Let’s talk about tech

Access talks to the event professionals in the know about the top event tech trends for 2016 

If 2014 was the year people started hashtagging “event tech”, and 2015 was when events dipped their toes into the water of actually using said tech, then – by all accounts – 2016 is the year we’re all going to go absolutely mental for new technology.

Here at Access HQ we are…not great…with tech. The Oculus Rift fascinates us, Apple Pay sits unused on our iPhones and holograms, we can all agree, are just a bit creepy.

But far from being Luddites, we bloody love technology. Sure, we might not know or understand how to use the myriad features on the Apple Watch, but that doesn’t mean we don’t squeal with delight when a colleague or friend shows up wearing one.

To set us off on the right techie foot for 2016, we enlisted some of the most plugged-in event professionals to wax lyrical about the bits of gear that they believe will sweep the events industry over the next 12 months.

Neil Dickinson
Founder & managing director, Arcstream AV

“Virtual Reality will be huge”

The introduction of Virtual Reality headsets in the home through the gaming audience will be huge in 2016, and this will definitely become a more commonplace element for events, creating virtual environments instead of real-life sets.

It enables you to do virtual product launches and can transport you to anywhere in the world, as well as giving you an immersive way to tell a story. This will make technology in events more central to event organisers in the next 12 months.

James Morgan
Principal consultant, James Morgan Associates Ltd

“Make attendees part of the experience”

Through bespoke hardware and software applications, more immersive experiences for attendees and retail browsers is going to become more popular in 2016. Fat Unicorn’s tweet-operated Giant Claw, used in a Topshop campaign, is one example.

Getting attendees to participate more actively in product and service demonstrations on the show floor is going to increase exhibitor impact and leads. 

Clemi Hardie
Managing director, Noodle Live

“Physical and digital will blur”

Personalisation – I think we will see more and more organisers leveraging the data collected using event technology to create a more personalised experience for delegates and visitors, pre-event, at the event and post-event. Also, I’m looking at the Internet of Things.

I think we’ll see the line between physical and digital continue to blur via technology such as RFID, NFC and iBeacons, where delegates and visitors can physically interact with event features to gain personalised content, connect with attendees or get emailed the Wi-Fi code. 

Maria Schuett
Head of marketing, Central Hall Westminster

“Matchmaking event visitors”

I’m closely watching ‘Intros’ (www.intros.at). They are the first networking application that amalgamates multiple common data sources for intelligent event visitor matchmaking.

Although they are still running in beta, I can see scope for them changing the game. Backed by big investment from the founders of lastminute.com and Net-a-porter, they are certainly something to watch out for. 

Jamie Scahill
Marketing manager, Skiddle

“We need the Uber-for-events”

Mobile event apps are by no means a new phenomenon, but 2016 will be the year when the technology is able to really evolve to become something more than just a paper replacement.

These new perceptive event apps won’t be restricted to smartphones and tablets; as wearable technology becomes more mainstream, an increase of people are already downloading event apps for their wearable devices and using them to enhance the actual experience. For example, we’ve just launched an app that integrates with Uber, helping gig-goers get to a venue quickly in just a couple of clicks. I predict that in 2016, paper tickets and traditional payment methods will be completely phased out

Jane Baker
Commercial director, 2Heads

“Wi-5 makes life easier for brands”

Live broadcast solutions such as Periscope and Meerkat will make it free and easy for event owners to increase the reach of their events, drive real-time interaction with millennials and gather instant measurement metrics.

Sensory experiences have proven their ability to develop deeper brand engagement, so we expect to see greater use of this approach based on enhanced AV and production technology.

Mobile engagement solutions like Wi-5 will make it easier for brands to interact with event attendees, sharing responsive multimedia content, facilitating data capture and delivering ROI analytics.. Contactless payments and e-tickets in just a click will be the norm.

Casper Mason
Senior creative strategist, Jack Morton Worldwide

“The blue-light burnout is real”

The promise of tech at events is about connecting the audience and enhancing their experience. But it’s also a distraction. You want people lost in the moment, not lost in their phones. That’s why PSV Eindhoven protested against free Wi-Fi in their stadium: they knew it ruined the vibe, and lessened their support.

People will always get their phones out to capture the moment in some way, but there is increasing fatigue for our phones’ attention-grabbing antics within the live environment.

This ‘app-senteeism’, mixed with increasing blue-light burnout and the rise of wearable/ambient/loT gadgets, will drive the trend for invisible tech at live events in 2016: an unseen layer that works without the phone coming out of the pocket.

Think discrete smartphone and watch buzz notifications to tell you when a set is about to start. iBeacons that keep track of your festival meanderings and automatically build a playlist to enjoy when you’re home.

Anything that anticipates a need and so keeps you away from a screen and in the moment. Because the more tech supports (rather than demands attention), the more people will get out of the experience.

Peter Harding
Director, Hawthorn

“Use tech to immerse audiences”

Consumers, more than ever, know what they want from an event and this has certainly aided the rise for custom-made content and design. Clients want something that’s high impact and visually exciting; because of this they are increasingly relying on projection content and lighting.

For instance, projection mapping and lightweight LED video walls are great ways to display content, whether it be to activate a brand or simply to maximize audience engagement. Audiences, however large, want to feel immersed and part of a performance and I believe we will continue to see this interpreted through various projection mediums throughout 2015.

Ben Turner
Managing director and founder, Wonder

“Beacon technology will make its mark”

We’re really excited about the development of iBeacon, wearables, event apps, Internet of Things and RFID, and how they can all be used together to enhance a person’s experience at events. At this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, their mobile event app had beacon functionality combined with wearables, allowing users and brands to interact in various cool ways.

