Selecting a partner to provide networking services at your event is critical especially as more and more attendees rely on high quality connectivity to engage and interact. Our field teams regally work with in house IT teams to provide expertise and equipment. When agents and event organisers are surveying venues there are a few critical questions which should be asked:

1.    Does the in house IT team specialise in the events industry?
Being specialised will ensure their technicians are familiar with the events environment and the pressures that brings. It’s important that the IT partner appreciate how critical ensuring issues are dealt with quickly to keep the event moving.

2.    Does the in house IT team have the right equipment?
Equipment which is regally deployed in the field needs to be fit for purpose, from VOIP phones to WIFI PDQs everything needs to be configured in such a way it can be quickly deployed. Factoring in the British weather also adds an extra degree of excitement so using weatherproof hardware to deploy outdoor Wi-Fi Networks is of utmost importance. 

3.    Does the in house IT team have experience?
This expertise need to be specific to the type of event that’s being run.  Whether it’s a festival, exhibition or a conference it’s important the partner you choose has the experience of the events sector, as each environment raises it’s own challenges and every organiser has different expectations.  

To find out if we’re the right Event Technology company for you, get in touch

There is one thing that can challenge even the best designed wireless networks; interference. That is, the transmission of competing networks attempting to broadcast at the same time on the same frequency. At the risk of turning this blog into to a science paper we’ll keep it light, but it is interesting to note that we have been in several meetings over the past few weeks where the delivery of Wi-Fi networks has been challenging due to the amount of interference.

As venues and events deploy wireless networks that become ever more critical to delegates, press, production and exhibitors, interference is the elephant in the room. Managing rogue access points, or those using their own solutions is imperative in reducing interference, and ensuring that those who are trying to use Wi-Fi networks in the same place can do so.

Understanding the limitations

Wi-Fi technology is designed to communicate over a number of common frequencies. This allows smartphones, laptops and other client devices to know how to communicate with access points and each other. Within this frequency there are a defined number of channels, similar to the number of lanes on a motorway. The more channels or lanes you have, the more simultaneous networks you can have in operation. 2.4G Hz Wi-Fi networks have significantly less channels than 5GHz networks.

Spectrum Crusaders

The spectrum crusaders ride to their next rogue access point

Setting expectations

Just like expectations on stand power (i.e. would exhibitors expect to bring their own petrol generator into an indoor venue?), there should be guidelines for use of wireless technology. Those who do not follow the rules should appreciate that their equipment may be turned off since their configuration could potentially impact those around them trying to access and fully utilise the ‘in house’ Wi-Fi. This can be as simple as a form which is completed as part of the contract which asks a few simple questions about which channel their wireless equipment will be broadcasting from.

Watching the air & taking action

Once the expectations have been set, wireless scanners can be used to ensure the agreements are being followed and that those who are causing interference are located. In areas where others are complaining about service, it will be quickly evident who isn’t playing fair. This was carried out during the Olympics and was commonly accepted by exhibitors because the expectations had been set.

One wire to rule them all

Many venues would also suggest that exhibitors who need a ‘guaranteed’ service should have a wired connection and that is absolutely correct. In addition to interference, some wireless chips are better than others and some devices just have bad days, so if the device supports a cable and it’s practical to do so, then this is highly advised. However, as more and more demonstrations rely on tablet computers (especially with the new Microsoft Surface launch), wireless will be considered critical to some stands.

As the summer of sport runs into the sunset suddenly the September of phones is upon us. Two big announcements means this is a really important month (and quarter) for a technology which has become intrinsic to either attending or producing events.

4G is Go? – Wait and See

After more manoeuvring than a telehandler placing toilets (see our previous blog posts) 4G services will finally begin deploying in the UK. The first to market will be Everything Everywhere (a combination of the Orange and T-Mobile networks) which announced on Tuesday networks firing up in London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol within weeks with more cities expected to follow before Christmas. Long Term Evolution (or LTE) brings a number of significant improvements over current 3G networks including download speeds of up to 20Mbps, improved algorithms for handoff between mobile cells (which should mean less dropped calls) and in some cases larger cell sizes meaning better coverage.

It all sounds great, however, there should always be a note of caution when dealing with cellular services which is probably best expressed by matching todays “3G” experience with what happens in the real world. Do you live in a world where your handset always has 3G signal, you haven’t dropped a call in months, data use is reliable, network masts never fail and when you are trying to text or call the box office during a live event with 20,000 other people on site it works first time? – The answer is carriers always sell the dream of the next generation; 4G is exactly the same. In reality what you should expect to start with is what was promised for 3G, meaning OK to good data speeds in cities and calls which rarely drop. Also lest we forget 4G, like 3G before it, is a consumer focussed technology offering which means very little in the way of speed guarantees or service up time. shows the new iPhone enjoying 4G speeds

Of course unfortunately for events the same problems around delivering reliable service to a remote location with high density usage will continue to be a challenge – not helped by the next big thing in cellular this month…

iPhone 5 – A monster awakes.

