Modern VoIP phones also come with advanced features including speakerphones, ring groups, hunt groups,voice mail and provide a wired internet connection for computers.

Etherlive deploy two types of VoIP handset used for events; wired and wireless.

Wired VoIP phones are for those who wish to have a traditional desk or conference phone in a room or wish to assign a phone to a specific department. Handsets can also be fitted with headsets for those working on high call volume desks.

Wireless VoIP phones are based on the latest standards of business DECT technology and can therefore can roam throughout the event.  These handsets are splash proof and provide a good alternative for site & production managers who need to be on the move where the cellular network is not good enough to rely on a mobile phone.  The handsets communicate using the same system as the wired versions so internal calls are free and external calls are at a low rate.

For larger deployments a VoIP PBX (the modern equivalent to a telephone exchange in a small box) is installed onsite and can be linked between sites or to an existing office. This unit manages all calls, voicemail and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) features.

For more information please look at our VoIP page or contact us where we will be pleased to help you find the right solution for your event.

Achilles was an all-powerful god with one deadly weakness in spite of his overall strength. As a baby Achilles was dipped into the River Styx, which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability, by Thetis. When Thetis dipped the young Achilles into the river he held him by his heel and thus that part was not washed and become his weak point. The rest, which includes a poison arrow and a good shot, is history

The story from ancient Greece reminds us that everything has a weak point and with wireless technology its interference. Without acknowledging or managing interference the most expensive, well designed event wireless network will become useless.

In a recent industry forum interference became a topic with generated lots of questions so we have put together a brief list of some key considerations to ensure the wireless network at your event doesn’t suffer.

1. Manage expectations and set formal guidelines

Delegates and exhibitors should be informed in advance that any personal equipment will be subject to certain guidelines to prevent interference with the in-house Wi-Fi. It is recommended users are requested to sign a simple pre-registration form containing the guidelines prior to the event. Have technical resource or partner on hand should any exhibitor wish to ask questions.

2. Use a technology partner to scan the airwaves

Once guidelines have been set, wireless scanners can be used by on-site technology experts to ensure the agreements are being followed and to locate equipment causing interference. It’s not just other Wi-Fi devices that can be a problem – DECT phones, Bluetooth, alarms, telemetry systems and even industrial microwaves can all be sources of interference.

3. Manage other suppliers

Any wireless networks used by other suppliers should be taken into account during the early stages of Wi-Fi negotiations; wireless networks may be of equipment used by AV companies for example, so it is worthwhile engaging to pre-determine any possible interference and pre-assign channels so systems can coexist.

4. Get skilled up

Ensuring that the team running the event have access to technical resources or an on-site technology partner are essential in enabling an organiser to address any interference affecting delegates during the event.

Everything has an Achilles Heel

5. Put in place a back-up plan

If local interference cannot be eliminated, there should be a back-up plan to minimise the impact i.e. the installation of some hard-wire cables which delegates and exhibitors can use. Whilst wireless offers freedom, many venues suggest that those requiring a ‘guaranteed’ service should consider a backup wired connection assuming the device supports this.

6. Make the necessary pre-event considerations

Check the venue before choosing it in order to identify any potential problems; a good question to ask in the first instance is whether the in-house network can be turned off if it is not required for the event reducing interference.

7. Know your frequencies

Interference can often occur as a result of too many technologies crowding the same frequency channel;. A way of counteracting this is to advise those requiring a larger wireless range to use a 5GHz network, which can offer more transmission channels than the overused 2.4GHz. More and more devices now support 5GHz including a number of the current range of smartphones.

8. Use the right equipment

Domestic Wi-Fi equipment and even lower cost so called business equipment does not have the more advanced antennas and management to deal with interference effectively. Higher end professional equipment can automatically work around interference and deliver a much stronger & higher quality connection even when interference is present.

Satellite Internet provides quick, reliable high speed connectivity for production teams and attendees. Although Etherlive provisioning teams work to identify existing fixed line (copper) services for every event sometimes due to lead times or location that isn’t possible.

Satellite technology has developed significantly over the last 5 years. Pricing has come down, reliability has increased and more types of service have become available to the market.

Satellite Internet access is an excellent solution in remote locations where the event is too far from an ASDL connection or without reliable cellular (3G) coverage.

The equipment is robust, designed to operate outside for prolonged periods of time delivering  high speed broadband and can be set up quickly and easily.

Generally engineers require less than an hour to set the system up with the service requiring a clear view of the south sky and, if at ground level, a small cordoned off area to avoid anyone stepping in front of the dish and disrupting the signal.

Satellite Internet access is available throughout UK, Europe and the world, typically delivering speeds of up to 10 Mbps download. Etherlive installs its satellite systems with remote monitoring equipment to ensure any degradation in service or outage is immediately identified.

Call us now if you need more information on how Etherlive can connect your event.


Photo of Satellite Internet

Quick and reliable high speed connectivity