We’ve also just seen London’s Southbank Centre install beacon technology across the whole site, allowing visitors to receive special offers and bespoke content. As with any innovation, it’s early days to see how this technology and the data produced can be fully used on an event, but we like the way it’s heading and look forward to integrating it into our events in 2016.

James Grant
Founder/CTO, Live Beacon

“Connect your two worlds”

In 2016, every live event will have an online component. Whether it’s to drum up interest beforehand, to spread the word using social media during, or to re-engage with customers afterward. Technology to connect the digital and physical worlds will play an increasingly important part as brands want to reach a wider audience and retain their existing one.


Alastair Reece
Head, DB Pixelhouse

“Less about new, more about improving”

I think 2016 will be less about new stuff and more about improving the integration of existing technologies so that they work more effectively alongside each other to create a whole immersive and seamless experience. I think we’ll see a slew of new solutions that create bridges between technologies to enable them to blend together more effectively and operate in a more intelligent and customisable way.

For example, in the festivals market, wristbands are increasingly used not just for entry-control but also for cashless catering – add in the Internet of Things, RFID and iBeacons and you have something far more powerful than an entry tag, which can deliver increasing levels of customised experiences.

Similarly, we’re being asked to deliver solutions that combine data capture, augmented reality, gesture control and delivery of personalised content so that the visitor feels very much at the heart of an experience.

Jerome Maas
Managing director, The Flash Pack

“As it happens > post-event”

As the photo experience industry matures, in 2016 we will see a demand for improvement across creative, innovation and reporting.

Brands and agencies will need to work with their partners to ensure that the shared content, and the complete photo experience, is a considered part of the complete creative process, rather than being tagged on as an afterthought, moments before the event. We will also see a demand for deeper data and analytics relating to the experience, with a need to analyse the social sharing behaviours of participants.

Improved software will allow campaign data to be segmented by age group, location, type of share, type of device, peak times of use, key influencers, campaign reach and so on.

Apps will be developed to allow brands to monitor the photo experience and gather real time data, thus gaining an ‘as it happens’ insight into exactly how the campaign is impacting on their target audience and how they are reacting to it.

Serge Grimaux

Head pilot & CEO, Intellitix

“Big Data and RFID will go big”

2016 will see a surge in growth in RFID adoption from more festivals across all genres – food and drink events, sporting events, conferences, expos, fixed venues and stadiums. ‘Big Data’ and data technology, what we call ‘IntelliData’, will continue to increase in popularity, with event organisers turning to RFID to easily amalgamate all of their data and tailor their events to a specific audience.

This includes learning more about their audience demographic, bringing on the best and most unique acts on stage, offering top-selling products and improving vendor selection, refining site plans and logistics to aid in patron flow management and much more.

The data collected from RFID technology also makes it possible for organisers, brands and vendors to extend their reach to audiences with targeted pre- and post- event content and engagement. This is definitely

Paul Reed
General manager, AIF

“VR ticketing is on the horizon”

I’m going to come out and say it – 2016 will not be the year of cashless and RFID in the UK on a major scale at festivals. Although I applaud the efforts of many involved, it’s becoming a very circular conversation. I’m interested in the potential and impact of VR on the live music experience as that technology becomes more available and affordable.

Will we begin to see VR tickets sold? I don’t think it could ever replace the live experience of going to a festival, but it’s intriguing.

Also, the growing connections between music streaming platforms and ticketing and gig recommendations; Spotify is starting to get more into this space with its ‘Concert’ feature. It has the potential to be a powerful ticketing and recommendation platform that could tie into festivals.

The venues say…

Tony Edwards
Technical manager, SECC

“It’s all about the screens”

As technologies improve over the next couple of years, we believe at the SECC that locations for screens will become easier. The invention of truly flexible screens will allow screens to be wrapped around objects, giving another dimension for moving images. Just think of screens as a wallpaper that can be applied to any surface.

Kenny Macdonald
Technical manager, Jockey Club Venues Cheltenham

“AV needs to become more creative”

Audiovisual is prominent within our current environment and as customers expect more, the requirement for more exciting and interactive technology will be required over the coming year. Customers want to interact with a venue and this can be achieved via the creative use of AV, which we strive to deliver at The Jockey Club’s world-class venues.

Dominic Leeson
Head of ICT, ACC Liverpool Group

“We’re still researching beacon technology”

Possibilities range from cloud services for delegate interactions to a variety of network solutions to suit every requirement. Hybrid meetings provide flexibility for events, enabling attendees and speakers to collaborate seamlessly from anywhere in the world.

Providing support on social media is vital for event marketing and increasing social engagement with visitors will be a strong focus. With regards to beacons, in 2016, we will continue to research and explore its capabilities for organisers and how this technology will benefit the industry.

Access says…

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in all of this. Let’s face it – there’s a lot of technology out there, and it seems that almost everyone has a different idea of how to use it.

For our part, we’re inclined to agree that RFID will make big strides within the wider events industry this year.

While talk of it taking over and replacing cash may be hyperbolic, it’s clear that, as it continues its integration into our smartphones and smartwatches, RFID will remain a major talking point. It’s an area with such massive potential that it’s only time until a major UK event cracks it and does something amazing.

But it’s also important to heed the wise words of DB Pixelhouse’s Alastair Reece and remember that with all this new technology comes the need to integrate it properly.

Organisers must remember that just adopting flashy new tech is not the answer; but if you take the time to truly work with and understand technology, it might just open up a whole new world for you and your events.


Have your say, event profs. Tweet us at @Access_AA using the hashtag #AAAyearintech.

This feature originally appeared in the January issue of Access All Areas, out now.