You can’t have missed the press, Apple’s latest iPhone 5 was announced last night. Those in the know will point out that even with this latest incarnation Apples crown has slipped slightly with handsets from Samsung and Blackberry winning in the specification war but that’s missing two crucial factors which need to be considered when dealing with anything from Cupertino. The first is the tidal surge of press and activity that follows anything iNew generating floods of new apps and ways to use the device, many of which rely on the iPhones killer selling point; the lack of learning curve. The second is the new technology which is bound up in this latest generation which includes the ability to operate with the new 4G networks, a new screen to show that high definition content even clearer (which means larger network downloads and faster streams required) and an all new software pack which further integrates social networking and always on connectivity. In addition Apple has given the iPhone one of the best features of the iPad which is its ability to work on both 2.4Ghz networks and 5Ghz which makes getting a good Wi-Fi signal, and keeping it, even easier.

That reliance on faster and always on connectivity will continue to keep demand growing for events who can deliver apps which enjoy video and interactive content at events.

Where Apple has missed a trick perhaps is the lack of contactless payment function others (such as Samsung and Blackberry) have started to deploy this latest technology which will put pressure on retailers of all sorts to start supporting the quick payment method. Apple is probably waiting for the market to settle before setting out it’s stall (and – knowing Apple – where it’s revenue stream is going to come from) but those early adopters will expect to be using their contactless payment methods this summer – we have another blog in a few weeks on this and our activity over the summer.

A great article this week in Exhibition News (Flick of the wrist, page 34) discusses how RFID continues to gain traction in the events market.

The power of being able to process transactions in a single swipe is huge. Just look at the success of systems such as Oyster cards and festivals, which deployed RFID this year, and have seen tangible (up to 20 per cent per attendee) increases in revenue. The article focused on how RFID technology has reached a stage of maturity and that systems can be used for additional functions such as; access control, catering, and social media check-ins, all of which means RFID technology is here to stay.

In addition to several RFID cashless deployments we had great success with WOMAD festival this year using a combination of barcoded wristbands and a pre-event registration website for teenage ticket holders to facilitate the quick and secure  lookup of their parent or guardians details if the teenager required assistance

RFID Wristbands


However when considering RFID deployments, event organisers should think about the complete solution in order to maximise the efficiency of the use of this technology. Here are our top three things to consider:

1. An integrated strategy: RFID technology has been around for a long time. Although making it “work” on site can be challenging but is achievable. However the main challenge is preparing for how the system will be used at the event for example: who can use it, where it can be used, staff training, on-site administration, etc. Key elements to think about include, how those who want to use the system on site will be able to register and use it securely ;how users will be able to link their details with their accounts; how much will be allowed per transaction? and finally, what can be done if cards or wristbands get lost and how does someone get a refund.

2. A banking partner: Holding funds, transferring money, setting up direct debit functions is not something to be undertaken lightly and needs a partner with experience who knows how to think ‘banking’ (it’s a very different mind-set!) However the funds are managed it will need to be done by properly approved bodies with the relevant financial certification.

3. A reliable site network: The amount of technology behind a cashless RFID system on site should not be under called. It is essential that a system is deployed which factors in the reliability required with the appropriate redundancy at its core to ensure loss of power or a damaged cable does not stop the entire service.

With these items considered RFID systems area ready to light up the events industry and bring with them an enhanced attendee experience and increased revenue.

As part of our continued commitment to supporting young people and education Etherlive recently took part in the St. Joseph’s career’s day sitting on a ‘Question Time’ style panel. Four sessions of 40 students each took place throughout the day asking probing questions of the businesses who spoke candidly about the challenges of young people starting their careers.

Tom McInerney from Etherlive takes questions from students

Questions from the audience focused on a range of topics from the practical, like tips and tricks for interviews, to discussions around what help businesses are receiving from the government to encourage hiring young people. The aim of the day was to give an insight into the way businesses recruit and help students weigh up their future options.

Tom McInerney from Etherlive was among several panellists, many of whom are also part of the Swindon Strategic Economic Partnership, including St. Joseph’s governor Rob Collins a partner with Withy King, and Ramona Derbyshire a partner from Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons.

This month saw the 100th anniversary of International Woman’s Day, and I had the fortune to start the day by attending a business breakfast in the beautiful surroundings of Gordon Ramsay’s D’Oyly Carte private room at The Savoy.

The event brought together a number of leading women in the vent, hospitality and travel industries to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing women working in the sector. I was happy to agree with a number of people around the table and say that yes, the industry may have a predominately male headcount, but is by no means “male dominated”. It was good to hear of other companies like ours where in reality- this, and the glass ceiling, may at last be becoming an out-dated concept. It was interesting to meet with such a successful and clear minded group, and the topics up for debate (and opinions thereon… ) were thought-provoking and varied.

Due to this, and possibly the lovely breakfast and tour of the amazing kitchens… the time flew by. Unfortunately this meant we did not get to fully discuss a particular agenda topic I would have been keen (having lately returned to the IT industry) to learn the groups views on – The impact of technology on the work/life balance.

Travelling back on assorted tubes and trains I used the quiet time to get to grips with my new smartphone- catching up with emails, reviewing documents, checking news feeds etc and downloading random free stuff like every App Store newbie. As I happily used my new Tube App and Location Me to get on the right route home, it got me thinking… I wondered how the different people I’d met that morning would be using and experiencing technology in general, and what the next “hot technology” to hit the masses would be.

For example it is perhaps not too far away that we may no longer expect to exchange business cards as I did that morning, but instead soon you may use your phone to take a photo of a small “QR code” (a digital picture code) perhaps held in someone’s wallet panel, and suddenly – their details appear straight into your contacts list, and an email has been sent to them with yours! Similarly, there is much developments surrounding cashless and NFC payment systems being linked to phone devices, not cards. When will I be able to pay for my journey and my coffee by passing my phone (ready in hand thank you Tube Map) over an exit barrier or shop counter?
These types of technologies are already being trialled in the events and travel industry and I look forward to them becoming mainstream in the future.

I can’t answer as to the other attendees’ experiences of technology to date, but I will probably ask a couple of them out of interest. Having only recently entered into the realm of Twitter & LinkedIn, I have already been contacted by a few of the other breakfast attendees (and some old friends!) and have found connecting my face to face networking with my digital/social media really does throw open the doors for informal but invaluable knowledge sharing and keeping in touch with my contacts, friends and the world in general.

Its life Jim but not as we know it. As the virtual world becomes omnipresent it’s fascinating to see new cool things that are going on to bring content from the virtual world seamlessly into the real world. We are working with several customers to explore how events can make use of some of these technologies and capabilities. Some current examples include:

  • Augmented Reality – Worth a blog post on its own, this is hugely exciting even if it sounds a bit way out. A great example of this is imagining yourself as a tourist in a new city. You hold your smartphone camera up to a building in front of you,  the device searches the internet and provides you information about its history. This won’t ever replace a good guide but it does mean that if you want to tour a city on your own you could do – instead of just pounding the known tourist trails you could venture to different parts of the city. Essentially you get your own personal guide. In the events market this also has some possibilities – it could work to identify your location at a festival and tell you about the music the phone is hearing (artist, get the single etc), help guide you to to different parts of a large site or exhibition or even show you where your friends are. It has also got big potential in the game/treasure hunt world.
  • QR Codes – I tweeted about these a while ago. Although not a new invention, having originally been devised in 1994 and very popular in Japan, they are now becoming more popular elsewhere partly thanks to smartphones with cameras which can generally read them. They are a simple way of linking real world collateral with online content and taking the form of a more elaborate barcode which can hold textual information such as a URL. For example you can include a QR code on a poster and when someone scans this with their phone it will take them to a hyperlink or brings up a phone number to call. Not only is this an easy way to get users to a specific URL but it also provides trackback information for that advert.

  • Places – I’m not convinced on the ‘check in’ features which seem to be gaining traction from FourSquare and Facebook places as I’m not sure I see the value for people to know where I have been (perhaps that’s just me!) however the recent album launch for Cheryl Cole used Facebook Places with some success by linking posters for the album to places and then getting people to check-in for entry to a competition. A similar system could work for artists who are touring or playing festivals.

Essentially all these technologies give the end user the same thing – the ability to connect what they are seeing in the digital with the real world. Whilst we might not associate immediate commercial returns what that the actual return is the free marketing gained when that experience is shared over social networking

It will be interesting to see how these technologies develop and which ones move past fads. One thing is for sure is those who can apply this successfully can run ahead of the market quickly

Last week I attended a Meet the Entrepreneurs Speed Networking Event in Swindon. Several local schools are taking part in the program where students with an interest in business create a company to experience some of the challenges associated with business. Many choose a product which can be sold directly to the school students or teachers. The students (14 – 16 years old) met with companies from Wiltshire including Etherlive to discuss their concept and focus on how to develop the product.

I believe real world experience is a great way of students starting to appreciate some of the skills which are critical to the business world like working as a team and confidence. For the same reasons we also support programs such as Young Enterprise and others. This week as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week we are running a Young Enterprise Global Business Simulation at a local school.

It was great to spend time with the fledgling companies as they explained their products and what the planned to achieve. Some great ideas and really enthusiastic students, certainly several who could be the next Lord Sugar! Many thanks to the entrepreneurs who gave up their valuable time. Also a special ‘thank you’ to Thring, Townsend Lee & Pemberton LLP for providing a location for this event to be run.

Tom McInerney speaks to Dorcan Technology College students

Tom McInerney speaks to Dorcan Technology College students